Our editors give us the breakdown of this week’s biggest news stories
Scotland: Ryan Morrice
As the United Kingdom left the European Union MEPs sung Auld Lang Syne in the EU Parliament and candlelit vigils were held across Scotland. Scotland voted by 62% to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum.
The Scottish parliament voted in favour of a motion supporting a second Scottish independence referendum. Boris Johnson previously rejected calls from Nicola Sturgeon for another referendum. However Nicola Sturgeon also warned in a speech that any referendum must be “legal and legitimate” and that there were no shortcuts to independence.
Scottish exports grew by 2.9% in 2018. Trade with the EU in particular grew by 4.5%.
United Kingdom: Ryan Morrice
The United Kingdom left the European Union. Boris Johnson said it was the “dawn of a new era”. Celebrations and protests were held all across Britain. However, the biggest impacts of Brexit are yet to come, as the UK and EU have an 11 month transition period in which a new trading agreement will be negotiated.
Two people have been tested positive for coronavirus in the UK. One of them is a student at the University of York. The Chief Medical Officer of England, Professor Chris Whitty, said that “we have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately.”
The rail franchise Northern is to be brought into government control after facing many years of poor performance.
The Bank of England voted to keep interest rates at 0.75%. They also cut growth forecasts, estimating the economy will only grow at an average rate of 1.1% annually over the next three years.
Asia: Max Dowden
This week, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in China continued to worsen, as the total number of infected has risen to just under 15,000, and the death toll has now surpassed 300. Although the government has continued to assure the international press that they have everything under control, the WHO has now stepped in and declared a global health emergency.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani politician this publication reported on last week has been taken to court, officially accused of conspiracy and stoking ethnic tensions. However, it is likely his arrest is directly related to his previously-reported criticisms of political corruption by the national military. Finally, massive wildfires continue to ravage Australia, with blazes now threatening the capital of Canberra directly.
Americas: Alex Watt
In the anticlimactic impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump, the Democrats’ failed bid to call witnesses or admit new evidence to the proceedings means that acquittal is the most likely route. The by-far greatest priority for the Democrats was to get former National Security Advisor John Bolton to give testimony, as according to the New York Times, in Mr Bolton’s upcoming book he directly asserts President Trump asked him to withhold military aid for Ukraine so they would provide incriminating information on rival candidate Joe Biden. The trial will now progress to a vote to acquit the President, which he is nigh on guaranteed to win.
Many politicians, commentators and media personalities have weighed in opinions on the trial, but recently former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told a New Jersey publication that the President has only received “half a trial”, condemning the failure to properly scrutinise events by refusing to bring in important witnesses and potential evidence.
In South America, Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno has apologised after saying that women only report harassment “when it comes from an ugly person”. He made the comments at an investors’ conference in the city of Guayaquil on Friday. He tweeted in response to online outrage at his comments that he “did not intend to minimise an issue as serious as violence or abuse”, and that he rejects “violence against women in all its forms!”.
Africa: Beatrice Omotosho
This week on the continent of Africa. The president of Liberia announced his plans for the launch of a call for bids in April, pertaining to the resumption of offshore oil and gas exploration following years of stagnation. He plans to put up nine offshore blocks, and allow international reputable companies to bid. If you ask me, this is exactly what we shouldn’t be doing in Africa, an actual step backwards both socially, politically, economically and environmentally. Liberia has been struggling economically. Rampant inflation and anti-government demonstrations are evidence of people’s frustrations and the impact of the recent economic downturn.
Moving from the west to east Africa, the worst locust outbreak in some 70 years in this region is threatening crops and further reducing food security. An estimated $76 million would be needed immediately in order to help control and mitigate this outbreak and its effects. However, only $15 million has so far been mobilised. Kenya: East Africa’s economic hub is certainly not prepared to deal with such a crisis, as nothing of this scale has been experienced for over 70 years. Some are attributing this to the changing climate. Some Farmers have lost 90% of their production. Some swarms can contain up to an area equivalent to 250 football fields with a recent and especially large swarm being measured at 37 miles long and 25 miles wide. Just imagine the destruction, and it threatens to grow with worries that this will soon move into other countries e.g South Sudan and Uganda. However, it could be said that this is an anthropocentric view point. To us, the locusts are destroying everything and it is putting a most vital resource (food) at risk, but what does this look like to them? After all, this is their world too.
Middle East: Luca Delpippo
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has severed ties with Israel and the US over Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan, this will include any security ties previously held. This comes as the Arab League rejects the US peace plan.
Iraq has appointed a new Prime Minister after violent protests and political deadlock, though Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi has failed to calm protestors, of which many view him to be a part of a corrupt political elite.