A lot can change in a year – and more has changed in 2016 than we probably expected at the start. From Brexit and Climate Change to Trump and Bowie, we’ve put together a round-up of the year’s key events, and why they matter.
David Bowie Dies – 10th January
2016 has been a terrible year for celebrity deaths. Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan, Prince, Victoria Wood and Leonard Cohen are just a few of the much-beloved figures we lost this year. Bowie’s death came first and, as the 69-year-old icon kept his battle with cancer a secret from the public, was deeply shocking for many. His 25th and final studio album Black Star was released only three days before his death, the haunting and enthralling record serving as memorable finale to his musical legacy.
500 Migrants Drown Off The Coast Of Egypt – 9th April
In April 2016, a large fishing boat carrying hundreds of North African migrants and their children capsized off the coast of Egypt, resulting in 500 deaths. The disaster remains the largest loss of life in the Mediterranean this year, but it is far from an isolated incident. With over 3,800 fatalities so far, 2016 has been the deadliest year ever for migrants, and there’s no indication that number will lessen in 2017. A recent investigation by Reuters and BBC Newsnight revealed no official body in the world has opened an inquiry into the April shipwreck.
The Murder Of Jo Cox – 16th June
The brutal killing of Labour MP and Remain campaigner Jo Cox in a Yorkshire street was made all the more shocking by her murderer’s complete lack of remorse. Thomas Mair, 53, shouted “Britain first” as he stabbed and shot Cox, his trial later revealing an obsession with the Nazis and Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik.
Although this case was taken to a tragic extreme, the rise of the so-called “Alt-Right” in the USA – a loose collective of far-right groups who reject mainstream conservatism – is another example of the growing voice of white supremacist and misogynistic hatred in public discourse this year.
The EU Referendum – 23rd June
One of many recent lessons reminding us never to trust the polls. Britain woke on the morning of 24th June to the news 51.9% of the population wanted out of the European Union, led by northern working-class communities disillusioned with the out-of-touch political elite and demanding change. As promised, the result prompted the resignation of PM David Cameron, only a year after he secured the Tories their first election victory in 23 years.
Official negotiations are planned to begin at the end of March, pending the Supreme Court verdict on whether MPs should vote to trigger the process. The Government has assured us that “Brexit means Brexit”, and you can bet we’ll be hearing a lot more about it in 2017.
The Tory Leadership Race – 13th July
With Cameron out, a Conservative leadership election was on the cards, and Boris Johnson, Theresa May and outsider Andrea Leadsom were among those to throw their hats in the ring. Then Boris’ right hand man Michael Gove announced his intention to run, and Johnson was pushed out of the race. Before long, Gove was punished for his betrayal in the vote, and Britain gained its second female Prime Minister. May has cast herself as a steady-hand to guide the UK through a turbulent Brexit period, and next year promises to put her premiership to the test.
The Nice Terror Attack – 14th July
A horrible reminder of this tragedy came recently, when an armed attacker drove a hijacked lorry through a busy Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people. Back in July, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, 31, drove a 19-tonne truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on a busy promenade. Eighty-six people died, and over 300 were treated in hospital. Islamic State (IS) quickly claimed the attack, one of a spate of terror killings across mainland Europe this year. Despite the group losing substantial territory in Iraq and Syria, including the ancient site of Palmyra, the spread of extremist ideology through the internet and migration remains a threat.
Paris Agreement Comes Into Force – 4th November
The deal, agreed by nearly 200 countries in December 2015, commits world leaders to keep global warming below 2°C, seen as the threshold for safety by scientists, and to pursue a tougher target of 1.5°C. While some activists have raised concerns about the enforcement of the deal, its introduction remains important as a moment of international recognition of the threat posed by climate change. There are also fears the USA could try to pull out of the deal when the next administration takes power, which brings us to…
Donald Trump’s Victory – 8th November
It seemed wildly unlikely Trump could win the Republican nomination, and now he’s going to be 45th President of the United States. Carried over the line by a wave of populist, anti-establishment feeling – a running theme in 2016 – not even accusations of sexual assault from a slew of women could cut off his path to victory. Maybe the property billionaire will be forced to turn down his rhetoric on building walls and banning Muslims as the constraints of high office set in. But, seeing as he’s caused a diplomatic row with China over US-Taiwan ties before even assuming said office, it could go either way.
The DNC Email Hack – March & November
The increasing threat of cyber-attacks has been an issue that has mushroomed over the course of the year, and this is largely due to a serious of hacks on the Democratic National Committee’s emails, which saw thousands of documents damaging to Hillary Clinton’s election campaign leaked to the media. The CIA and the FBI have pointed the finger at Russian hackers trying to swing the vote in Trump’s favour, which the Kremlin has strenuously denied. Trump, meanwhile, has accused the CIA of cooking up the allegations to besmirch his victory. Whatever might emerge next year, it’s clear cybersecurity is a priority for modern states.
Assad Retakes Aleppo – 13th December
After four years of brutal conflict in the city, earlier this month, Syria’s President Assad – assisted by heavy Russian airstrikes –pushed anti-Government rebels into a tiny enclave in eastern Aleppo. The anti-Assad forces agreed to a ceasefire, and evacuation of thousands of rebel fighters and civilians to Government-controlled areas are ongoing. The end of the battle in Aleppo brings to a close one of the most destructive and atrocious conflicts in modern warfare, estimated to have killed over 31,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.