Boris Johnson responds to Sue Gray report findings
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Foreign policy analyst Nile Gardiner has dubbed ‘partygate’ good news for Russia and China, whom he described as “enemies” of the UK. His remarks come at a sensitive time at home, with Boris Johnson’s premiership in question, and a key one in terms of its relations with Moscow and Beijing.
Mr Gardiner said: “Obsession in the UK with the ‘partygate’ scandal is music to the ears of Britain’s enemies, including Russia and China.
“Meanwhile, in the US and much of the world it is of little concern. The UK is a world power with global interests. Insularity does it no favours on world stage.”
A call between Mr Johnson and Mr Putin was “postponed” after a portion of the long-awaited Sue Gray report was published on Monday.
The Prime Minister, who was unable to speak as he had to address the trouble over the investigations into Downing St parties, was due to hold a conversation with the Russian leader before flying to Kiev on Tuesday in a show of support for Ukraine.
Before ‘partygate’ required Mr Johnson’s full attention, he announced the Government was giving £88m to promote stable governance and energy independence from Russia as an estimated 100,000 of the Kremlin’s troops, tanks, artillery and missiles remain placed near Ukraine’s frontiers.
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He said ahead of his trip to Kiev: “I think that an invasion of Ukraine, any incursion into Ukraine beyond the territory that Russia has already taken in 2014, would be an absolute disaster for the world, and above all, it would be a disaster for Russia.”
He added: “It is the right of every Ukrainian to determine how they are governed. As a friend and a democratic partner, the UK will continue to uphold Ukraine’s sovereignty in the face of those who seek to destroy it.
“We urge Russia to step back and engage in dialogue to find a diplomatic resolution and avoid further bloodshed.”
The Prime Minister’s inability to speak with Mr Putin over the phone may have been anything but a disappointment for the Russian president, Mr Gardiner claimed.
The Russian leader has also received warnings about the UK’s stance in case of an invasion from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
Truss announces 'toughest' ever sanction regime against Russia
As she announced plans for legislation with new powers to sanction individuals and businesses linked to the Russian state, she told the Commons: “We will be able to target any company that is linked to the Russian state, engages in business of economic significance to the Russian state or operates in a sector of strategic significance to the Russian state.”
Speaking of the “toughest sanction regime against Russia we have ever had”, she said: “Those in and around the Kremlin will have nowhere to hide.”
Relations with Beijing, meanwhile, are tense as the UK takes a “close look” at the EU’s legal action against China after the country’s ongoing dispute with Lithuania escalated last week.
The bloc and the World Trade Organization (WTO) accuse Mr Jinping’s government of “discriminatory trade practices” against Lithuania.
Tensions between the Asian power and the Baltic country heightened when Vilnius allowed Taiwan to open an eponymous representative office, rather than one named after its capital city Taipei.
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Former Trade Secretary Liam Fox, calling Beijing’s treatment of Lithuania “another example of China’s bullying culture”, said the UK “should not hesitate” to support actions “against trade practices which are clearly politically motivated”.
However, a Department for International Trade spokesperson expressed a more conservative view: “The UK has always been a champion of the rules-based trading system and its framework for free and fair trade.
“Actions taken in this space need to be evidenced-based and we will look closely at the case raised by the EU.”
While the US and Australia have been straightforward in lending support to the case lodged by the EU and the WTO, which involves imposing an import and export ban on China, the UK is hesitant to close its doors to working with China.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week asked Treasury officials to revive the UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue, last held in 2019.
A source said: “The realisation from ministers is that, whether they like it or not, you can’t ignore the China trade opportunity.
“And ministers have been told that we need to be more like the Americans with China. The US have had their equivalent of this dialogue.
“They may be very tough-talking on political issues, but they continue with one or two of their dialogues, and you can see that various of their financial services firms have continued to be awarded important new licences in China.
“There’s nothing to stop the UK pressing for commercial advantage for its firms.”
In his Mansion House speech last year, Mr Sunak said: “The truth is, China is both one of the most important economies in the world and a state with fundamentally different values to ours.
“We need a mature and balanced relationship. That means being eyes wide open about their increasing international influence and continuing to take a principled stand on issues we judge to contravene our values.”
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