Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 March 2023

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

1. Crisis puts rate hikes in doubt

Interest rate rises are in doubt as fear of a new global crisis “rattles central banks”, said The Observer. The Bank of England’s “much-flagged” rate hike, due next week was considered a “nailed-on certainty” but the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in the US and the rescue of Credit Suisse, have caused analysts to revise their predictions. “It is almost 50:50 between the MPC pausing or ending its series of interest rate hikes,” said one.

2. ‘Bombshell’ dossier ‘clears Boris’

Boris Johnson will release evidence in his defence ahead of his appearance in front of MPs who are exploring whether he misled Parliament about Covid rule-breaking parties. The former PM faces a televised evidence session in front of the Commons Privileges Committee on Wednesday, but his friends say the “bombshell defence dossier” contains “new evidence that helps his case”. Johnson has always denied misleading MPs.

3. John Lewis could reduce staff stake

John Lewis, which has been 100% owned by its staff for more than 70 years, is considering a plan to change its mutual structure so it can try to raise between £1 billion and £2 billion of new investment, said The Sunday Times. The retail company, which owns Waitrose, was put into a trust in 1950 by the founder’s son. Any change would have to be voted on by the retailers partnership council of about 60 staff, the report said.

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4. Lawyer questions Trump arrest claim

Donald Trump’s lawyer has thrown into doubt the former president’s forecast that he will be arrested on Tuesday. Trump wrote on his social networking site Truth Social that “illegal leaks” from the Manhattan district attorney’s office “indicate” he would be arrested on Tuesday, in connection with the investigation into a hush money scheme involving adult film actress Stormy Daniels. He called on his supporters to launch mass protests. However, his lawyer, Susan Necheles, said she has not heard anything from law enforcement officials.

5. ‘Armageddon alert’ coming to your phone

The UK government will send a siren-like alert to mobile phone users across the UK on 23 April. The Sun said the “Armageddon alert” will test a new government public warning system that would allow emergency services to send urgent messages warning the public of life-threatening situations like flooding or wildfires. A message will appear on the home screens of people’s devices during the test, with vibration and a loud warning sound that will ring for about 10 seconds - even if the phone is set to silent.

6. New allegations hit BBC boss

The BBC chair, Richard Sharp, is under renewed pressure after allegedly helping a close friend land a paid role advising the corporation on editorial standards and impartiality. The row over Gary Lineker’s tweet about immigration focused the spotlight on Sharp, 67, who helped then-prime minister Boris Johnson secure a guarantee on a loan of up to £800,000 in 2020, leading to allegations of “cronyism”, said The Independent. Sharp was appointed as BBC chair weeks later in 2021.

7. DUP to rock Brexit vote

The DUP is set to vote against Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal with the EU in next week’s “crunch House of Commons vote”, said The Telegraph. The news is likely to “embolden” Tory Eurosceptics who also plan to oppose the PM’s deal, said the paper. A source said there were “fundamental problems still outstanding” with the Windsor Framework, and said Sunak’s decision to call a vote on one aspect of it “reeks of party political games”.

8. Putin warrant welcomed in US

Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky have welcomed the decision of the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin over alleged war crimes in Ukraine. The US president said the Russian leader had “clearly committed war crimes” and the warrant was “justified” and made “a very strong point”. Zelensky welcomed the decision against “the head of a terrorist state”. Meanwhile, a deal allowing Ukraine to export millions of tonnes of grain through the Black Sea has been extended.

9. Murrell exit hits SNP

The SNP is under pressure to restart its leadership contest after Nicola Sturgeon’s husband quit as chief executive, admitting he misled party members and the public about the size of the electorate. Earlier this week, the party confirmed there had been a big drop in membership numbers, contradicting an earlier denial that that was the case. The National said Peter Murrell’s departure “tops a turbulent week”.

10. Mass fish deaths upset locals

“Heatwave conditions” have been blamed after millions of dead fish washed up in a river near a small Australian town. Footage showed masses of dead fish floating at the Menindee Weir pool near Broken Hill. “It’s just massive, incredible really,” an eye-witness told 7 News. “There’s maybe a thousand fish per square metre”. A local government spokesperson said the fish kill was distressing for locals.

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