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On Britannia - Thursday 27th May

On Britannia
Thursday 27th May, by Jeremy Hutton
The sun is shining and Westminster remains stunned by a certain former spad’s incredible testimony to parliamentarians yesterday. However, although that will continue to dominate the news agenda in Blighty for the next few days, the rest of the world of course moves on. While today’s newsletter has as much content as usual, the planned introduction of a think-tank section will have to wait until next week. With that said, read on.

Leading the agenda
As G7 trade ministers’ meeting kicks off, Truss calls for WTO reform
One of many ministerial meetings to happen in advance of the coming G7 summit in a few weeks, ahead of the trade-focused one happening over the next two days, Liz Truss is urging fellow attendees to back WTO reform to help fix issues such as the dysfunctional appeals system, sort out unfair agricultural tariffs, update the rule-book and ‘advance digital and green trade’. You can read the press release here.
Speaking separately to Politico, Truss has also argued that the UK needs to become less dependent on China and says WTO reforms can help counter China’s illicit trade practices such as IP violations, “unfair” industrial subsidies and forced technology transfers.
Her predecessor Liam Fox will also be speaking today at the Centre for Policy Studies in an event timed to coincide with the G7 Ministerial making the case for a carbon border tax. Hitting a similar note, we’ve got our own paper out today arguing that Britain needs to pro-actively get ahead of EU proposals for a similar form of tax. In the paper, author William Young proposes the UK pursues ‘multilateral channelling’ to achieve this. You can read it here, and keep an eye on the Geostrategy360 podcast for an episode released later today on the paper and the G7 Ministerial.
Hungarian leader Orban heads for Britain
The controversial Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will meet Boris Johnson in London tomorrow. According to The Times, Orban is the most Eurosceptic and pro-Russian/Chinese leader in Europe. Labour’s Lisa Nandy has called on the prime minister to push Orban on human rights issues and to take a stronger stance on the Lukashenko regime in Belarus. Click here to access the article. In an interesting context piece for UnHerd, Alexander Faludy has made the case that, far from Boris needing much from this visit, it is in fact Orban who hopes to gain allies in the European Conservatives and Reformists group. Read on here.
Ministry of Defence unveils ‘The Foundry
General Sir Patrick Sanders, who is swiftly becoming Britain’s most press-friendly general it seems, has revealed that the MoD is to found a new hub for Britain’s Defence Digital Service. The location of The Foundry is yet to be decided, but this new cyber-force will exploit a different commercial model somewhere in between the military and the private sector. The Telegraph has the full write-up.
Below the radar
No submarines but plenty of navy below the radar today in a series of stories pertaining to the ‘Senior Service’.
First off, the Royal Navy has appointed its first ever female admiral. Commodore Jude Terry has just been promoted but will formally begin in the role in August. Terry began her career as a naval logistics officer and rose up the ranks to become the Deputy Director of People. You can read more through the UK Defence Journal.
Next up, the head of the Defence Select Committee Tobias Ellwood has criticised the MoD for ‘rowing back’ on its commitment to build Fleet Solid Support Ships in Britain. Where the ships would be built has been a point of contention for several years now as shipbuilding unions argue a failure to construct the ships in Britain will create a hole in the UK’s shipbuilding schedule and possibly see jobs and skills lost as a result. Initially, the government had been held back by EU procurement rules, but that excuse no longer holds water. Read on through The Telegraph.
Last of our naval stories, the Russian intelligence service, the FSB, has claimed HMS Dragon was ‘expelled’ from waters around Crimea which Russia claims are its own. According to the Daily Mail write-up of the report, the vessel broke through Russia’s defences in October claiming innocent passage and was soon ‘expelled’ by the Russians. It is common to hear of the Russian’s probing British waters and airspace, but less so to hear of the UK doing the same. Although if you subscribe to the old fashioned view that these are Ukrainian waters illegally controlled by Russia, then it really was innocent passage indeed. Read on.
Garvan Walsh has written for ConservativeHome today about what Britain and allies need to do next about Lukashenko’s increasingly rogue regime in Belarus. According to Walsh, sanctions are only a start. Walsh argues that it is necessary to completely refigure how dealings with states like Belarus are managed to ensure they cannot free-ride on the system they aim to degrade. Read the full article here.
In today’s copy of The Spectator, Matt Ridley writes on the increasingly plausible theory that covid-19 leaked from a lab in Wuhan. The article presents an interesting timeline as the theory has gone from crackpot to credible and weighs up the facts that indicate the idea might have weight. One thing you can be sure of is that former US President Donald Trump will be grinning like a smug Cheshire cat at being vindicated. Read the article here.
Over and out
That is today’s newsletter over and done with. I hope you enjoyed reading it.
Later today, the Council on Geostrategy will be marking the 30th anniversary of Georgia’s independence from the USSR with an event which includes the Georgian ambassador to the UK, the head of the Georgian foreign relations committee and Tom Tugendhat of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. Its not too late to register, or you can use this link to head straight to the Zoom event later today.
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