Five things you need to know today: Scottish court to rule on prorogation of parliament

Also: man with moustache makes promise he can’t keep.

NS

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Latest attempt to try legality of Brexit gets underway

Scotland's highest civil court will today hear a legal challenge that would prevent Boris Johnson from forcing a no-deal Brexit through by shutting down Parliament. The case, being heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, is backed by more than 70 MPs and peers including Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and anti-Brexit campaigners such as the lawyer Jolyon Maugham, and will determine whether proroging parliament to allow the Brexit deadline to expire would be “unlawful and unconstitutional”. 

Even if the court rules in the way Remain campaigners hope, however, Parliament will still need to take positive action to prevent Britain from leaving the EU by default on 31 October. And it must at least be possible that being able to claim that Brexit was blocked by the courts is the sort of thing a would-be populist might find useful in an election campaign.

UK first in line for trade US deal, claims man with no power over US trade policy

A post-Brexit Britain could agree a “series of agreements” on trade with the United States “very quickly”, the Trump administrations National Security Advisor John Bolton has said. After meeting the Prime Minister at Downing Street, Bolton told the press that deals could be done on a “sector-by-sector” basis, starting with manufacturing. Britain, he added, was “constantly at the front of the trade queue”.

Unfortunately, Bolton has no responsibility for US trade policy, and any deal would in any case have to be ratified by Congress. But its a nice sentiment.

Hong Kong chief executive appeals for calm

Pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong are in danger of pushing the city “into an abyss”, Carrie Lam has warned. In what was widely reported to be an emotional press conference yesterday, the city’s chief executive warned that “violence... will push Hong Kong down a path of no return”. Lam declined, however, to respond to questions about what the protests meant for her own leadership. Yesterday, the city’s airport was forced to cancel hundreds of flights, after it was occupied in the latest stage of a protest that has been going on for over 10 weeks.

Ban hands-free mobiles, MPs advise

Driving while talking on hands-free mobile phones is just as dangerous as doing so while holding a phone and should be banned, a committee of MPs has said. The Commons transport select committee said that the existing law, which only bands the latter, gave a “misleading impression” that hands-free mobiles are safe, despite causing the “same risks of collision”. Predictably, the Daily Mail has already reacted with a furious headline beginning with the word “Now”.

A cure for Ebola

At last, some good news: scientists may be close to a cure for the Ebola virus. Preliminary results of research conducted by the US National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases in the Democratic Republic of Congo since November found that more than 90 per cent of patients treated with two drugs – REGN-EB3 and mAb114 – can survive the disease, if it’s caught early enough. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said the treatment could finally turn the horrific Ebola virus into a “preventable and treatable” disease.