Display leadership to maintain unity of democratic camp

Britain’s leadership is essential to maintaining unity in sanctions against Russia and aid for Ukraine. It is hoped that the new British prime minister will play an active role as a leader of the democratic camp.

Elizabeth Truss has been elected leader of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party, becoming its new prime minister. She is Britain’s third female prime minister after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.

Truss, who served as international trade secretary and foreign secretary during the administration led by previous Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has pushed a hard-line policy toward Russia and China. During the party leadership race, she said she was proud of Britain for imposing harsh sanctions on Russia.

Truss needs to stick to her tough stance on Russia, which has invaded Ukraine and shaken up the international order using energy and food as its shield.

Public discontent is growing in Britain, where utilities and other costs have soared to record levels. As part of her platform in the party leadership race, Truss pledged a massive £30 billion (about ¥4.8 trillion) annual tax cut and a freeze on corporate tax rate increases that are scheduled for next year, among other measures.

If the economy slows down and “support fatigue” for Ukraine spreads among the public, there could be calls to review sanctions against Russia. Truss’ ability will be tested on how to take effective steps to deal with soaring prices, while paying heed to fiscal discipline.

Restoring relations with the European Union is a key task for the new administration.

The British government is seeking a legal revision to change some aspects of the 2019 EU-Britain agreement on its withdrawal from the EU. It aims to eliminate customs inspections on goods traveling between the British mainland and Northern Ireland, which is part of Britain but effectively remains in the EU economic zone.

The move is aimed at streamlining logistics and maintaining unity with Northern Ireland, but the EU has stepped up its criticism, calling it a violation of the agreement.

If relations between Britain and the EU deteriorate, it could give Russia an opening in its attempts to divide Europe. The British government should deal cautiously with the legal revision.

Last year, Britain established a security framework in the Indo-Pacific region with the United States and Australia, known as AUKUS. The British carrier strike group, led by the state-of-the-art aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, called at the U.S. forces’ Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan.

As China intensifies military pressure on Taiwan, Britain’s involvement in the security of the Indo-Pacific region is significant.

Japan and Britain are working on a joint development plan for the Air Self-Defense Force’s next-generation fighter jet. It is hoped that the two nations will deepen cooperation in a wide range of areas, including defense.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 7, 2022)