Despite the sunshine, I spent most of yesterday feeling sorry for myself. Nursing a mystery illness somewhere between a hangover and a cold, I made my way through the mountain of washing that I’ve let pile up and tried to make the room stop spinning.
But while it seems my capacity for self-pity is endless, some had bigger fish to fry than inhaling a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s and sobbing into a Lemsip.
It was reported yesterday that Shamima Begum – the teenager from London who fled to join the Islamic State group in Syria – has given birth to a boy. Her lawyer released a statement saying that both are believed to be in good health.
The news comes after she was tracked down by The Times in a Syrian refugee camp last week. The 19-year-old requested to return to the UK amid fears that her son would die in the camp but appeared to show no remorse for her actions. She told Sky News that “a lot of people should have sympathy towards me. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I left.”
And while this may be true, the response back in Britain has been largely unsympathetic. Home secretary Sajid Javid has vowed to use all his power to stop British citizens who ran away to join the Islamic State group from returning. Writing in the Sunday Times, Javid said: “the decisions available to us include banning non-British individuals from the UK and stripping dangerous individuals of their British citizenship.”
Still, the government will not make an individual stateless and her lawyer is insistent that Begum should be allowed to return to the UK as a British citizen for the safety of her new-born child.
This case is one of many. Hundreds of British citizens are now seeking a return from Syria as Donald Trump prepares to declare victory of Islamic State in the Middle East.
And what will become of them if denied entry? Trump had a Twitter warning for us all: “take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial. The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them…”
So we have two options according to Trump: allow Islamic State escapees to return and prosecute them or risk them infiltrating Europe where they could reorganise to spread messages of hate and destruction.
While the obvious response to Begum’s plea for mercy is a resounding “no”, we need to think more carefully about the UK’s moral obligations and long-term security. Keep your friends close and all that...
A small group of Labour MPs are set to announce their resignation from the party, according to senior party sources. Several backbenchers, who are fundamentally at odds with leader Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to antisemitism and Brexit, are expected to break away. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said on Sunday that he did not see “any need for anybody to split from the party”.
A report published today has called for the “cliff edge” between peak and off-peak train fares to be abolished in favour of more regular pricing throughout the day. It says that slightly cheaper peak time fares would cut demand from off-peak trains and offset overcrowding on some of the busiest services by up to a third. (£)
The Prince of Wales has said that yoga could help save “precious and expensive” NHS resources as an effective tool for “health and healing”. The Prince is a firm believer in the power of alternative medicine, arguing that yoga has “proven beneficial effects on the mind and body”. His statement came as one of England’s top health chiefs promised to ensure more government funding for yoga classes. (£)
The government has launched a consultation into proposals for a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in England, Wales and Ireland. The scheme would include glass and plastic bottles and cans but may only target drinks less than 750ml. Environment secretary Michael Gove has been urged not to water down plans and to include all drinks containers, regardless of their size.
Business & Economy
Citigroup is in advanced talks to buy the skyscraper in Canary Wharf that currently houses its European headquarters. The £1.2 billion deal would be a striking financial commitment to Britain at a time when many banks are considering relocating staff and assets due to Brexit concerns.
The risks posed by Chinese technology giant Huawei can be managed, according to the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre. The telecoms giant has already been working with British mobile companies to develop their 5G networks, but Australia, New Zealand and the US have banned Huawei from supplying equipment due to fears that it would be used by Beijing as a proxy for spying. The government review into the matter is due in March or April.
MPs have accused Facebook of data abuse, calling for a regulator to police content on social media sites and an inquiry into the effect of disinformation on past elections. Concluding an 18-month long investigation into “fake news”, MPs accused Facebook of “intentionally and knowingly” violating data privacy laws.
The week ahead
The coming week will see updates from banks and miners impacting the FTSE 100 direction and shedding some light on the state of the UK economy.
HSBC, which generates the majority of its revenue in Asia, will announce figures on Tuesday. Analysts are watching out for insight into the effects of a perceived economic slowdown in China, as well as the impacts of the US-China trade war.
In addition, Reckitt Benckiser and Centrica full-year numbers should provide some insight into the general effects of Brexit uncertainty on businesses and potentially signal weakness in the UK economy.
In the US, Walmart will announce earnings results on Tuesday. Like-for-like US sales are forecast to be up around three per cent, although profits are expected to remain flat as the retailer invests in ecommerce and transport costs rise.
Finally, Cubans are set to vote on a new constitution this week. The move will introduce a maximum term for president and allow people to have private property for the first time since the Cuban revolution in the 1950s. While the new constitution is a symbol of changing attitudes across the nation, Cubans will be focused on developments in Venezuela, a key trading partner and their closest ally.
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Reckitt Benckiser Group
Columns of Note
Writing in the Spectator, Soutiam Goodarzi reflects on being forced to wear a hijab as a child in Iran. After moving to the UK, Goodarzi now views the hijab as a form of submission; World Hijab Day earlier this month was nothing more than an insult. Instead she chooses to celebrate her newfound liberty. (£)
In this week’s Sunday Times, Kevin Pringle argues that it’s high time we voted out the first-past-the-post electoral system. Without first-past-the-post, Britain wouldn’t be embarking on Brexit. Moreover, factious groups of politicians wouldn’t have to band together to “keep hurdling the high barriers” causing greater disturbance in the long-term. Britain needs a more honest voting system and proportional representation is the fairest alternative. (£)
Did you know?
In Japan, Tintin is called Tantan because Tintin is pronounced ‘Chin-Chin’, which means penis.
House of Commons
Defence (including topical questions)
Statutory Instrument relating to the Draft Armed Forces Act (Continuation) Order 2019 – Mr Tobias Ellwood
Statutory Instrument relating to the Draft Public Order, Disclosure of Information and Co-operation (Financial Services) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – John Glen
Statutory Instrument relation to the Draft Money Market Funds (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – John Glen
Statutory Instrument relating to the Draft Cross-Border Mediation (EU Directive) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – Mr David Gauke
Stirling and Clackmannanshire City region deal – Stephen Kerr
House of Lords
Different options available to Parliament in relation to leaving the European Union – Lord Dykes
Reduction in vehicle air pollution and the impact on children's health – Baroness Seccombe
Findings in the Small Business Index published by the Federation of Small Business on 21 January – Lord Harrison
Recording racist incidents in schools as recommended in the Report of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry – Baroness Chakrabarti
No business scheduled.
House of Commons
Health and Social Care (including topical questions)
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Dog Meat (Consumption) (Offences) – Bill Wiggin
Statutory Instrument relating to the Draft European Structural and Investment Funds Common Provisions and Common Provision Rules etc. (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – Greg Clark
Statutory Instrument relating to the Draft National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2019 – Greg Clark
Statutory Instrument relating to the Draft Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – Stephen Hammond
NHS Ten Year Plan
Future of St Helier and St George’s hospitals – Siobhain McDonagh
House of Lords
Guaranteeing the staffing of tourism and hospitality projects following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU – Lord Roberts of Llandudno
Impact of the closure of local libraries in England – Baroness Pinnock
Number of older people living in the private rented sector – Baroness Grender
Replacing the backstop in the EU Withdrawal Agreement – Lord Empey
Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill – Report stage – Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill – Committee stage (day one) – Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford
Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Amritsar massacre – Lord Loomba
Topical questions (if selected)
Ministerial Statement: Response to the latest EU Exit vote in Westminster
Scottish Government Debate: Scottish Rate Resolution
Parliamentary Bureau Motions