The kicking given by voters in last week’s by-elections reflected a reluctance of disaffected Tories to turn out plus a strong dose of tactical voting from opponents. The better result in Uxbridge suggested a way forward – protecting rather than attacking living standards. Falling inflation will help but a dose of radicalism from steady-as-she-goes Sunak is now required.
The Prime Minister removed 5 Conservative MPs from a secondary legislation committee reviewing aspects of the WIndsor Framework. Fearing a defeat on postal regulations, Sunak removed his colleagues, prompting a backlash from backbenchers. Baroness Hoey has written about the relevant legislation here.
Another difficult week for the PM
The Government set out plans for the UK’s fishing industry, taking advantage of freedoms regained from the EU. The plans seek to increase quotas and yields for British businesses without depleting fish populations. There are also £200 million promised for investment in the industry.
Plans for a £4 billion e-car giga-factory have been announced by Jaguar Land Rover. The site in Bridgewater was chosen over a rival site under consideration in Spain.
Alongside Turkish counterparts, the Government also stated their intention to negotiate a trade deal with Turkey. UK-Turkey trade was worth £23.5 billion in 2022. Existing trade arrangements are covered by legislation carried over after Brexit from an existing EU deal.
“Out and into the world”
The EU hosted a major summit with Latin American and Caribbean leaders where Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised €45 billion worth of investment in the region. In return, all countries present bar Niaragua agreed to a joint statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The statement also caused controversy in the UK by referring to the Falkland Islands as “Islas Malvinas”.
Briefings contributor Catherine McBride explains why Truss-era economic policy was a missed opportunity in her article for The Critic magazine.
Sunak Drifts Towards Irrelevance by Fred de Fossard (originally published in The Critic)
The PM seems to have no ambitions beyond not being Liz or Boris. After Boris resigned his seat, allies briefed the press saying Sunak now had 18 months to govern in his own image, without worrying about his predecessors and their backers. But there seems little sign of change.
If there is one thing that characterises the Sunak government so far, it is drift. Different to the chaos and tragedy of Johnson or Truss, this drift manifests itself in performative competence, a steady hand and little more. It is reminiscent of the paralysis of strong and stable Theresa May, with a government seemingly run by its own enemies. As the Prime Minister must surely realise, competence alone is not enough to lead and reform the British government.
- Barnier’s Little Helpers by Robert Tombs
During the tortuous negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union (represented throughout by the veteran French politician Michel Barnier) it was widely known that alongside the official negotiations, many British politicians were having private meetings with Barnier, many of them more than once. What were they saying, and why?
Remainer MPs of all parties found their way to Barnier’s door, often repeatedly, including Nick Clegg (Lib Dem), Chukka Umunna (Labour), Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve (Conservative). Barnier also met Tory Brexiteers, who tried in vain to persuade him to consider solutions to the Irish border issue.
East Falkland flying the flag
Argentinian officials hailed a “diplomatic triumph” this week when EU diplomats signed a joint declaration referring to the “Islas Malvinas” – better known as “the Falkland Islands”. Though Brussels claims the statement does not mean its policy has changed, the Argentinian Foreign Minister has said he hopes it will pave the way for future dialogue on the islands’ status.
There is very little to talk about. The British claim to the islands is based on the persistent and near-unanimous support of the islanders themselves as well as an association with the islands dating back to 1690, when the (uninhabited) islands were first discovered. The Argentinian claim is based on a dubious claim to Spain’s former colonies in the South Atlantic (the Falklands were never indisputably Spanish) and the fact that the islands are only 480 km from their coast.
Were the EU to support the Argentinian claim, they would be joining the ranks of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation – both vocal supporters. (In return, Argentina recognises the former’s claim on Taiwan and defended the latter’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.) What an alarming message it would send to Ukraine and other Eastern European states were the EU to look favourably on a past invasion of nearby territories in the name of a fallen empire.
The EU itself is no stranger to overseas territories, and has no difficulty recognising the right to self-determination when it is exercised in its favour. There are EU territories in all 5 oceans and on 3 continents besides the European mainland. The Spanish-Moroccan enclaves, Melilla and Ceuta, are particularly instructive, given the obvious parallels with the British enclave in Gibraltar. In both cases, claims by the mainland power are rejected by recalcitrant local populations determined to maintain the status quo.
So it is not the general concepts of self-determination and sovereignty with which EU diplomats struggle, but only as they apply to Britain. Whether it is the Falklands, Gibraltar, or Northern Ireland, the EU can be relied upon to violate principles on which it relies elsewhere if the result is to the detriment of the UK.
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A Cambridge Philosophy Graduate