Global Britain: The Queen is dead-Liz Truss-“ British Trumpss“ or „New Thatcher“or „New Superqueen“?

Global Britain: The Queen is dead-Liz Truss-“ British Trumpss“ or „New Thatcher“or „New Superqueen“?

Liz Truss is the new prime minister of Global Britain. About her biography you can read at Wikipedia:

As a short summary: Born in 1975 to a nurse and fahter who was a mathematics professor. Parents left- winged, so Truss when she was young, nuclear freeze and marijuana legalization. While studying in Oxford then with the Liberal Democrats and in the Hayek Society, already a born economic liberal who, in terms of social selection, also preferred the German Gymnasium (grammar school) to comprehensive schools without entrance examinations (comprehensive schools). Punctually after graduation, he converted to the Conservative Party, which is reminiscent of the British film „The History Man“, in which a left-wing university professor, who in his youth celebrated sex parties with lots of marijuana and female students, finally becomes a Tory. Above all, Truss was a born market radical and neoliberal who advocated Hayek-Thatcherism. Since she was initially not seen as one of their own by inveterate Conservatives, she overcompensated, was initially unsuccessful and was first promoted by David Cameron and then made her gradual rise to become the first female Lord Chancellor in 1000 years of British history, Chief Secretary to the State of Treasury, Secretary of State of Justice, Foreign minister and now finally to the Prime Minister.

In her inauguration speech, Liz Truss once again highlighted Johnson as the politician who history will praise as a politician who implemented Brexit, had successful corona vaccination and pandemic policies, and was a kind of Churchill regarding Ukraine in Russia policy. For the time being, she did not comment explicitly on China. It is now very interesting how the CCP mouthpiece Global Times comments on the appointment of Liz Truss: Her hard China rhetoric in the election campaign is initially recorded, but also seen more as a political outlet for the increasingly eroding economy, also due to Brexit. It is hoped that the economic situation will perhaps force her to take an even more pragmatic course, although it will not be as sinophilic as it was under Blair and Cameron and before Trump. It is also stated that Global Britain has now been overtaken by its former colony India for the first time in terms of economic power and GNP:

“Liz Truss elected UK’s new PM, faces tough job amid huge mess; ‚pragmatic China ties crucial to overcome challenge‘

By Yang Sheng and Zhang Changyue Published: Sep 05, 2022 09:04 PM

Liz Truss will move in 10 Downing Street as she beat Rishi Sunak in the election on Monday to become the new leader of the Conservative Party and the new UK Prime Minister.   Analysts believed that this would be a tough job for her as Britain is now facing complicated and serious internal and external challenges, such as inflation and the problem caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Truss officially won the Conservative Party leadership race on Monday, and according to the announced results, Truss won 81,326 votes compared to Sunak’s share of 60,399 votes. There was a turnout of 82.6 percent in this election, BBC reported. 

Truss thanked her controversial predecessor Boris Johnson in her speech after the result was announced. She praised Johnson of „getting Brexit done“ and being tough toward Russia, according to the BBC report. 

Observers believed the remarks show that she will continue Johnson’s policies in foreign affairs, and it’s possible she will take more radical and tougher actions in handling ties with the EU, Russia and China.

Truss will formally become the new prime minister of the UK on Tuesday when she visits the Queen in Balmoral for an invitation to form her UK government, the report said.  

Some Chinese experts are concerned that Truss, who lacks experience and capability in governance, will bring huge uncertainty to future policymaking, and China-UK relations will also be impacted, stressing that stable and pragmatic ties with China are crucial for the UK to overcome challenges, and if the new government unwisely pushes further decoupling with China to please the US, it will only make the UK’s mess even worse. 

Huge mess

On Friday, three days ahead of the announcement of the new UK prime minister, Britain dropped behind India to become the world’s sixth largest economy, according to GDP figures from the International Monetary Fund. 

The former British colony leaped past the UK in the final three months of 2021 to become the fifth-biggest economy. The calculation is based in US dollars, and India extended its lead in the first quarter. The UK’s decline in the international rankings is an unwelcome backdrop for the new prime minister, Bloomberg reported.

Chinese analysts said that Britain being surpassed by its former colony in terms of economy is a symbolic incident that proves the UK is declining badly and being further marginalized in Europe. This also shows that London’s policy that closely follows US‘, to serve Washington’s strategy in dealing with other major powers like the EU, Russia and China, is bringing no concrete benefit to Britain, and it also can’t stop the UK’s post-Brexit mess from worsening. 

Truss is likely to face the most challenging set of circumstances of any prime minister since Margaret Thatcher, said the Times on Monday. The biggest issue for the new prime minister is the cost of living crisis and Truss looks set to respond by ripping up 20 years of economic orthodoxy.

Soaring inflation, energy bills and the price of food have prompted warnings of households going cold and hungry this winter, said the Times report.

The current unprecedented shambles resulted from a series of negative incidents including Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis and are extremely challenging for any new leader to solve, Wang Shuo, a professor at the School of International Relations of Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Monday.

Wang said Truss‘ hawkish language on China during the campaign came from the fact that Truss perfectly knew that she is not capable to solve UK’s domestic problems such as inflation or the energy crisis.

„Shirking one’s responsibility is the simplest and most effective way for an incompetent politician. By blaming and criticizing China and Russia harshly, just as what Truss always does, it is actually saying: All the problems we have in the UK are the fault of China and Russia instead of the inability of the country’s governors,“ Wang pointed out.

Yin Zhiguang, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs under Fudan University, told the Global Times on Monday that the Conservative Party is impossible to review or reform the current development model, so the new prime minister will likely use political approaches to solve economic problems. 

„Truss‘ idea of tax cut is actually unrealistic, especially when the economy is declining under multiple challenges like inflation and energy crisis. How to get money will be the key problem for the new government,“ Yin said.

Apart from seeking opportunities from involving in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, London would further strengthen the trans-Atlantic alliance with the US, to seek possibilities of solving economic problems from making the UK a stronghold for Washington to involve the issues in Europe and Asia, Yin said. 

Uncertain future

Based on the difficulties that the UK is facing now and the performance of Truss in the past when she served in other positions in the British government, the international community, whether in the Western or non-Western world, share concerns over the change she could bring to the UK. 

US media Politico said earlier on August 23 that „More than a dozen conversations with senior diplomats and insiders from power centers around the world suggest Truss is not exactly a popular choice on the global stage.“ 

Truss will be met with deep skepticism across much of Western Europe, and within the Biden administration, because her stance in handling post-Brexit trade ties with Europe and her sponsorship of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill could impact the hard-won peace in Ireland, said Politico. 

China is also concerned about the potential changes that might be brought by the new UK government, since Truss could appoint some extreme anti-China politicians to handle foreign affairs and national security, so under pressure from the US, London could be more assertive in decoupling with China, and use Hong Kong or Xinjiang as pretexts to suspend or cut off existing cooperation, Yin said.  

If a hostile policy toward China has been implemented by Truss, it serves the interest of Truss herself rather than the UK, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Monday.

In order to please not only Washington, but also the sick political correctness of anti-China and anti-Russia stance spreading across the Western world, „Truss is very likely to politically and diplomatically take a tough stance toward China in the short term due to her dubious governing capacity,“ Cui said.

„But in the long run, after some frictions, Truss may learn to be pragmatic and return to a balanced position, just as what her predecessors Theresa May and Boris Johnson did in handling ties with China – being tough on diplomatic and political fronts but maintaining trade and economic cooperation,“ Cui noted.

Wang echoed that „as long as doing business with China can bring benefits to the capitalists of the UK, the country’s cooperation with China will be unstoppable. So the key is not about whether UK politicians like China or not, it’s about whether the cooperation is beneficial.“

While China and the Global Times hope for a more pragmatic foreign policy under Truss because she in the midterm will be forced by the eroding economic position of the so called Global Britain, more trade orientiated forces in the UK warn of a shift to the Asian Pivot that is dominant geopolitical orientated and hawkish against China. Therefore two analysis by the East Asia Forum are documented here which warn that the hope only to have trade agreements with India, ASEAN and Japan or/and becoming member of the CPTPP won´t solve the UK´s economic problems anyway and would be illisionary and accelerate and catalyze the fall of the hoped- for Global Britain. Or to quote Shakespeare:

“Hawkishness towards China complicates UK problems considerably. Whatever the nature of Britain’s political relations with Beijing, it is impossible to wish away the fact that the Chinese economy remains the centre of gravity of the Asian regional economy at large. Any strategy for a renewed economic engagement with Asia that leaves China out of the mix is the equivalent of a production of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. It is possible, though frankly unlikely, that Truss will find a way to insulate the economic relationship from the deteriorating political relationship. This will become virtually impossible if Truss follows through with her promise to officially label China a ‘threat’ to Britain, on the same level as Russia.”

“For Britain, the sun also sets in the East

12 September 2022

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

It is fair to say that expectations for the prime ministership of Liz Truss are not Himalayan in dimension. Having been placed a distant third in the first round of balloting, Truss was something of a compromise candidate in a UK Conservative leadership race poisoned by the bitterness that inevitably accumulates within a political party after 12 difficult years in government. With the benefit of hindsight, her rivals may well come to think of the leadership election as a good one to have lost. It is also difficult to judge how the death of Queen Elizabeth II and assumption of King Charles III to the throne might affect the political mood in Britain.

The most urgent matter on Truss’ plate is the European energy crisis, which will hit Britain particularly hard. The only feasible way to shield citizens from the impact of price spikes will require an enormous fiscal commitment — well over £100 billion (US$115.9 billion), at a time when the national debt has spiked to over 100 per cent of GDP — and rationing may still be required. A shock of this magnitude, following on from the ongoing difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, would be difficult enough for a healthy economy to absorb, and the British economy is far from healthy.

As almost all economic analyses show, the decision to tear up its membership card for the European Union has cost the United Kingdom dearly. Despite the promises that Brexit would enable Britain to cast off from European shores and sail the seas of international commerce as confidently as it did in the days of Empire, the country is less open to trade and investment than it was before the referendum. The inward economic turn has weighed down economic growth. The independent Office for Budget Responsibility reckons that as a result of Brexit, imports and exports will be 15 per cent lower in the long run, and productivity 4 per cent lower.

Truss was a Remainer, but like Theresa May and, to some extent, Boris Johnson before her, she has taken to Brexit with the zealotry of a convert. During the leadership election she made loud noises about taking a tough line on Northern Ireland. Any substantial economic rapprochement with Brussels seems unlikely under Truss, especially with a Tory backbench that is considerably more Eurosceptic than the voting public.

Trying to defy economic gravity, the UK is likely to turn increasingly to Asia as a solution to the economic problems wrought by Brexit. Matters are complicated there, too. China–UK relations have emerged as a frontline issue in British politics in a way that they have not been since the handover of Hong Kong. Truss and her rival Rishi Sunak made sure to stress their hawkish credentials to the Tory membership during the election race, and Truss seems likely to continue to toughen London’s position on Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

As Rana Mitter wrote last week, Britain’s increasingly assertive posture towards Beijing means that ‘it will not seek to come to any sort of economic agreement with China’ regardless of the attractions of closer economic relations with the world’s biggest trading nation. Instead, any ‘pivot’ towards Asia is likely to focus on partners like Japan, ASEAN and India. As Alan Winters points out in the first of our lead articles this week, however, the likely impact of bilateral trade agreements on the British economy is very small indeed. Evidence suggests a marginal benefit from the agreement the United Kingdom signed with Japan in 2020, and while a deal with India is likely to increase bilateral trade, ‘around 40 per cent of that increase arises from trade diversion — the reduction of UK trade with other partners’.

A more tempting target may be UK membership in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the region-spanning megadeal that includes a number of key Asian partners and — pointedly — excludes China (at least for now). British membership would allow London to deepen economic ties in Asia while maintaining its distance from Beijing. On a purely economic front, joining the CPTPP would come nowhere near healing the self-inflicted injury to the UK’s trade following Brexit, but it would be a modest start. But as Winters argues, while there are possibilities, Britain lacks a coherent trade strategy to enable it to grasp them. Despite Truss’s background as International Trade Secretary in the Johnson government, she barely mentioned the subject during the leadership race.

Hawkishness towards China complicates UK problems considerably. Whatever the nature of Britain’s political relations with Beijing, it is impossible to wish away the fact that the Chinese economy remains the centre of gravity of the Asian regional economy at large. Any strategy for a renewed economic engagement with Asia that leaves China out of the mix is the equivalent of a production of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. It is possible, though frankly unlikely, that Truss will find a way to insulate the economic relationship from the deteriorating political relationship. This will become virtually impossible if Truss follows through with her promise to officially label China a ‘threat’ to Britain, on the same level as Russia.

What is worrying, as Ken Heydon argues in our second lead article this week, is the potential for general ‘strategic disquiet’ needlessly escalating into conflict, a possibility that will become more likely as long as the UK’s strategic aims in general remain poorly defined.

The strategic policy drift post-Brexit reflects a broader sense of aimlessness in a country that is still figuring out its place on the world stage with neither Empire nor Europe to buttress its claim to global power status. A gargantuan task at any time, let alone in the middle of a pandemic, a war in Europe, an energy crisis and the end of the second Elizabethan era.

The EAF Editorial Board is located in the Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.

“United Kingdom’s tilt to Asia no panacea for ailing British trade

11 September 2022

Author: L Alan Winters, University of Sussex

Despite initiating the largest change in trade policy in 50 years — leaving the European Union — the UK government still has no trade strategy.

The United Kingdom’s development since the 18th century has relied heavily on its global trade links and its instincts are still fairly open. One might have expected a leadership competition in the Conservative Party would offer some clarity.

Not so — the candidates barely mentioned trade, except for Liz Truss’s occasional boasts about signing 34 trade continuity agreements, which merely roll over many agreements that the United Kingdom was previously party to via the European Union.

The closest the government or the leadership candidates have to a strategy is that anything to do with Europe is to be avoided wherever possible. The United Kingdom’s budding relationship with Asia is essentially a matter of grand rhetoric and tactics.

‘Global Britain’ was coined just after the Brexit referendum, but given the political stresses over what kind of Brexit was to be sought, it was entirely devoid of content. The government’s strategic Integrated Review ‘Global Britain in a Competitive Age, published in March 2021, encouraged a ‘tilt towards Asia’ and was generally greeted favourably. Despite including a section titled ‘Putting trade at the heart of Global Britain’, the idea has not progressed past mere platitudes.

The United Kingdom’s new agreement with Japan — the first that the government claimed as new, albeit incorrectly as it was basically copied and pasted from the EU–Japan agreement — has been disappointing in its early trade effects.

Since then, the United Kingdom has signed trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand and a digital agreement with Singapore. Each offers some benefits and increases UK commercial presence in the Pacific. But the first has stirred significant opposition from agrifood and environmental groups and has probably persuaded the government that signing trade agreements is not quite the free ride it had imagined.

In the United Kingdom, free trade agreements (FTAs) are signed under the royal prerogative and are almost solely under the control of the executive. The government has offered a somewhat more active role for parliament in developing FTAs, but immediately had difficulty delivering its side of the bargain.

Civil society opposition to the Australia deal is likely a harbinger for future agreements with Asia, since the latter is geographically, culturally and politically distant from the UK. But it is difficult to say how the new government will react.

New Prime Minister Liz Truss dislikes scrutiny as much as her predecessor, wants quick results and appears to be comfortable with muddling through on trade policy, so the political returns on negotiating new trade agreements may not seem worthwhile. On the other hand, she may relish a high-profile fight with ‘woke’ civil society organisations.

The big tactical plays now are accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the FTA negotiations with India. The CPTPP has accepted the United Kingdom’s candidature and negotiations are now focused on market access.

In addition to the usual mercantilist tensions that such negotiations entail, the United Kingdom is likely to have to change its policies on digital trade, investment and food standards.

The trade effects will be slim since the United Kingdom already has trade agreements with 9 of the 11 CPTPP members. The government predicted that the CPTPP would increase UK trade by £3.3 billion (US$3.8 billion) in the long run, from a base of £109 billion (US$125 billion), or 8 per cent of total UK trade in 2019. But the United Kingdom’s accession is much more geopolitical than commercial, so the government is expected to see it through.

The negotiation of an FTA with India is also geopolitical, but offers potential commercial benefits too. With its rapid growth, high trade barriers and different economic structure from the UK’s, India seems like a good potential partner.

The UK government estimates that UK–India trade will grow by £10 billion (US$11.5 billion) over 2019–2035 anyway, but that an ambitious FTA would offer a further £28 billion (US$32.2 billion) in growth, building on a total trade value of £23 billion (US$26.5 billion) in 2019.

But around 40 per cent of that increase arises from trade diversion — the reduction of UK trade with other partners. Parliament has already noted the challenges of a UK–India agreement and raised concerns that the government is putting speed above substance.

The striking thing about the ‘tilt towards Asia’ is that it entirely misses China. If Truss follows through on her pledge to deem China — the UK’s third largest trading partner — a national security ‘threat’, she will not be able to turn to China to improve UK trade performance. While accession to the CPTPP will help, it is no substitute for developing a China trade strategy.

A natural question is whether FTAs with Asian nations will offset the Brexit-induced decline in trade with the European Union. The latter stood at £673 billion (US$775 billion) in 2019, and research predicts that it will decline by 11.4 per cent (£77 billion or US$89 billion) by around 2035.

It is estimated that the partial implementation of Brexit from January 2021 reduced UK exports to the European Union in the first half of 2021 by 14 per cent relative to 2017–2020 and reduced imports by 24 per cent. The situation has probably improved since then, but not by much.

Asia, on the other hand, is geographically distant, which reduces trade and the potential benefits of FTAs. It will struggle to replace the flexible and just-in-time supply chains that characterised trade between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

L Alan Winters is Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex, Co-Director of the Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy, and former Chief Economist at the Department for International Development.

The first tags and labels in the media are “the British Trumpss” and “the new Thatcher”. Regarding the latter, a British political scientist on Al Jazzerra said yesterday that Thatcher may have been an Iron Lady with the charm of an Iron Maiden, but she also included former opponents in her cabinet, insofar as they had resort competence, i.e. she was more meriotocratic, while Liz Truss only gathers around her the most loyal supporters and  incompetent Brexit hardliners in her shadow cabinet and likely resorts. It also remains to be seen whether she will continue to take the same hard line towards the EU as Johnson, especially since the Biden government is now immediately quite loudly demanding compliance with the EU Brexit treaties, especially in terms of Northern Ireland, since this would otherwise have a very negative effect on a potential US-GB free trade agreement. Furthermore, it remains to be seen how the relationship with France will develop. After saying she didn’t know if France was a friend or an enemy, some commentators wondered if she was envisioning a Trafalgar-Waterloo revival. In addition, there are now the first demonstrations by the opposition because of the precarious economic situation with picket lines „In Liz, we don’t Truss!“.

In this environment, the Queen has died – the integrative figure of the UK, GB, the Commonwealth, the new Global Britain. The old-style monarchy can’t be replaced by Charles because of his scandals involving Di, Harry and Meghan as constant scandal noodles and at best, but unexpectedly it could be William and Kate. But then they would have to skip Charles, who will be heir to the throne, but the Queen fans will never accept him as Elisabeth, THE Queen. It’s like robbing a bee kingdom of its queen and symbolic figure of integration, who was always scandal-free and lived under the Victorian-era slogan , as royal maidens were told on their wedding night: „Close your eyes and think of England!“. Also in contrast to her sister at the time, who was a real scandal noodle, but just couldn’t become queen. Global Britain loses its last integration figure or has to find a new one. And there is the question of whether Liz Truss can take on the role of superqueen alongside the economic decline of global Britain and the death of the last figure of integration in the constitutional monarchy. Can Liz Tuss still become the superqueen, the all-inclusive leader of Global Britain, or will the hoped-for new British Empire and Global Britain decline?

Maybe Global Britain will be more of a “Village Green” and “Preservation Society” aand an industrial museum as the Kinks sang in earlier times:

Or open fascism in an Puritan Anglosaxon Calvinist tradition and the “The New centurioans and the Shephards of the nation”:

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