This week's big stories

PUBLISHED: 18:00 31 August 2017 | UPDATED: 10:53 01 September 2017

Theresa May might have hoped for a bit of a break from Brexit while she was in Japan on a trade and investment mission to see both Emperor Akihito (pictured) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo: PA

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Japanese businesses expect “clarity” over Brexit, a top diplomat said as Theresa May jetted off to the Far East.

Minister for public diplomacy at the Japanese embassy Shinichi Iida said his government would prefer Britain to stay in the European Union and will be “paying close attention” to negotiations. He added that Japan has a big stake in the process with 1,000 companies here, employing around 140,000 people in the UK. May might have hoped for a bit of a break from Brexit while she was in Japan on a trade and investment mission to see both Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But alas, no. It seems she is going to face more tricky Brexit questions – especially if the Emperor and the PM are expecting “clarity”.

“First of all we settle the past before we look forward to the future,” said European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker as he delivered another rapier rebuke to Britain.

The EU has made it clear that before trade talks can begin, issues including the Irish border, the divorce bill and the rights of European citizens in the UK must be settled. And yet the position papers have just kept coming. Juncker said: “I did read, with the requisite attention, all the papers produced by Her Majesty’s Government and none of those is actually satisfactory. So there is still an enormous amount of issues which remain to be settled.”

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has delivered another rapier rebuke to Britain. Photo: PA

Ouch. What does Number 10 have to say about this? “We have published a number of papers on a few specific themes. There are more papers to come in the coming weeks.”

Labour’s Brexit bombshell was welcomed by those who have struggled to explain the difference between their own stance and that of the Government. But not everyone is happy. Labour Leaver MP Graham Stringer had some tough words for Sir Keir Starmer: “MPs, if they are trying to undermine and sabotage a decision that was made by the people of this country in the referendum just over a year ago, then they will be seriously threatened, as will be democracy.” Labour prides itself on being a democratic party and with conference looming what better time to ask members what they think of Brexit?

With just four weeks left until Germany goes to the polls, Angela Merkel cannot be accused to succumbing to a quick fix of populism.

She has defiantly said she was in the right in allowing migrants into Germany during the 2015 crisis and even claimed she would do the same thing again.

Writing in Welt am Sonntag Merkel said: “Germany acted humanely and correctly in a very difficult situation. It was a question of averting a humanitarian catastrophe.

“It was an emergency which none of us, including the people seeking safe haven, should ever experience again.”

Migration is becoming one of the main themes of the Bundestag election, with polling firms reporting it is a big issue on the doorstep. Merkel faced huge criticism after more than 890,000 migrants came to Germany in 2015. And her rival Martin Schulz is hoping to keep Merkel’s feet to the flames by warning another influx might be imminent.

Tensions continue to soar ahead of the unofficial Catalan independence vote planned for October 1.

Madrid already refuses to acknowledge the vote and now separatist politicians have vowed they will take immediate control of Catalonia’s borders if they are successful in the poll. A bill outlining the next steps if Catalans back independence “provides a legal framework for the period immediately after” and will automatically be applied, according to head of the Together For Yes group Lluis Corominas.

Exactly how Madrid responds if there is a vote to leave is unknown and officials will be hoping current polling – which has a No vote on almost 50% but with 10% still undecided – is borne out.

Norway’s economy is in good shape – the best since 2012 in fact.

But there is growing concern over the result of next month’s general election which could see any of a swathe of small political parties demanding influence – parties that include the hard-left Marxist Red. Economists fear the uncertainty of a new coalition could scupper the nation’s fiscal future.

There are at least 10 potential alternatives for minority or majority coalition governments making the outcome of the vote almost impossible to predict.

But the recent good news has seen the current centre right coalition eating away at the poll lead the opposition had built. Prime Minister Erna Solberg – perhaps the most right-wing leader in Norway’s recent history – will now look to cash in and become the first ever right of centre leader to win a second term.

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