Sunak faces a steep learning curve on the world stage, says a Spider News source.
Sunak faces a steep learning curve
New Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces a steep learning curve in international affairs as he deals with Britain’s post-Brexit tensions with the EU, China and Russia’s increasingly assertive invasion of Ukraine.
Unlike his predecessors Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, Sunak never held a position in the Foreign Office. In unveiling his new cabinet on Tuesday, he retained James Wise, Truss’ pick for secretary of state, who previously held several junior positions in the department. Sunak also retained the venerable Ben Wallace as Secretary of Defense, a position to which he was first appointed by Johnson.
“[Sunak] He is relatively inexperienced in the foreign world and diplomacy so there will be a steep learning curve,” said Lord Peter Ricketts, former British ambassador to France.
European leaders welcomed Sunak’s accession
European leaders welcomed Sunak’s accession to Downing Street. “In these testing times for our continent, we rely on a strong relationship with the UK to protect our shared values, while fully respecting our agreements,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.
The latter part of von der Leyen’s comment reflects private concerns among EU officials that the change of tenant in Downing Street will not ensure a dramatic change in Britain’s position on post-Brexit trade arrangements: notably London’s threat to bypass parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol if Brussels refuses to renegotiate it.
Sir Peter Westmacott, another veteran British diplomat, said there was an “urgent need” for Sunak to “look again at how Brexit works, and start rebuilding relations with Europe’s neighbours”. A former British ambassador to Washington and Paris, he said it “means a fresh look at the Northern Ireland Protocol”.
James Clearly, re-appointed Britain’s Foreign Secretary © Henry Nicholls/Reuters
Open to a compromise deal
Officials in Brussels hope Sunak will be more open to a compromise deal than his two predecessors, who both threatened to spark a trade war with the EU by tearing up the protocol. Sunak had previously warned against taking this step while Chancellor. “He is a Brexiteer – but he is a technocrat and not an ideologue,” said a former British diplomat.
In Washington, there was a sense among officials that Sunak would be a more reliable partner after tensions rose over Britain’s position on the Northern Ireland Protocol, and they watched the political and economic instability during Truce’s short tenure with concern.
“I think the United States was looking for a prime minister who would provide a sense of stability, predictability and credibility,” said Daniel Price, a former White House official in charge of the international economy under George W. Bush and managing partner at Rock Creek Global Advisors. “In all of these ways, Rishi Sunak was, to borrow an expression, a pair of safe hands.”
US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden called the appointment of Sunak – Britain’s first non-white and practicing Hindu leader – a “groundbreaking milestone” at the White House’s Diwali celebration on Monday. However, underscoring the White House’s relatively limited experience at the helm The newcomer, Bidan mispronounced his name, calling him “Rashi Snook.”
On Tuesday night, Biden and Sunak had their first official conversation. Number 10 said the President and Prime Minister discussed the need for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as the conflict in Ukraine and the importance of the Good Friday Agreement – the peace agreement with Northern Ireland.
The deteriorating relationship between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan will also be high on Sunak’s foreign policy agenda, not least how it affects how he approaches relations with China, Britain’s third-largest trading partner after the EU and the US.
Did you subscribe to our Newsletter?
It’s Free! Click here to Subscribe.
Source: The Spider News