Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Biden unveiled a new ‘framework for a US-UK Economic Partnership’ in their ‘Atlantic Declaration’. The Declaration, light on detail, covers areas including supply chains for critical technology, data sharing, and AI safety. You can read more about the key points below, but it is already being criticised for falling short of a free trade agreement.
Rishi the diplomat
Boris Johnson has resigned as an MP with immediate effect, pre-empting the report by the Privileges Committee concerning the ex-PM’s statements to Parliament over Partygate which is due to be published this week. In a fiery statement, he claimed to be the victim of a ‘kangaroo court’ and expressed regret to be leaving parliament ‘for now’. Coverage in most of the media has not been sympathetic, with Robert Peston of ITV accusing Boris of being a conspiracy theorist. Two more MPs resigned in solidarity, which means Sunak faces three by-elections in the coming weeks. Boris is not the only former Head of Government to face trouble – Donald Trump has been indicted on 37 counts relating to mishandling classified documents.
The Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs held a conference on Friday. Speakers, including former Chancellor George Osborne, called for the government to fulfil its commitment to ‘levelling up’ the North. Meanwhile, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves dropped Labour’s commitment to spending £28 billion on a ‘Green New Deal’, blaming Conservative economic mismanagement for limiting her options.
The long-anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive seems to have begun, with reports of significant engagements in the Zaporizhzhia region. The fog of war makes accurate coverage difficult to find, but President Zelensky has said the Ukrainian army has achieved ‘results’. Adrian Hill has written two articles for Briefings, one on the ongoing offensive and the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam, and another on the drones over Moscow. They join a growing list of murky operations of which the perpetrators are still unknown.
Interior ministers of EU states this week agreed on reforms to the bloc’s migration and asylum policy after seven years of negotiations. Under the new proposals, migrants whose asylum claims are rejected can be sent to a third country deemed ‘safe’. Last minute interventions from the Italian delegation ensured that deeming a third country ‘safe’ would be done by member states individually, rejecting German proposals that a ‘strong bond’ be required between migrants and third countries. The Italian government wants to be able to send migrants back to Tunisia even if that is not their country of origin. Member states will be fined €20,000 per head for refusing to welcome refugees. The plans were opposed by Poland and Hungary, while several other states abstained, with Orban calling them ‘unacceptable’.
The European Court of Justice has ruled that Poland’s 2019 justice reforms infringe the bloc’s rule of law. The reforms allow Polish courts not to apply EU law in some cases and prevents them from referring some cases to the ECJ. The European Commission took Warsaw to court in February, arguing that the Polish Supreme Court lacked sufficient independence and impartiality to make such rulings.
Briefings co-editor Robert Tombs has written for the Spectator about attempts by Cambridge University to return several of the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria. You can read it in the magazine or online here.
Briefings contributor Catherine McBride has written for The Critic about the unsung benefits of the UK-Australia trade agreement. You can read it here.
The Dam Busters By Adrian Hill
Russian and Ukrainian officials are signalling the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. The Institute for the Study of War ( ISW) in Washington DC offers no assessment of these signals at this time.
“Whoever blew the dam, Russian defences on the east bank of the Dnipro are much weaker and in some places badly damaged. Much equipment has been lost, minefields washed away. Crimea’s water supply is significantly reduced. Was this another moment when the staff dared not say no to Putin?”
Tory remainers may be becoming desperate. Two recent TV appearances show how they are willing to distort the truth. In one case this seems a deliberate attempt to undermine Brexit. In another it may just be a politician out of his depth.
“Senior Tories are of course entitled to pro-EU views and may base this preference on a wide range of factors, going well beyond the economics. However, they are not entitled to their own facts and should strive to attain accuracy. The BBC and ITV should also take more care in holding them to account. We are also entitled to ask why some Tories appear to exult in talking Britain down. In both cases, it may just have been loose talk but both men should in any case issue a correction, which would be the honourable and responsible course of action.”
Whose drones over Moscow? By Adrian Hill
Russia claimed that Ukraine conducted a series of drone strikes against Moscow on May 30 as Russia again targeted Ukraine with Iranian-made Shahed drones. Does that make diplomatic and military common sense?
“A stunt such as the one that took place on the 30 May would have been a very good way of unravelling the whole fighter supply. The very idea that a sharp operator such as Zelensky would do something so silly is hard to swallow. Frankly, it’s the kind of trick that inadvertently could set off a nuclear exchange. Why would any Ukrainian commander want to attack Russian civilians when they know that can only increase support for Putin?”
The government has described the Atlantic Declaration as a ‘first-of-its-kind economic partnership’ which ‘heralds a new era’ for US-UK relations. Critics will say it is a poor substitute for the elusive US-UK trade deal. A closer look at the Declaration shows the comparison is misguided. Though couched in the language of ‘economic relations’, the focus on strategic technologies and securing supply chains makes it clear that the purpose is geopolitical.
Russia and the People’s Republic of China are named as threats to stability, and the areas of agreement are areas in which one or both are key players. The Atlantic Declaration should be seen as another part of the US and UK’s commitment to secure the world against domination by authoritarian states, not as an alternative to a trade deal.
What does the Declaration say?
The Declaration covers five areas, of which the most prominent are ensuring UK-US leadership on critical technologies (identified as semiconductors, quantum technologies, AI, telecommunications, and synthetic biology) and advancing cooperation on economic security, technology protection toolkits, and supply chains. Other sections cover data sharing and privacy, clean energy, and the somewhat broad category of “defence, health security, and space”.
The proposals are mostly statements of intent and recommitments to existing arrangements rather than novel policy agreements, but there are some clear commitments to action:
- A new U.S.-UK Strategic Technologies Investor Council charged with mobilising private capital to invest in critical technologies
- The creation of a Joint Clean Energy Supply Chain Action Plan to identify areas where collaboration can increase clean energy capacity
- A Joint Standing Committee on Nuclear Energy Cooperation which will facilitate exchanges on new and evolving technical and policy developments
Perhaps the most significant point for British industry is a commitment to begin negotiations on an agreement that would allow minerals processed in the UK to count towards sourcing requirements for purchasers of electric vehicles to claim tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act. The FT reports that British negotiators are hoping that cars assembled in the UK might also be included.
Another benefit for the UK is a commitment from the President to ask the United States Congress to add the United Kingdom as a ‘domestic source’ within the meaning of Title III of the Defense Production Act. The Act allows the President to incentivise the expansion of production of defence materials from ‘domestic sources’, and was most recently invoked in March 2022 in order to strengthen the domestic battery capacity, including to direct increases in domestic mining and processing capacity for battery materials.
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A Cambridge Philosophy Graduate