Top story: ‘It is time Britain left now’
Hello, it’s Warren Murray, and I would like to draw your attention to the following matters.
“It’s a mixture of bemusement and bewilderment … a pantomime you can’t stop watching,” says Michiel van Hulten, a Dutch former member of the European parliament. “A national psychodrama,” is how one French commentator puts it. “I think it is time Britain left now,” says a German professor. Today seven of our correspondents report on how Brexit upheaval has affected Britain’s image on the continent.
Back home, official figures confirm the UK has suffered its worst year for GDP growth since 2012 – debunking the chancellor’s claim that Britain can reap an economic dividend if MPs vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The economy grew by just 0.2% in the final three months of 2018, down from 0.6% in the third quarter. For 2018 as a whole, GDP growth slipped to its lowest since 2012, at 1.4%, down from 1.8% in 2017. As the Brexit deadline nears, car makers are stockpiling parts, banks have moved employees to Ireland and continental Europe, and Panasonic and Sony have moved their EU headquarters to mainland Europe.
May hopes to convince the House of Commons today to give her another fortnight’s grace to keep pushing for changes to the Irish backstop – despite the insistence of Michel Barnier that it is Britain that must compromise. In Spain, farmers of polytunnel-grown strawberries are worried that Brexit will spoil access to the British market, which takes 15% of their fruit.
Trump and Beto hold duelling rallies – While party leaders worked last night to reach an in-principle deal on averting another damaging US government shutdown, Donald Trump held a pep rally for himself in El Paso. The president insisted a border wall had made the Texan city safer (local politicians disagree) and boasted that despite the shutdown being staved off, “just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway”.
Beto O’Rourke addressed a counter-rally in El Paso before Trump spoke. The former congressman and Senate hopeful in the 2018 midterms told a lively crowd that “walls do not make us safer”.
Separatist trial to begin in Spain – The trial of 12 Catalan separatist leaders is due to begin in Madrid today. It stems from the unilateral referendum on independence that was held in autumn 2017 by the Catalan regional government, in defiance of Spain’s national government and the courts. Spain’s ambassador to London, Carlos Bastarreche, has said in a rare public intervention that the trial is not political and the proceedings are of “paramount importance to Spain’s reputation as a modern democracy”. The Catalan government has embarked on a vigorous diplomatic and PR campaign to portray the proceedings as a show trial. Nine of those on trial are accused of rebellion while those on the most serious charges could face up to 25 years in jail.
Tehran vs Trump in war of words – Iran and the United States have hurled epithets at each other on the 40th anniversary of the Islamic republic. Cries of “Death to America” rang out in Tehran while President Hassan Rouhani called Donald Trump an “idiot” and defied calls for a fresh agreement to curb Iran’s missile programme: “We have not, and will not, request permission from anyone for increasing our defensive power and for building all kinds of … missiles.” Trump tweeted that Iran could only mark “40 years of failure … The long-suffering Iranian people deserve a much brighter future.” The Israeli PM reacted to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard threat to “raze” Israeli cities if the US attacked Iran. “It would mean that they had celebrated their last Revolution Day,” said Benjamin Netanyahu. “They would do well to take that into account.”
Vane power – A windfarm off the Yorkshire coast that will eventually be the world’s largest is to supply its first power to the UK electricity grid this week. Hornsea One is planned to cover 407 sq km, five times the size of the nearby city of Hull, with 174 turbines providing 1.2GW of capacity – enough to power a million homes. It is due to be completed in the second half of this year by Danish developer Ørsted. About half of the components for the project are made in the UK, in places like Hull, Teeside and Campbeltown in the Scottish highlands. The UK has enough wind and shallow enough seabeds to “power most of Europe”, says Henrik Poulsen, Ørsted CEO. On a lesser scale, new windfarms could make up for cancelled UK nuclear power stations.
Something to process – More than half the UK diet is ultra-processed food that, according to researchers, is linked to risk of premature death. A study followed 44,000 people for seven years, monitoring how much of their diet came from foods made in factories with industrial ingredients and additives, such as dried ready meals, cakes and biscuits. Those who died by the end of the study were likely to have eaten a greater amount of ultra-processed food, the researchers found. Commenting on the study, Nita Forouhi, a professor of epidemiology at Cambridge, said such foods tended to be eaten disproportionately by poorer people: “They tend to be cheaper, are highly palatable due to high sugar, salt and saturated fat content, are widely available, highly marketed, ready to eat, and their use-by dates are lengthy, so they last longer. More needs to be done to address these inequalities.”
Today in Focus podcast: My week at Guantánamo Bay
The Guardian’s Julian Borger recently attended the 33rd pre-trial hearing of five 9/11 suspects.
He discusses why arguably the most important criminal trial in American history has still not begun. And: Damian Carrington on the catastrophic decline of insects.
Lunchtime read: Climate change and the collapse of everything
Human-caused threats to climate, nature and economy pose a danger of systemic collapse comparable to the 2008 financial crisis, according to a new report that calls for urgent and radical reform to protect political and social systems. While many studies of environmental risk have examined threats in isolation – to the weather, to ecosystems, to the economy – the new paper, This is a Crisis: Facing up to the Age of Environmental Breakdown, assesses how the interplay of these factors can create a cascade of tipping points in human society as well as the natural world.
The meta-study compiled by the IPPR thinktank shows that since 2005, the number of floods has increased by a factor of 15, extreme temperature events by a factor of 20, and wildfires sevenfold; topsoil is now being lost 10 to 40 times faster than it is being replenished by natural processes; the 20 warmest years since records began in 1850 have been in the past 22 years; vertebrate populations have fallen by an average of 60% since the 1970s; and insect numbers – vital for pollination – have declined even faster in some countries. Wider discussion is the first step, according to lead author Laurie Laybourn-Langton, who said he was shocked by the paucity of public debate relative to the scale of the problems: “It is the sort of thing mentioned at the end of a conversation, that makes everyone look at the floor, but we don’t have time for that now,” he said.
Horse racing’s flu-related nightmare appears to be almost over, following news the sport will be allowed to resume on Wednesday, when the four scheduled race meetings will take place under enhanced biosecurity measures. England lead West Indies by 448 runs after day three of the third Test as their batsmen finally came to the party with Joe Root, Joe Denly and Jos Buttler showing improved form after a lamentable series. England’s rugby union team are waiting on the result of a scan on Mako Vunipola after he suffered an ankle injury against France in the Six Nations on Sunday. Maurizio Sarri’s fate as Chelsea’s head coach will in effect be determined over the remainder of this month as the Italian seeks to convince the club’s hierarchy that he can recover some poise.
Tennis world No 1 Naomi Osaka has split from coach Sascha Bajin, a little more than two weeks after she won the Australian Open to secure a second consecutive grand slam title. British American Tobacco, which withdrew from Formula One in 2006 when tobacco advertising was banned from the sport, is to return in a “global partnership” with McLaren. Ole Gunnar Solskjær believes Manchester United can make a surprise tilt for Champions League glory as his team prepare to face Paris Saint-Germain in tonight’s last-16 first leg at Old Trafford. And Hakeem al-Araibi has arrived back in Australia, 77 days after the refugee footballer was arrested in Thailand on an Interpol red notice, drawing global condemnation and a campaign to see him freed.
Asian stocks have risen following a listless day on Wall Street as investors look ahead to US-Chinese trade talks. The US treasury secretary, Stephen Mnuchin, leads a delegation to Beijing on Thursday to discuss their tariff dispute. The pound has been trading at $1.286 and €1.140 overnight while the FTSE is forecast to open higher.
Technology news features on some of the front pages. The i reports on calls for a “Crack down on Facebook and Google” while the Telegraph covers new laws that would aim to keep children safe on social media: “Duty of care ‘must carry criminal sanctions’”. And the Sun has a story about a gadget that can be bought legally that makes stealing cars very easy: “Gone in 6 seconds”.
The Guardian has: “Brexit dividend claim rejected as UK economy hits the buffers”, while the Financial Times reports: “Slowest growth in a decade sets Brexit challenge for Hammond”. The Times has a story about YouGov modelling that shows “Tories would win majority if election held today”.
The Mirror’s splash is “It’s all our fault” as Amber Rudd admits universal credit has forced people to rely on food banks. The Mail’s main story is “Nurse let down by NHS she loved”. The Express reports that “Millions face cash machine misery” as nearly 500 ATMs disappear each month.
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