Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 23 February 2023

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1. Plans to fast-track 12,000 asylum claims

Around 12,000 asylum seekers to the UK are to be considered for refugee status without face-to-face interviews, in a move aiming to reduce the asylum backlog. A 10-page Home Office questionnaire “will decide the cases of people from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Syria and Yemen who applied before last July”, reported the i news site. Rishi Sunak has vowed to deal with more than 90,000 claims that were submitted before last June by the end of this year. Migration Watch UK, which argues for lower immigration, said the plan was “dangerous folly”.

Can new asylum plans boost Sunak’s standing?

2. Off-duty officer shot in Northern Ireland

An off-duty police officer was shot at a sports complex in Omagh, County Tyrone. He was hit multiple times on the Killyclogher Road as he coached young people and is now in a critical but stable condition. The Police Federation for Northern Ireland said two gunmen were involved. The police “have said nothing officially about a potential motive”, according to the BBC, “but among fellow officers, suspicion in the first instance has fallen on dissident groups”. It comes as questions have arisen over the future of the Good Friday Agreement in the run-up to the 25th anniversary on the peace deal in Northern Ireland.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Is it time for a new Good Friday Agreement?

3. Hunt warned on tax rise

Jeremy Hunt has been warned that his planned increase in corporation tax will send Britain in a “drastically anti-investment direction”. Ahead of the chancellor’s planned increase in the tax rate in April from 19% to 25%, BT said the country was hurtling towards a “cliff edge deterioration in the tax environment for investment”. A government spokesman said that “from April our corporation tax rate will still be the lowest in the G7, keeping the UK internationally competitive”.

Jeremy Hunt’s 2023 Budget: what to expect

4. Chemicals found in UK countryside

The Guardian reported that pollutants known as “forever chemicals” - which build up in the body, may be toxic and do not break down in the environment - have been found at significant levels at thousands of sites across the UK and Europe. The map shows that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of about 10,000 chemicals valued for their detergent properties, have made their way into water, soils and sediments. They originate from a wide range of consumer products, firefighting foams, waste and industrial processes.

5. Treasury may torpedo NHS plan

The NHS wants to double the number of places available at medical schools to tackle the crisis facing the health service. A plan, due to be published next month, is warning that without radical action, staff shortages in the health service will increase more than fourfold over the next 15 years. The plan concludes that a huge expansion of training will be needed, including 15,000 medical school places a year. However, said The Times, “a battle with the Treasury looms”, as Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, insists there is no extra cash for new medical schools.

NHS in crisis: how can we fix the health service?

6. Israel bombs Gaza Strip

Israel has launched airstrikes on targets in the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired six rockets towards the south of Israel’s. There were no reports of damage or casualties from the rockets, five of which were intercepted by Israel. In the latest escalation in the conflict, Israel’s military launched a raid on the West Bank city of Nablus, which targeted three militants who were near the centre of the old city. Among those killed in the attacks include a 72-year-old man and a teenager. Israel is “preparing for possible revenge attacks” from Palestinian forces, said the Jerusalem Post.

Israel on the brink: cycle of violence gathers speed

7. Robots to take on domestic burden

Robots will do 39% of domestic chores by 2033, according to a new study. Researchers from the UK and Japan asked 65 artificial intelligence (AI) experts to predict the amount of automation in common household tasks in 10 years. Washing up, cleaning, laundry and even ordering groceries could become a thing of the past, as robots take on the tasks, said the experts. The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

8. Dahl publisher defends changes

The publisher of Roald Dahl’s works has defended changes to the books, saying it has a “significant responsibility” to protect young readers. Speaking to The Bookseller, a spokesman for Puffin said the stories remained “unchanged”. They said that, like many authors, Dahl “has been edited through the years, including in his own lifetime”, adding: “Within the context of the word count of the wider books, these textual changes are minimal.” The Telegraph reported last week that references to weight, height and gender have been removed.

Rewriting Roald Dahl: ‘absurd censorship’ or a sign of the times?

9. Biden and Trump clash on Ohio

President Biden and Donald Trump have traded barbs following the derailment of a train carrying toxic materials in the town of East Palestine, Ohio. During a visit to the town, Trump said the locals had experienced a “great betrayal” and accused the Biden administration of failing to mount a robust response after the accident on 3 February. The White House said “former Trump administration officials owe East Palestine an apology for selling them out to rail industry lobbyists when they dismantled Obama-Biden rail safety protections”.

10. Young women ‘not settling down’

Younger women are “shunning marriage”, said The Times, after new census figures showed that more than half of women aged 34 or under are now unmarried. The data revealed that the number of women aged 30-34 who have never married or been in a civil partnership rose to 54.2% in 2021 from 43.7% in 2011 and 18.3% in 1991. The number of unmarried women aged 25 to 29 was also up from 67.8% in the 2011 census to 80.5% in 2021. “Young women are clearly not settling down,” said a family law expert.

Pros and cons of marriage

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.