Our editors give us the breakdown of this week’s biggest news stories
Image Source: @christoward10
Scotland: Ryan Morrice
Derek Mackay resigned as finance secretary after it was revealed that he had sent 270 inappropriate messages to a 16 year old schoolboy. He had been due to present the new Scottish budget later on the day of his resignation.
Kate Forbes delivered the new Scottish budget, which featured more money for hospitals, schools, and rail services. The SNP will need support from opposition parties to pass the budget.
United Kingdom: Ryan Morrice
Boris Johnson called for a Canada-style trade deal with the EU and reiterated his commitment to trade on WTO terms if the trade deal negotiations fail. The UK and EU have an 11 month transition period to negotiate a trade deal, while Canada took 7 years to negotiate their trade deal with the EU.
Journalists collectively left a briefing at Downing street after the director of communications Lee Cain tried to restrict certain publications and broadcasters from attending.
Europe: Charlie Whiteley
An exit poll from Saturday’s Irish general election shows left-wing party Sinn Féin, who support the reunification of Ireland, gaining 22% of the vote share. This shows a large increase in support since 2016, where the party only won 14% of votes. With other parties unwilling to form a coalition government with Sinn Féin, the process of forming a governing majority may take several weeks.
Emmanuel Macron has proposed a new plan for a more coordinated European defense strategy. With the UK leaving the EU, France remains the only EU state with nuclear weapons. Macron’s plan relies on deterrence theory, using France’s nuclear weapons as a guarantee for peace.
Several Greek Islands are in a state of crisis, as over 42,000 migrants are stuck waiting for their asylum requests to be processed. This situation has resulted in poor living conditions for asylum seekers, as well as increasing hostilities between migrants and Greek locals.
Africa: Beatrice Omotosho
This week, corn imports from South Africa to Zimbabwe, rose to an 11 year high as the food crisis continues to worsen. They imported 16,114 tons of the variety of corn over the week ending 31st January. This is higher than any weekly imports since February 2009. The continued drought and the economic crisis are exacerbating the issues in Zimbabwe at the moment, leaving many even less able to afford a basic such as food. Even with this increased import, there is still a supply gap of over a million tons for this season.
Following a good performance in the year 2019, Guinea has set itself an economic target growth rate of 8 per cent for 2020. Strategies are being put in place to further stabilise the economy to enable this projection.
In a bid to attract more foreign investors and boost trade in Nigeria, the country has relaxed some of its immigration laws in a new visa policy, that provides a visa on arrival for citizens of countries that are a part of the African Union, and an electronic visa for tourists. Nigeria hopes to in this way, attract international specialised skills and knowledge to complement what exists locally, and encourage innovation within the country, to aid it in becoming a globally competitive economy.
Asia: Max Dowden
This week, the continued spread of coronavirus led to the cancellation of a large number of key Asia trade fairs and conferences, as policymakers across the continent attempt to contain travel between infected and noninfected regions.
In related news, most Asian stock markets were lower this week, as China took the rare move of delaying the release of government trade data. This suggests that China’s trade balance has been perhaps more affected by the US-China trade war and the coronavirus outbreak than previously thought.
Finally, the UK government has unveiled ambitious plans for a post-brexit trade pivot towards Southeast Asia, which inspired both curiosity and some apprehension among regional leaders. It is believed that the UK could present meaningful trade opportunities for countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand, but could also further complicate the already mixed relationship between these markets and the Chinese sphere of influence.
Americas: Alex Watt
In the aftermath of the unsuccessful attempt to impeach President Donald Trump, two impeachment witnesses have been fired from their respective positions. Lt. Col. Alexander Vitman – a senior official with expertise on Ukraine – and now-former US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, both testified against President Trump in November’s hearings. Lt. Col. Vitman’s counsel, David Pressman, gave the BBC a scathing statement on the Lt. Col.’s behalf, asserting that “The most powerful man in the world – buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit – has decided to exact revenge”. Mr Sondland’s lawyer’s statement was somewhat more conciliatory, thanking the President for having given an opportunity to serve.
Many speculate current acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney could be dismissed, after offhandedly appearing to allegedly implicate the President in a corrupt arrangement with Ukraine by saying “We do that all the time”, but has since backtracked on his comment. On Saturday evening, the New York Times reported that several Republican Senators attempted to dissuade the President from firing Mr Sondland, arguing it would reflect poorly upon the administration.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guiadó received a standing ovation in a rather rare instance of partisan unity on Wednesday. Mr Guiadó was invited as a special guest at President Trump’s State of the Union address, but since his speech Russia has vowed to increase military and economic cooperation with Venezuela to counteract growing US pressure. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas for the talks, calling any attempts to remove Mr Maduro’s government by force unacceptable. The US accuses Mr Maduro of leading a brutal and corrupt governmental regime, backing Mr Guiadó instead. Russia’s actions have cemented itself as an already core ally of Mr Maduro’s regime, loaning it billions of dollars in addition to backing its military and oil industry.
Middle East: Luca Delpippo
Iran’s parliament is set to have a radical shape up in the direction of hardline conservatives, with moderates and reformists being refused positions to stand in parliamentary elections. This comes as Iranian responses to the killing of Qassem Soleimani have been surprisingly reserved.
Turkey has reinforced its position in Syria as Moscow and Ankara met to discuss the final assault on Opposition forces.