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LOOKING BACK AT 2017

by Nazir Tabassum

In Britain, the year 2017 was dominated by the after effects of the Referendum on future membership of this country in the EU that took place a year earlier and that resulted in the packing up of former Prime Minister David Cameron and catapulting Theresa May to the topmost position of British administration.

Though her assertion “Brexit means Brexit” resonated until she announced the snap elections; the results of these elections made her eat the humble pie; she remains in power but is cut off with that political power and electoral strength that gives a ruler the necessary courage to plan the trend of future governance. Her weakness has emboldened the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, though he could not have majority in the snap elections to form his government, yet the results went in his favour because these resulted in silencing all those dissenting voices in the Labour party who were so far reluctant to accept him as their party leader. Nonetheless, he was twice elected as a party leader within the span of a year. So much so that the results of these snap elections gave Corbyn enough strength to declare “we are not an opposition party; we are what they lost during this momentous year.” Here’s a look at the highs and lows of 2017…

JANUARY

  • Rail fares increase by an average of 2.3%, higher than inflation and continuing the trend in soaring ticket prices.
  • The government announces proposals to build seventeen new towns and villages across the English countryside.
  • A man is killed in police shooting during an operation on the M62 near Huddersfield.
  • Sir Ivan Rogers resigns as Britain’s ambassador to the European Union.
  • Sir Tim Barrow is appointed as the UK’s new ambassador to the European Union.
  • The Royal Parks announces that the Changing of the Guard ceremony will be held on fixed days of the week (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays) instead of alternate days for a three-month trial period owing to tightened security.
  • Tristram Hunt of the Labour Party resigns as MP for Stoke-on-Trent to become the director of the V&A in London.
  • The pound sterling falls ahead of the Prime Minister’s Brexit speech on Britain leaving the EU.
  • The power-sharing government of Northern Ireland collapses following the resignation of Martin McGuinnes.
  • The Prime Minister gives a speech on her plans for Brexit in which she outlines a “hard” Brexit plan from the EU, to include leaving the single market.
  • Cressida Dick is appointed Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, becoming the first woman to hold the position in the force’s 188-year history.

FEBRUARY

  • By-elections are held in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent to fill vacancies arising from the resignation of sitting Labour MPs. Turdy Harrison wins the Copeland seat for the Conservative party and Gareth Snell retains the Stoke-on-Trent Central seat for Labour party. Labour had held the Copeland seat since its creation, and the Tory win is the first gain by a serving government in a bye-election for 35 years.

MARCH

  • Philip Hammond delivers the March 2017 United Kingdom budget, his first as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  • Lord Michael Haseltine has been sacked from his role as government advisor following his rebellion against the government on the Brexit Bill in the House of Lords.
  • The British Parliament passes the Brexit Bill, paving the way for the UK Government to trigger Article 50, so that the UK can formally withdraw from the European Union.
  • The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ head of UK policy says Brexit “has the potential to slowly bring the UK’s £500 billion infrastructure pipeline to a standstill”, putting 200,000 construction workers jobs at risk if the United Kingdom loses access to the EU’s single market.
  • Theresa May formally rejects Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s second Scottish Independence Referendum timetable for Autumn 2018, or at least before Brexit negotiations are concluded.
  • It is announced that the Japanese car manufacturer Toyota is to invest £240,000,000 in its UK operations at Burniston near Derby.
  • After White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claims that President Obama used GCHQ to wiretap Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, the US Government issues an apology to the UK Government, assuring that the accusation will not be repeated.
  • Four people die and at least 40 others are injured in what is treated as a terrorist attack in London, when a male car driver, later identified as Khalid Masood, ploughs through pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before stabbing PC Keith Palmer to death at the Palace of Westminster. Police later shoot Masood dead. In response, the Houses of Parliament are placed in lockdown for four hours, as is the London Eye and Whitehall, and the devolved Scottish Parliament suspends a debate on a second Scottish Independence referendum.
  • The new 12-sided £1 coin is released.
  • The United Kingdom invokes Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union beginning the formal EU withdrawal process.

APRIL

  • The Duke and Dichess of Cambridge and the Duke’s brother, Prince Harry, join the families of the victims of the 2017 Westminster attack at a memorial service held at Westminster Abbey.
  • The Foreign Office confirms that a British national, Chris Bevington, was amongst the four people killed in the terrorist attack in Stockholm on 7 April.
  • A secret recording that implicates the Bank of England in Libor rigging is uncovered by BBC Panorama.
  • Twelve people are injured in an assault with acid at a nightclub at Hackney in London.
  • Prime Minister Theresa May calls a snap general election for Thursday 8 June.
  • The House of Commons formally approves the calling of an early general election with the necessary two-thirds majority in a 522 to 13 vote,
  • Police arrest a man on suspicion of terrorism after he is caught carrying knives near the Houses of Parliament. In a separate incident, police also raid a suspect property in Willesden, West London, shooting a woman in the process.
  • The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, withdraws funding guarantees for the controversial Garden Bridge across the River Thames.
  • The UK’s Anthony Joshua becomes WBA World Heavyweight Champion after beating Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium.

MAY

  • Local government elections are held across England, Scotland and Wales. The Conservative Party makes significant gains at the expense of the Labour Party, gaining 500 seats and seizing control of 11 councils. UKIP loses all 145 seats they were defending. The Liberal Democrats lose 41 seats, despite their share of the vote increasing. Labour is pushed into third place by the Conservatives in Scotland, where the SNP is comfortably the largest party despite failing to take control of target councils. The Conservatives win four out of six metro-mayoral areas, including in the traditionally Labour-voting Tees Valley and West Midlands.
  • Paper £5 notes featuring Elizabeth Fry ceased to be legal tender in the UK.
  • Computers across the United Kingdom are hit by a large scale ransomware cyber- attack, causing major disruption.
  • Manchester Arena is attacked by a suicide bomber following a music concert by American singer Ariana Grande. 22 people, many of them children and teenagers, with multiple casualties. It is the most deadly attack in the UK since the 7 July 2005 London bombings and the first in the North of England since the IRA bombing of Manchester in June 1996.
  • General election campaign from all major political parties is temporarily suspended after the attack in Manchester.
  • Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claim responsibility for the attack, calling it revenge for attacks on “Muslim Lands”.

JUNE

  • Seven people are reported killed and 48 injured in an attack by three Islamist extremists at London Bridge. A hit-and-run vehicle on the bridge is followed by knife attacks at Borough Market. All three perpetrators are shot dead by police within eight minutes.
  • General elections 2017. The Conservative party remains the largest party, but fail to get enough seats for a majority, leading to a hung parliament. In a surprise result, they are reduced from 330 to 318 seats.
  • Senior Conservative MPs threaten a leadership challenge unless Theresa May’s two closest advisors, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, are sacked. The pair both resign.
  • 10 Downing Street issued a statement claiming the Democratic Unionist Party have agreed a confidence-and-supply deal to support a Conservative minority government. However, both parties subsequently confirm that talks about an agreement are still ongoing.
  • The England national under-20 football team win the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the first time beating Venezuela by 1 goal to nil in the final.
  • A major fire engulfs Grenfell Tower in West London, with 71 fatalities eventually officially confirmed (16 November) and more than 70 people taken to hospital.
  • Tim Farron resigns as leader of the Liberal Democrats.
  • The government announces that there will be no Queen’s Speech in 2018, to give MPs more time to deal with Brexit laws.
  • 2017 Finsbury Park attack: One person is killed and 10 others are injured after a van is deliberately rammed into pedestrians near Finsbury Park Mosque. 47-year old Darren Osborne, who shouted that he wanted to “kill all Muslims”, is arrested after members of the public subdue him.

JULY

  • The latest Brexit talks end without agreement on EU citizens’ rights or the amount the UK should pay.
  • Sir Vince Cable becomes the new leader of the Liberal Democrats after nominations close without any challengers.

AUGUST

  • The World Athletic Championship start at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.
  • West Midlands Revolution are crowned champions of the inaugural Quidditch Premier League Championship in Hull.

SEPTEMBER

  • Kensington Palace announces that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child.
  • A survey by the National Centre for Social Research finds that, for the first time, a majority (53%) of adults in the UK describe themselves as non-religious.
  • Thousands of Remainers join a rally in Central London to protest at the impact of the UK leaving the EU.

OCTOBER

  • Following a spate of acid attacks, the government announces that sales of acids to under 18s will be banned.
  • Theresa May promises a “new generation of council housing” and an energy price cap, in a conference speech interrupted by a prankster.
  • A man is arrested after a car ploughs into pedestrians outside the National History Museum in South Kensington, London, injuring several people. The incident is caused by dangerous driving and is not terror-related.
  • Round £1 coin cease to be legal tender in the UK.
  • Revised figures from the ONS indicate that Britain is £490 billion poorer than previously thought, and that the country no longer has a net reserve of foreign assets.
  • Hurricane Ophelia hits the British Isles.

NOVEMBER

  • Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon resigns following allegations of inappropriate past behaviour.
  • The government loses an opposition vote calling on it to publish impact assessments of Brexit on more than 50 key industries.
  • Gavin Williamson replaces Michael Fallon as defence secretary.
  • The Bank of England raises interest rates for the first time in 10 years, from 0.25 to o. 5 %.
  • A huge new leak of documents known as the Paradise Papers is reported by the BBC Panorama programme, revealing how the wealthy and powerful, including the Queen’s private estate.
  • Priti Patel resigns as International Development Secretary amid controversy over unauthorised meetings she had with Israeli officials.
  • David Davis announces that Parliament will be given a vote on the final Brexit deal before the United Kingdom leaves the European Union in 2019.
  • Sarah Clarke, current championship director of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, is appointed as the first female Black Rod. She will take up the position in January 2018, and have the title “The Lady Usher of the Black Rod”.
  • The House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, orders Brexit secretary David Davis to face a Commons committee, after MPs say he ignored a binding vote to hand over full documents on the impact of Brexit on 58 sectors.

DECEMBER

  • In Brussels, Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker fail to reach an agreement on key points needed to progress to the next stage of Brexit talks, including the issue of the Northern Ireland border.
  • The Office of National Statistics values the UK at £9.8 trillion.
  • While being questioned by the Brexit Committee, David Davis admits that the Government have not conducted a single economic impact assessment on the impact of Brexit to economy. Philip Hammond later states that the Cabinet “has not had specific discussion about the final Brexit outcome it wants.
  • The body of a 30-year old British woman, Rebecca Dykes, who worked at the British Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, is found near a motorway on the outskirts of the city. A 35-year old male Uber driver is arrested and charged with her rape and murder.
  • The EU announces that the UK’s Brexit transition period will end no later than 31 December 2020.
  • Damien Green, one of the Theresa May’s closest allies, resigns from the Cabinet after an investigation finds he made “inaccurate and misleading” statements regarding pornography on a computer in his Commons office.
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