Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Tuesday 26 Dec 2017

1. Official white Christmas – and more to come

The Met Office has declared this year’s a white Christmas – after light snow fell yesterday in Cumbria and parts of southern Scotland. A ‘yellow’ weather warning has been issued for Scotland and central England for snow and ice until 11am today. The forecaster warns that rail and road journeys could be affected – and pavements icy.

2. Universities could be fined for ‘no-platforming’

Universities could face fines if they allow students to ban controversial speakers, in an attempt to protect freedom of speech. The plan is being put forward by universities minister Jo Johnson in a speech today in Birmingham. He will say the newly created Office for Students would enforce the policy, with offenders potentially de-registered.

3. British woman pleads guilty ‘by mistake’ in Egypt

British woman Laura Plummer, accused in Egypt of smuggling drugs because she was found carrying 320 tramadol tablets into the country, is thought to have accidentally pleaded guilty on Christmas Day. The 30-year-old, who says the pills were for her boyfriend’s back pain, is thought to have been misrepresented by a bad interpreter.

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4. Labour criticises Boxing Day rail provision

Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, has criticised the Government for failing to improve the provision of rail services on Boxing Day, despite promises to do so when the Tories were in opposition. Only three of Britain’s 29 rail companies will be running any services – forcing football fans to travel to matches by road.

5. ‘Thousands’ of government papers missing

The Guardian reports “thousands” of government papers dealing with embarrassing topics, including MI6 collusion to bring down the first Labour government, have gone missing from the National Archives. The declassified documents may have been borrowed by government departments and deliberately not returned, the newspaper asserts.

6. Shoppers to disappoint retailers on Boxing Day

The traditional sales boost enjoyed by high street shops on Boxing Day will be disappointing this year, a survey for BBC Radio 4 suggests. Some 56% of shoppers surveyed said Boxing Day sales had lost their appeal because of the rise of ‘Black Friday’ bargains in the run-up to Christmas – as well as the financial pressures they face at home.

7. Two die in Ireland when car enters river

Two young men died in County Mayo yesterday when their car was swept away as they tried to ford a river, returning from a night out Christmas Eve. A 19-year-old who was in the SUV as it entered the Carrowniskey River near Louisburgh at 2.30am managed to make it to safety and raise the alarm. The bodies of the other two were found by divers.

8. Sound of Music actor dead at age of 68

Heather Menzies-Urich, who played one of the children in the 1964 musical The Sound of Music, has died at the age of 68 with brain cancer. The Canadian-born actor was 14 with no acting experience when she played Louisa von Trapp, the mischievous third-oldest child. She carried on acting after the film, appearing in US TV shows.

9. Briefing: Is Poland drifting towards totalitarianism?

The European Union is considering unprecedented disciplinary measures against Poland over its judicial reforms - specifically, the adoption of 13 new laws that allow the Polish government to meddle in legal matters and threaten the independence of the judiciary.

Poland has been given three months to either address the EU’s concerns or face sanctions under Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Is Poland drifting towards totalitarianism?

10. UK tracks Russian warship in North Sea

The HMS St Albans shadowed a Russian warship as it pased through the North Sea near UK waters on Christmas Day. The British frigate tracked the Admiral Gorshkov's "activity in areas of national interest", the Royal Navy said. There has been a recent "upsurge in Russian units transiting UK waters" the Navy added.

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