Britain could come to regret moving away from China

China’s relationship with America is getting worse and worse. The Chinese Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, warned yesterday that ‘containment and suppression will not make America great. It will not stop the rejuvenation of China’. The Biden administration, meanwhile, recently accused China of readying to send weapons to Russia, and Americans are still fuming about the Chinese balloon that entered their airspace. China thinks they’re being hysterical. Britain will soon be forced to decide whether it will decouple from China. The Americans no doubt want Britain to join them in cutting ties to Beijing, but it is not clear that British policymakers are ready to do this yet. In 2020, China accounted for

The danger of learning too much from Covid

When Ray Bradbury was asked if his dystopian vision in Fahrenheit 451 would become a reality, he replied: ‘I don’t try to predict the future. All I want to do is prevent it.’ In the hot embers of the Covid-19 pandemic, it may not be enough to foresee infectious disease threats if we lack the ability to forestall them. After all, predictions were made about 2019. In a Ted talk four years earlier, Bill Gates warned about what he later called ‘Disease X’, a respiratory disease that would cause millions of fatalities. Devi Sridhar, a professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, addressed the Hay Festival in 2018

Why the new Anglo-Swedish pact matters

Boris Johnson has travelled to Stockholm to sign a mutual defence pact with Sweden to tide the country over until it enters Nato. He’ll then travel to Finland to agree similar terms. This is quite significant for a few reasons. To the Prime Minister, the ‘global Britain’ post-Brexit strategy means signing global new trade and defence relationships: with European and global partners. In other words, showing that Brexit Britain has not turned in on itself but is keen to make new and global alliances – stepping up as an ally at times when even America is reluctant. This is one of those times. In theory, the European Union has a mutual defence clause (Article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty) 

Miss Brexit? Another bust-up is looming

In the past few months, relations between the UK and the EU have been the best they have been since Brexit. Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine reminded the two sides of the need for the world’s democracies to co-operate. It is tempting to hope that relations could continue to improve, especially now that the French presidential election is out of the way. But, as I say in the magazine this week, this is unlikely to happen. The Northern Ireland protocol is about to return to the agenda. The EU thinks that the UK must be made to abide by what was signed, and that allowing London to wriggle out of

David Frost’s solution to cool UK-EU relations

Since David Frost quit the government in December over its political direction, he has not said that much about the future of UK-EU affairs. But in the Churchill lecture at the University of Zurich tonight, he sets out a potential new basis for relations. His tone is warm and marks a deliberate attempt to move on from the scratchy relations of the last few years: he argues that there is a ‘need to recognise that the EU is a natural ally of the United Kingdom, and that we should seek – as sovereign equals – ways to cooperate and work together more.’ Frost’s speech is a sign of a reminder that there is

No, Scottish independence is not like the war in Ukraine

Perhaps it’s the absence of any oppression of their own country that compels Scottish nationalists to latch onto the oppression of others. On Monday, Michelle Thomson, an SNP MSP, retweeted news of Ukraine’s emergency application for EU membership, adding: ‘Delighted for Ukraine. It’s [sic] just goes to show what political will can achieve. Remember this Scotland!’ The SNP’s current position is for Scotland to secede from the UK then apply for membership of the EU, a process nationalists have previously suggested Brussels would fast-track. Thomson came in for a barrage of criticism and later deleted the tweet, admitting it was ‘insensitive’. She is taking all the flack but she’s hardly

Sunak backs the Union with cash, not love-bombs

Devolution has done so much to fracture the UK that, in Scotland, Rishi Sunak’s Budget is an event of the second order. Scottish interest in Budget day is typically limited to whisky duty, support for North Sea industries and the Barnett formula: the additional spending Scotland gets when the Chancellor splurges on England. Today’s Budget was for all of Britain. Not just Scotland, but Wales and Northern Ireland were weaved throughout Rishi Sunak’s speech. Quite apart from the fiscal or economic merits of the policies announced, the Chancellor’s speech was good politics. Not long after Sunak was promoted to the Treasury, I was told Scotland was a weak spot for him

The car industry’s China crisis

New cars could soon start disappearing from Britain’s forecourts, with the latest supply chain crunch threatening to cripple the global motor industry. It’s a crisis that once again delivers a stark warning about the dangers of over-dependence on China and the costs of succumbing to Beijing’s predatory trade practices. The automotive industry is currently facing a critical shortage of magnesium, which is an essential raw material for the production of aluminium alloys, including gearboxes, steering columns, fuel tank covers and seat frames. Stockpiles are running low, there is no substitute for magnesium in the production of aluminium sheets, and China has a near monopoly on the market. In Germany, Europe’s

Ripping up the Northern Ireland protocol is diplomacy in action

Lord Frost’s Lisbon speech represents the most cogent argument yet for replacing the Northern Ireland protocol. So naturally it has been buried under a slurry of snark, solemn head-shaking and breathless indignation. It is worth stepping back from the noise. Switch off the shouty man on LBC, mute the ‘this is not normal’ people on Twitter, and avoid at all costs the catastrophist-analysis of the academic-activists. You will miss nothing. In fact, read Frost’s speech for yourself. It was meant to send a message about the protocol and it does so directly. The Irish are our neighbours. It is in both our countries’ interests that we maintain and enhance the ties

Aukus is a disaster for the EU

It is hard to overstate the importance of the so-called Aukus alliance between the US, the UK and Australia — and the implicit geopolitical disaster for the EU. The alliance is the culmination of multiple European failures: naivety at the highest level of the EU about US foreign policy; Brussels’s political misjudgements of Joe Biden and his China strategy; compulsive obsession with Donald Trump; and the attempt to corner Theresa May during the Brexit talks. If you treat the UK as a strategic adversary, don’t be surprised when the UK exploits the areas where it enjoys a competitive advantage. The EU has outmanoeuvred itself through lazy group-think. While German political

What will happen to those left in Kabul?

The Afghan evacuation is feared to be entering its final hours, and with it a new desperation is building among people trying to get out of the country and those helping them. On the ground, troops are warning that Kabul airport could be overrun by people who are ineligible to leave but desperate to do so nonetheless. Embassy workers are trying to process visas, ministers are being bombarded with requests to look at cases where vulnerable Afghans have been overlooked or cannot make it to the airport safely. I have heard from people who waited until their children couldn’t stand and have stopped speaking due to the trauma Boris Johnson

Europe has been a helpless bystander in Afghanistan

America’s allies in Europe understood months before President Joe Biden’s fateful April speech to the American people that a full and complete US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan was a very real possibility. Biden talked about the urgency of getting the United States out of what he termed ‘forever war’ conflicts which required tens of billions of dollars a year (not to mention thousands of US troops on the ground) to maintain. Indeed, anybody who bothered to pay attention to Biden’s words for even a moment recognised the phrase was intrinsically tied to the war in Afghanistan, which had outlasted three consecutive presidents, resulted in the deaths of over 2,440 US

The sausage war ceasefire is a good sign for UK-EU relations

The sausage dispute between the UK and the EU may sound like something out of Yes Minister but it is the canary in the coal mine of UK-EU relations. In a sign of some progress, Maroš Šefčovič, the Commission vice-president, will announce this afternoon that the EU will agree to a UK request to extend the grace period for sausages and other chilled meats going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland for another three months. Both sides will offer their own unilateral declarations on what the extension means. RTE’s Tony Connelly provides a typically thorough run through of what we can expect. Two things are particularly worth noting. First, the

HMS Defender: What’s behind the Navy’s Russian incident?

Assuming that reports are accurate, the world has just witnessed the most serious escalation between the UK and Russia since the poisoning of Sergei Skripal three years ago. Russian bombs and gunfire were reportedly discharged near HMS Defender, currently patrolling the Black Sea. The Kremlin has justified the supposed aggression by stating that the ship had strayed into Russian waters. The UK, meanwhile, has denied that any such incident took place.  Russia’s justification, if indeed it did what it claims it did, is based on a false premise. The coastline in question does not, in fact, belong to Russia — Defender was positioned off the Crimean peninsula. The international community recognises the territory as being an

The protocol may be Boris’s greatest masterstroke

The jibes thrown at Boris Johnson over his unhappiness with the Northern Ireland protocol — based on the obvious observation that he was the one who signed it — have been based on the assumption that he is either a liar or a fool. A liar because he knew full well what he was signing up to, or a fool for not knowing what he was agreeing to. Does anyone think that officials told him that the protocol would prevent Northern Ireland having access to some cancer drugs? Or guide dogs being unable to move between GB and NI? Keir Starmer has repeated the jibe about Johnson. A further version is

The political advantages of the UK-Australia trade deal

The UK government has agreed its first bespoke trade deal since leaving the EU. After Boris Johnson met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday night, a deal has been agreed between the two sides. The deal on the table offers tariff free trade for all British goods, enhanced access for British tech companies and ought to make it easer for Britons under the age of 35 to travel and work in Australia. As for the Cabinet row over whether an influx of Australian meat could threaten the livelihoods of UK farmers, a 15-year cap on tariff-free imports has been agreed – though the specifics are yet to be

France needs Britain more than ever

‘What is grave about this situation, Messieurs, is that it is not serious’, was how General de Gaulle addressed his cabinet following the attempted putsch des généraux in April 1961. That could equally apply to recent Franco-British ructions over fishing rights in the Channel Islands. It is mere gesture politics, for all the French retaliatory threats to cut off the electricity supply to Jersey, the British dispatch of two Royal Navy vessels and the French countering with two patrol boats. Behind the facade France and Britain are serious military and diplomatic allies bound by important and wide-ranging security treaties that go beyond just Nato. But it is the French who have

One hundred days in, is Biden getting a vaccine boost?

Boris Johnson is set for a vaccine boost next week when local election results start rolling in. As James Forsyth explains in this week’s magazine, the vaccine rollout is forefront in voters’ minds, with seven out of ten now inoculated or even fully jabbed up. For all the chaos raging around Johnson, with accusations from his former allies and long-term opponents coming in thick and fast, the PM looks set to retain his support where it matters: at the polling station.  Can the same be said for Joe Biden? Across the pond, America is experiencing an equally successful vaccine rollout, as both the US and the UK hover around the top

The nationalists’ vaccine fallacy

The trouble with nationalism of any and every sort is that, in the end, it eats your brain. As evidence of this we may simply note Nicola Sturgeon’s assertions this week that the success of Britain’s vaccination programme should in no way encourage the thought an independent Scotland might have struggled to match this happy development. According to Sturgeon, there is ‘absolutely no evidential basis to say Scotland would not have vaccinated as many people as we’ve vaccinated right now’ if it were an independent state. This is, to use the technical term, bollocks on a tartan pogo-stick. It would be vastly closer to the truth to argue the contrary,

What happened to the great Brexit trade chaos?

The ports would reek from the smell of rotting fish. Factories would close en masse as orders got snarled up in red tape. There would be chaos at the borders as deliveries were blocked, and services would hit a wall of ‘non-tariff barriers’ that would make it impossible for British firms to sell them across Europe.  We have heard a lot over the last few weeks about how much disruption our departure from the European Union was causing for exporters, and there were lots of stories about firms that might go out of business or would have to move production to France or Poland. Membership of the single market, despite