What’s The Latest With Brexit And Other Big Stories


What’s The Latest With Brexit And Other Big Stories

Over the past few months, the coronavirus pandemic has absorbed all the energy of the news cycle. There hasn’t been an event like it in our lifetimes.

But this isn’t to say that it’s the only important thing happening in the world right now. So what’s going on elsewhere – and what happened to some of the other big news stories of the year?

Remember Brexit?

For about three years you hardly heard about anything else in the UK. Now, of course, the focus is on the coronavirus pandemic. Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson requiring hospital treatment after contracting Covid-19 and the European Union and UK chief negotiators only recently coming out of coronavirus quarantine, Downing Street insists it will stick to its original timetable.

The UK formally left the European Union on 31 January. But we are now in a transition period up to 31 December, during which the UK is still treated pretty much as an EU member while negotiations continue.

Britain’s government says an EU-UK trade deal must be in place by the last day of the year. But even if not, the UK won’t prolong the transition period beyond that deadline.

The idea behind the transition period was to minimise disruption caused to business and travel between the UK and the EU. It can be extended by a year or two – which the EU thinks would be a sensible move under the circumstances.

There has only been one round of EU-UK trade negotiations so far. They restart this week via video conference and both sides say they’ll do their best to make good and speedy progress. But time is slipping away.

Brussels also asks whether UK and EU businesses – already struggling with the upheaval caused by the coronavirus – need another big change come the end of this year. But whatever they think, EU leaders won’t formally ask the UK for an extension. The tight timetable was decided by Boris Johnson, they say. A decision to delay – if there is one – must come from London.

A ceasefire few expected to last is holding in Idlib, for now, as the last rebel-held area in northwest Syria braces for the expected onslaught of the deadly coronavirus.

“People are breathing for the time being, and that can be viewed as a side effect of the pandemic,” says Hassan Hassan of the Center for Global Policy. “The ceasefire is hanging by a thread, but it’s hanging nonetheless.”

The 5 March truce agreed by Russia and Turkey halted a dangerous escalation after Ankara sent thousands of its troops across the border to try to halt a Syrian offensive to retake this last province lost in nine punishing years of war.

But Idlib’s breathing space is also fraught with fear of this new enemy. The province’s health system has been decimated by fighting, including the blistering air campaign by Russian and Syrian warplanes. Nearly a million displaced people, sheltering inside flimsy tents, or on open ground, have few defences against the powerful Covid-19.

“There’s a humanitarian and political imperative… for a complete, immediate nationwide ceasefire throughout Syria,” said UN Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, in his recent briefing to the UN Security Council.


Turkey and Russia, who back opposing sides, now call the shots.

“I don’t think Turkey or Russia believe this ceasefire will hold for a long time,” says Dareen Khalifa, Senior Analyst with the International Crisis Group. “It left key issues unresolved.”

That includes the future of the jihadist group Hayat Tahir al-Sham (HTS), which dominates Idlib.

English Football Should Not Restart Until Players Tested

The HTS, sceptical of this truce, is said to be regrouping. The Syrian and Turkish armies are also taking advantage of this pause to reinforce in preparation for the next round of battle.

It may be just a matter of time – but now, it seems, is not the time.

What’s The Latest With Brexit And Other Big Stories


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