Whilst Russia dominate the headlines, there are some stories that have been buried in the process, firstly, Philip Hammond will reveal his first Spring Statement after scrapping the Spring Budget last year. The government will be voting on the axing of Free School Meals with a notable exception. Londoners back plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street and Jean-Claude Juncker has issued an ultimatum to Theresa May over Brexit.

There has been reconciliation in Palestine but marred with attack on convoy, a suicide bomber hit UAE trained soldiers in Yemen and Turkey have claimed they have surrounded the Kurdish forces in Afrin.

Spring statement and Brexit

Whilst this may not be buried, the focus is somewhat off it due to the Russian spy poisoning, because that has a little bit more excitement to it than an economic statement by Philip Hammond. Nonetheless, Hammond will make his statement and is expected to say that the OECD has raised its forecast for UK growth this year, but only to 1.3%. It then slows to 1.1% in 2019. That’s weaker than last November’s Budget forecasts (which could be revised up today). In contrast, the global economy is expected to grow by 3.0% this year, with the eurozone expanding by 2.3%. The OECD says Brexit uncertainty and falling real wages are hurting UK growth.

He is also likely to announce several consultations, these could then lead to reforms and policy changes within the Autumn budget.

There is a possibility of reformation to the tax system to tackle the increase in plastic waste as it reaches dangerous levels in the sea, building upon the 5p plastic bag charge. Plus, there are several possible consultations that include the taxation of the UK’s digital economy, the simplification of tax, AI and the VAT system for small businesses.

Jean-Claude Juncker used a speech in the European parliament to appeal for May’s “wishes”, sketched out in her Mansion House speech on 2 March, to be turned into an achievable blueprint and reiterated that the EU will stand by its “backstop” plan to keep Northern Ireland under EU law to avoid a hard border with the Irish Republic.

The danger, Juncker claimed, was that the prime minister’s goal of an “enduring” Brexit agreement would not be met, and the UK would be locked in constant and destabilising negotiations with Brussels for many years to come.

Cutting free school meals

In legislation that will get voted on immediately following the Spring Statement, the Tories are set to cut the threshold for free school meals for the children of families on Universal Credit to £7,400 per year. The threshold will represent a ‘cliff edge’, meaning that if families earn a penny over it, they will have their entitlement to free school meals removed completely. However, it seems that to ensure the 10 DUP MPs in Parliament side with them in the vote tomorrow, the Tories have incredibly decided to exempt Northern Ireland, where the threshold will be almost double, at £14,000.


A suicide bombing hit Yemeni troops trained by the United Arab Emirates in the government bastion of Aden on Tuesday, a security source said, with at least five people dead or wounded. The attack in the north of the port city hit an army mess hall serving the so-called Security Belt brigade, supported by government ally the UAE. Aden is controlled by the Yemeni government and its allies in a Saudi-led coalition, who are battling Shia Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa and much of the north. But it also hosts militants of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, who have both claimed attacks in the city in recent years.

Leaders of Fatah and Hamas on Thursday hailed a unity deal signed in Cairo which they said would end the decade-long rift between the rival Palestinian factions, but many Palestinians expressed scepticism that the agreement would lead to genuine reconciliation.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the deal, telling the AFP news agency that he had given orders for it to be signed immediately, following two days of talks mediated by the head of Egypt's general intelligence agency.

The Palestinian Authority has blamed Hamas after an explosion targeted Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah's convoy on its way into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Hamdallah was not injured in the explosion, which occurred shortly after his convoy entered for a rare visit to the territory, a security source in the convoy said, but seven people were wounded. Hamas's spokesperson condemned the bomb attack and rejected the accusations from the PA that it had carried out the attack. The explosion happened after Hamdallah's convoy entered northern Gaza through the Erez checkpoint on the border with Israel.