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15th October Briefing: the Queen’s speech, Catalan’s jailed, economics prize awarded and more…

By October 17, 2019 No Comments

Queen’s speech opens Parliament

Opposition politicians dismissed yesterday’s Queen’s speech as an election manifesto. The speech marked the opening of a new session of Parliament and lays out the government’s agenda. It focused on laws on tougher criminal sentencing, healthcare, environmental issues and Brexit. The government also indicated that it would hold a Budget on November 6.

The minority government is pushing for an election, though this is unlikely to happen before a no-deal Brexit is ruled out. Currently, the UK may exit the EU without a deal on October 31.

Catalan independence leaders jailed

Nine Catalan politicians were sentenced to jail yesterday by Spain’s Supreme Court for their role in the 2017 independence referendum. Each received a sentence of between nine and thirteen years after they were found guilty on charges including sedition. Pro-independence protestors demonstrated at Barcelona’s airport where they clashed with police.

The 2017 referendum was ruled unconstitutional but still went ahead. 92% of voters wanted Catalonia to become independent on a turnout of 43%, though many unionists did not vote.

Nobel Memorial prize awarded

Esther Duflo became only the second woman to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. She worked with Michael Kremer and Abhijit Banerjee, her husband, on poverty reduction research. At 46-years-old she is also the youngest recipient of the prize. The trio will split the $916,000 prize money.

Elinor Ostrom, an American economist, was the first woman to win the prize. Her work on human cooperation was recognised in 2009.

Facebook’s Libra group meets for first time

The troubled Libra Association launched yesterday with its first meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland. Originally planned to be made up of 28 companies, only 21 were in attendance as major payments companies, including PayPal, Visa and Mastercard, have pulled out. The Libra Association will oversee the development and implementation of the Libra cryptocurrency.

Facebook hopes that it can still launch Libra by the end of 2020. Politicians, however, have been raising concerns over the currency and it could run into regulatory hurdles.

EU nations stop arms sales to Turkey

EU foreign ministers agreed yesterday to condemn the Turkish invasion of northern Syria. While Germany, France, the Netherlands and others agreed to stop selling arms to Turkey, the UK did not. The EU also stopped short of agreeing to an official arms embargo, relying, instead, on the unilateral actions of member states.

Units from Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Army took up positions near the border with Turkey yesterday after a deal was reached with the Kurds. The Turkish invasion is six days old.