Wednesday briefing: Has Johnson got a deal for EU? | World news

Top story: PM lunges for border in Irish sea

Hello, I’m Warren Murray – thanks for giving the Briefing your time this morning.

Boris Johnson may be on the brink of reaching a Brexit deal with negotiating teams said to have agreed in principle that there will be a customs border down the Irish Sea. Amid the rush to find a deal for the EU27 leaders to sign off at Thursday’s European council summit, a draft text may be published on Wednesday if Downing Street gives the final green light, according to senior EU and British sources. The prime minister will brief his cabinet at 4pm before addressing a meeting of the Tory 1922 Committee. We are covering all the developments live.

If a deal does emerge, Johnson would probably try to pass it through parliament very quickly on a historic Saturday sitting. The PM will need almost all Conservatives, most of the former Tories from whom he withdrew the whip, and either the DUP or a bloc of about a dozen Labour MPs to get it through the Commons.

Two weeks before the UK’s scheduled withdrawal from the EU, the National Audit Office has concluded that a no-deal Brexit carries significant and unpredictable risks that could lead to chaos at the UK’s ports, more crime and fewer checks on migrants.

Midweek catch-up

> There have been rowdy scenes over the past few hours in Hong Kong where Carrie Lam, the chief executive, had to abandon an address to the legislature and deliver it by videolink instead because of fierce heckling by pro-democracy lawmakers.

‘Carrie Lam step down!’ Hong Kong leader heckled in Legislative Council – video

> The largest primary debate in US history has taken place with Elizabeth Warren coming under sustained attack by Democratic rivals. Bernie Sanders, 78, the oldest candidate, thanked supporters after his heart attack two weeks ago. Joe Biden defended his son, Hunter, the subject of unsubstantiated claims promoted by Donald Trump. All candidates backed the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s presidency.

> Russian units now control former Kurdish-held territory separating Turkish-backed Syrian rebels from the army of Bashar al-Assad. Moscow has become the de facto power broker in north-east Syria after Kurds agreed to accept the protection of their former opponents.

> Clashes between protesters and police erupted in Barcelona over the jailing of nine Catalan separatist leaders. Protesters who lit fires and erected makeshift barricades were dispersed by police baton charges. There were similar scenes in the cities of Tarragona, Girona and Lleida where dozens of people were reportedly injured.

> Donald Trump has met with the parents Harry Dunn and told them the driver involved in the crash that killed him will not return to the UK to face proceedings. Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn said Trump shocked them by revealing that Anne Sacoolas was waiting in another room but they declined to meet her.

Row over Malta murder – A senior European monitor has listed a catalogue of alleged failings in the police investigation of the killing of the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Known for her revelations about political corruption in Malta, Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in October 2017. Police are being criticised for failing to strike a plea deal with one of three men awaiting trial, which could have unmasked other individuals behind the killing. Pieter Omtzigt, a special rapporteur for the Council of Europe, criticised the Maltese authorities: “Every time I ask sharp, factual questions about the case or request meetings, they refuse any answer and come up with all kinds of stories.”

Strange case of farmhouse hermits – Six people have been freed from a Dutch farmhouse where they are said to have lived in a cellar “waiting for the end of time”. Their reclusive existence came to light after one of the group, a man aged 25, walked into a bar in the local village and drank five beers. He said he had not been outside for nine years, had never been to school, and that he and his younger brothers and sisters “wanted to end the way they were living”.

Drenthe residents react after Netherlands police discover family locked away for years – video

Six adults were removed and were being taken care of, said police, who found a secret staircase leading to the family’s hiding place behind a cupboard in the living room. A 58-year-old odd-job man who was renting the farmhouse was arrested after refusing to cooperate with police.

As seen on TV – Flat caps, black jumpsuits and slim-fit Levis have been flying off the shelves as shows like Peaky Blinders, Fleabag and Stranger Things influence what consumers are buying, John Lewis has reported. The retailer says the Marie Kondo effect has fuelled a 47% increase in sales of storage containers. The TV-inspired trends are revealed in the latest John Lewis retail report, an annual exercise in which the department store identifies the key trends of the year and the items that have passed their sell-by dates – a list that for 2019 includes drones and mantel clocks (there goes the Briefing’s Christmas re-gifting plans).

Today in Focus podcast: On the frontline in northern Syria

Martin Chulov, who covers the Middle East for the Guardian, has spent the past week on the frontline of north-east Syria. He describes the fallout from Trump’s shock decision to withdraw US troops. And: Amelia Gentleman on the EU citizens struggling for the right to remain in the UK.

Today in Focus

On the frontline in northern Syria

Lunchtime read: My nuanced feelings about #MeToo

“When a scandal broke involving the actor and comedian Aziz Ansari, I felt that my membership on Team Older Feminist was official,” writes Meghan Daum. “The older feminists scolded the younger ones for not being tough enough to take care of themselves. If the construction worker whistles at you, give him the finger! If the drunk guy sitting next to you at the wedding reception gets fresh, kick him in the shins! In turn, the youngsters chastised the oldsters for enabling the oppressive status quo. Neither side was entirely wrong, of course. But both sides were talking past each other in ways that suggested there was no meeting in the middle.

Illustration: Sarah Mazzetti

“In the New York Times, Daphne Merkin wrote of women and #MeToo: ‘Publicly, they say the right things … joining in the chorus of voices that applaud the takedown of maleficent characters who prey on vulnerable women in the workplace. In private it’s a different story. ‘Grow up, this is real life.’ On cable news, anchor Ashleigh Banfield looked down the camera and told ‘Grace’ (Katie Way, who wrote about her encounter with Ansari): ‘What you have done in my opinion is appalling.’ Wray retorted that Banfield was a ‘burgundy lipstick bad highlights second wave feminist has-been’ and that ‘no woman my age would ever watch your network’. As I watched all of this whiz past me on my computer screen, I wondered if my real problem with young feminists was how little they seemed to need us older ones. As far as I could see, they didn’t even want to know us.”


Jordan Henderson has admitted England’s players decided to play on in the face of racist abuse from Bulgarian supporters because they wanted their opponents and their fans to “suffer”. In the wake of the odious experience in Sofia, Borislav Mihaylov has resigned as president of the Bulgarian Football Union after the prime minister, Boyko Borissov, called for him to go because of the “racism and xenophobia”. Boris Johnson, meanwhile, has joined demands by anti-racism campaigners for Uefa to take strong action.

The Republic of Ireland need to beat Denmark to secure automatic qualification for the Euro 2020 finals after Switzerland got themselves right back into the race in Geneva. Only four of Eddie Jones’s England squad have played in a Rugby World Cup knockout game but prop Joe Marler is confident nerves will not be a problem in the weekend’s quarter-final against Australia. Liam Williams says Wales believe they can go all the way in Japan as they prepare for their quarter-final against France on Sunday. And Andy Murray won his first ATP Tour match in Europe for 16 months as he continued his encouraging return from hip surgery.


Asian shares have inched higher while sterling came off five-month highs in volatile trade as investors looked to whether Britain can secure a Brexit deal with the EU. The news lit a fire under European and US equities, which jumped about 1% on Tuesday. The British pound rocketed to $1.28, a level not seen since 21 May, but lost steam in Asia to trade around $1.275 and €1.156. The FTSE is in negative territory ahead of the open.

The papers

Boris Johnson’s potentially imminent Brexit deal features on the front page of the Guardian: “Johnson close to a Brexit deal – now he has to sell it”, the Express: “PM: I’ll strike a deal that’s best for Britain”, the Telegraph: “Johnson prepares to unveil Brexit deal” and the FT: “Johnson pressed to yield more ground in race to find Brexit deal”. Though the Times says even if the deal can be agreed it might not be finalised until next year: “Johnson hit by prospect of no Brexit until 2020”.

Guardian front page, Wednesday 16 October 2019

Guardian front page, Wednesday 16 October 2019.

The Mirror reports on the racist abuse at the football in Bulgaria: “Ambushed”, while the i leads with an investigation into PFI projects: “Taxpayer PFI deals out of control”. The Sun has a story about Tafida Raqeeb flying to Italy for treatment: “Flight for life” and the Mail’s splash is: “Breast test in your lunch hour”, about a report that calls for easier access to mammograms and cervical tests.

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