The prime minister rejected the SNP government's demand for a second independence referendum before Brexit, but did not rule it out altogether. The timetable remained unclear, some reports suggesting that it had been put off for at least six years. Much sound and fury greeted the news. The first minister stated emphatically that the decision had 'sealed the fate of the Union' without explaining how she knew such a thing. There was little mention of the EU as the reason for calling the referendum; it now seemed to be about 'Tory cuts'. Among the London-based editions of this morning's press, the Mail, Express, Mirror and Sun relegated the story to inside pages, while the Times put it down the front page alongside a photograph of the Downing Street cat trying to catch a mouse. There was consternation about the Marine Conservation Society's decision to remove haddock caught in the North Sea and the west of Scotland from its list of sustainable 'fish to eat' because of a fall in stocks below the recommended level. The Scottish Fishermen's Federation attempted to assure customers that there was no threat to fish suppers.
The people of The Netherlands were congratulated by European governments for rejecting far-right populism in this week's general election. The centre-right party, which remains the largest in the Dutch parliament, was thought likely to include GreenLeft in the ruling coalition. GCHQ, Britain's communications intelligence agency, a body seldom in the public eye, denied suggestions by Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, that it had been responsible for surveillance of Trump Tower during the presidential election campaign. It said the reports, which surfaced on Fox News, were 'nonsense, utterly ridiculous and should be ignored'. Naturally, however, they were not ignored. A Senate committee concluded that there were 'no indications' that Trump had been under surveillance before or after the election. At least 42 people were killed in an airstrike on a village mosque in northern Syria, according to a human rights organisation, but there was no confirmation that the Americans were responsible. In Venezuela, the socialist government arrested four bakers for making illegal brownies in defiance of the order that bakers must produce bread rather than frivolous pastries.
Arrangements for the queen's death were leaked. It is apparently assumed that she will die after a short illness surrounded by her family and that someone called Sir Christopher Edward Wollaston MacKenzie Geidt (twice knighted), her private secretary, will contact the prime minister, waking her if necessary. Senior civil servants will talk to each other on secure lines using the code-words 'London Bridge is down' and a footman in mourning clothes will emerge from a door in Buckingham Palace and pin a black-edged notice on the gates informing the world that the queen is dead. An 11-year-old girl was reported to be Britain's youngest mother, and the father was said to be only a few years older.