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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 21 February 2023

1

Ministers may quit over Brexit deal

Rishi Sunak has been told that ministers are prepared to resign over his Brexit deal if it risks Northern Ireland’s place within the UK, said The Times. The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said the Protocol Bill, which Sunak may ditch, is “one of the biggest tools that we have” for negotiations. Amid a “mounting backlash” among Eurosceptic Conservative MPs to the deal, the PM spent “several hours” meeting Brexiteer critics of his deal as he tried to address their concerns.

The issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol explained

2

New earthquakes hit Turkey

Two new earthquakes have struck Turkey, killing at least six people. Rescuers are once again searching for people trapped under rubble after tremors of 6.4 and 5.8 magnitude struck in the south-east near the border with Syria, where massive quakes devastated both countries on 6 February. Buildings weakened by the previous earthquakes collapsed in both countries yesterday. Footage showed people “panicking on the streets”, said Daily Sabah.

3

Survey finds cost of living misery

One in four households regularly run out of money, a group of charities have said. The Together Through This Crisis initiative said that nearly 40% of people end the month with no money left, while 24% run out of money for essentials either most months or most days. Even among the 10 most affluent constituencies in the UK, 19% said they found themselves unable to pay for food or bills by the end of most months. The initiative’s members are Save the Children, Shelter, Turn2us, Little Village and 38 Degrees.

4

Biden visit ‘message of defiance’

Washington will back Ukraine in its fight against Russia for “as long as it takes”, said Joe Biden on an unannounced visit to Kyiv. “We have every confidence you’re going to continue to prevail,” he said, adding that Vladimir Putin had been “dead wrong” to think Russia could outlast Ukraine and the West. CNN said Biden’s presence “sent a message of defiance to Putin most directly and a cherished sign of resolve and empathy for the people of Ukraine”. It comes as China’s top diplomat was travelling in the opposite direction, with Wang Yi arriving in Moscow later today as relations between the US and China continue to plummet.

Is China going to send weapons to help Russia in Ukraine?

5

Questions mount over Bulley probe

Pressure is growing for an independent inquiry into Lancashire Police’s handling of Nicola Bulley’s disappearance after a sighting by a pair of dogwalkers led to the 45-year-old’s missing mother’s body being discovered. Speaking to Sky News, a former Scotland Yard detective said: “The bottom line is Lancashire Police and all their experts and all their doctrines did not find Nicola. Two people walking along a river bank did.” In a statement, Bulley’s family said she was the “centre of their world” but criticised the media circus that had developed.

Nicola Bulley: are armchair detectives and TikTok sleuths a help or hindrance?

6

Relatives call for firearms reform

There have been calls for a “radical reform” of the firearms licensing system after an inquest found “catastrophic” failings allowed the Plymouth gunman, Jake Davison, to legally possess a shotgun that he used to kill five people. Relatives of victims said Davison had been given a “licence to kill” by Devon and Cornwall police. They added that “warning signs were ignored and a licence to kill was granted”. Davison killed his mother and four other people, including a girl aged three, with a shotgun in August 2021.

7

Concern over grammar schools’ inequality

The BBC has found that a quarter of England’s state grammar schools still let in hardly any poorer children, despite efforts to improve their admissions procedures. Although 112 out of 160 grammar schools now have quotas or give high priority to disadvantaged children, the “impact is patchy”, said the corporation. A leading academic said some grammar schools appear to have made only a “token effort”. Governments began to phase out grammar schools in the 1960s amid concerns over inequality.

8

Four-day week trial a success

The biggest ever trial of a four-day working week has been declared a success. Some 61 companies across several sectors in the UK were involved in the pilot, which ran for six months from June last year. At least 56 out of the 61 firms that took part said they plan to continue with the four-day working week. Firms saw “productivity hold mostly steady and fewer employees quit”, said the Wall Street Journal.

The pros and cons of a four-day working week

9

Gondolas struggle in arid Venice

A dry winter means Venice is facing unusually low tides that are making it impossible for gondolas, water taxis and ambulances to navigate some of its famous canals. Historic canals have been “reduced to muddy ditches by severe low tides”, said The Independent. There are concerns that Italy could face another drought after last summer’s emergency, with the Alps having received less than half of their normal snowfall, according to scientists.

Climate change in the Alps: is this the end of skiing?

10

BBC reporters told to ‘look dirty’

Reporters working on an upcoming BBC News channel have been told that looking “sweaty and dirty” on-air can make them appear more genuine to audiences, reported Deadline. Speaking to staff, Naja Nielsen, director of digital, said that being “as sweaty and dirty as when we’re in the field is actually more trustworthy than if we look like we’ve just stepped out of an awards ceremony or a fine dinner party”. A BBC News spokeswoman said: “Naja was stressing the general need for authenticity on screen, not issuing a dress code.” It comes following a review earlier this month into the corporation’s trustworthiness when it came to reporting on economics. 

The BBC, the next election and economic ignorance

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