It’s been a busy few weeks in British politics, so here’s what you might have missed over the festive period.

Words by Will Day, Staff Writer.

It’s been a busy few weeks in British politics, so here’s what you might have missed over the festive period.

 The Government has come under criticism for scrapping a pledge protecting the rights of child refugees in Europe seeking to be united with family in the UK. The previous iteration of the Withdrawal Bill stated that “an unaccompanied child who has made a claim for international protection in a member state can come to the UK to join a relative”.  Refugee charities and members of the Labour party who campaigned for the obligation, have been swift in their condemnation. Concerns have been raised by Beth Gardiner-Smith, chief executive of charity Safe Passage, citing the “potentially tragic consequences” of child refugees trying to reunite with their families by travelling to Britain illegally. 

Plans to abolish the four-hour A&E target have been met with furious opposition from medical professionals. Under current targets, 95% patients are meant to be treated and either discharged, admitted or transferred within four hours. Figures dropped to a record low over December with only 68.6% of patients being treated in the required time frame. Removing these targets without implementing an alternative has led to many questioning the motive for its removal. Rachael Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, has claimed it may be happening to “disguise a collapse in NHS performance due to unnecessary long-term underfunding, avoidable workforce shortages and predictable growth in patient need”.  

Tensions between America and Iran have escalated following the assassination of Iran’s top military official, General Qasem Soleimani, leading to the USA withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. Whilst Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, claimed the USA had the “right’ to carry out the assassination, Boris Johnson has taken a more bi-partisan approach calling for tensions in the region to “calm down”, emphasizing that he does not “want a military conflict”. He has however firmly sided with Trump’s administration over their withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal, giving his approval for the deal to be completely withdrawn and replacing it with the “Trump deal”. Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has vehemently opposed Johnson’s comments on a Trump deal. Mr Rouhani issued warnings towards the UK that taking the wrong step would come at “your detriment”, this was coupled with grave warnings to both American and European governments, he stated, “Today, the American soldier is in danger, tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger”.

The race to decide the next leader of the Labour party has begun. Five candidates remain after securing the twenty-two necessary nominations to make the ballot. Sir Keir Starmer led the nominations with eighty-eight, followed by Rebecca Long-Bailey with thirty-three, Lisa Nandy with thirty-one whilst Jess Philips and Emily Thornberry secured twenty-three. Candidates must now secure the support of 5% of local parties or at least three affiliates, two of which must be unions, by the 14 February to make the final ballot. Starmer already has the backing of Unison, one of the UK’s largest unions, and SERA, an environmental campaign group and affiliate to the party. Nandy has the backing of The National Union of Mineworkers. For those who make the final ballot, voting begins on the 21 February with a winner announced on 4 April. 

Finally, the UK is left the European Union on the 31 January. This follows the passing of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through parliament. After the 31, the UK will enter an eleven-month transition period allowing further negotiations with the EU to determine how the relationship will look going forward. During this period there will be no change to trade arrangements, the UK will still have to follow EU rulings as well as contributing to the EU budget.

[Image Credit: Jordhan Madec]

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