Tag Archives: united kingdom

Tom Arms’ World Review

China and USA

The Sino-American goalposts have changed. Two years ago, the Chinese economy was booming and the US was struggling to emerge from a damaging coronavirus pandemic.

But as Presidents Biden and XI met in San Francisco this week the American economy was booming at 4.7 percent. The Chinese economy was reeling from a burst property bubble and government crackdowns have led to a flight of foreign capital.

When the Chinese star was in the ascendant so were the sabre-rattling “Wolf Warriors”. But the changed circumstances has led to the dismissal of bellicose foreign minister Qin Gang and last month Xi replaced Defense Minister General Li Shangu who was under US sanctions for overseeing the sale of weapons to Russia.

Beijing cannot afford poor relations with Washington at the moment. And Washington – with the problems of Ukraine, Gaza and forthcoming presidential elections, doesn’t want to have to worry about China. All of which could explain why the leaders of the world’s most powerful countries managed a cordial meeting in San Francisco this week.

But will it hold and can they build on it? The question is still hanging. A week before the meeting US and Chinese diplomats held a meeting to discuss each other’s nuclear arsenals. It was the first such a meeting and a good sign.

Climate change is clearly a topic to build on. It is difficult for the two biggest economies to dispute the importance of saving the planet. There are differences on how to handle fossil fuels but agreement on methane gas emissions.

A big topic in the US is opioid abuse, in particular fentanyl. A sizeable chunk of the drug is produced in Chinese laboratories and shipped to America. Last year fentanyl was responsible for 75,000 American deaths. The two leaders agreed to discuss the issue further Xi stressed that the easiest way to stop the problem would be for Americans to stop buying the drug.

Touchiest topic is Taiwan. On that Biden-Xi agreed to disagree. But they did agree to resume communications between each other’s military establishments. These were suspended after the visit to Taiwan of US Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Both sides that it was vital for the opposing militaries to talk to one another to avoid accidents. As Xi put it: “Conflict and confrontation has unbearable consequences for both sides.”

Taiwan

The potential spanner in the Sino-American diplomatic thaw is January’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Taiwan.

At the moment the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) controls both the presidency and the parliament and opinion polls show them way ahead to stay in power.

This is not good news for either Washington or Beijing. This is because the DPP is moving Taiwan to declare itself an independent sovereign nation. This is opposed by Beijing because Taiwan would then be able to offer itself as a multi-party capitalist democratic alternative to the one-party autocracy on the mainland.

The US administration would be unhappy because an independent Taiwan would undermine its policy of “strategic ambiguity” which allows it bestow de jure diplomatic recognition on communist China while enjoying de facto relations with Taiwan.

The problem is an old one. It dates back to 1949 when the Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan and claimed to represent all of China from the offshore island. Until 1979 successive American administrations agreed with him.

The unilateral independence route is not a foregone conclusion. The Kuomintang Party (KMT) is committed to watering down the independence demands and improving relations with Beijing. This week the party announced it was joining forces with the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) to fight the elections. The outcome could have far-reaching consequences.

Turkey and Germany

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Is Britain being rebranded – is it time for an English Government?

At the time that Boris Johnson was talking up post BREXIT Global Britain and assuring the Democratic Unionist Party that there would be no border in the Irish Sea (despite one being included in his “oven ready agreement” which Teresa May had said no British Prime Minister could sign) the Government was requesting that the stickers on cars travelling abroad be changed from GB to UK.

The move was only revealed by the United Nations which said it had received “a notification stating that the United Kingdom is changing the distinguishing sign that it had previously selected for display in international traffic on vehicles registered in the United Kingdom, from ‘GB’ to ‘UK'”.

The rules changed in September 2021 and yet it has not proved possible to find any reference to a debate in, or approval by, Parliament on such a potentially significant change in identity.

The Department for Transport said that it was part of a wider move across Government. One reason was GB – Great Britain – only formally included England, Wales and Scotland, whereas the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) is inclusive of Northern Ireland as well as England, Scotland and Wales, it said.

It is true that Great Britain is the official collective name of England, Scotland and Wales and their associated islands and does not include Northern Ireland.

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28 October 2020 – the overnight press release

Four nations summit needed to keep families safe at Christmas, liberals warn

Liberal Democrats in Scotland, Wales and England have joined with the Alliance Party in calling for a “four nations summit” to consider a united approach to keeping family gatherings safe during the festive season.

In a joint letter to the four governments of the UK, the Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey, Scottish Leader Willie Rennie, Welsh Leader Jane Dodds and Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MP warned the “interlinked nature of life in the United Kingdom means no one government can devise guidance for the festive season in isolation.”

The letter follows uncertainty about students returning for Christmas and conflicting comments about family gatherings, with Scotland’s National Clinical Director Jason Leitch branding multi-household gatherings “fiction” while the Prime Minister indicated rules could be relaxed.

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Constitutional reform: amending Motion F11 “The Creation of a Federal United Kingdom”

In my earlier two-part article ‘Constitutional reform: a coherent national policy or not?’, I described how I view it as essential that a constitutional reform policy be framed to encompass the constitutional arrangements of all parts of the United Kingdom, lest it otherwise make a mockery of the term ‘federal’. This requires us to answer the English Question.

In discussing English regionalism and federalism on various forums including the Liberal Democrat Federalists group on Facebook, I have observed criticism of Motion F11, our proposed amendment and the party’s overall policy slate, some focusing various aspects such as the lack of detail on the fiscal arrangements within a union of bodies having considerable autonomy, legislative and tax-varying powers. Unfortunately, we seem to be rather good at not putting flesh on the bones of complicated policies: Land Value Tax has been on the back-burner for 100 years, the Universal Basic Income motion up at Autumn Conference faces criticism of its lack of depth, and Local Income Tax came and then vanished in a puff of smoke over twenty years ago. The latter was something I hoped would lead to the diverse political landscape I espoused in part one of my earlier article. With regards to federalism, what did we do with Policy Paper 117 after it was endorsed in 2014? I’m tempted to paraphrase Indiana Jones and say “we might as well have mailed it to the Marx Brothers”.

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8 November 2019 – the overnight press releases

  • UK family of nations must work together to stop Brexit
  • Jardine: The Tories visa plan is a tax on nurses

UK family of nations must work together to stop Brexit

Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson will tomorrow make the case to Remain voters in Scotland to back the Liberal Democrats to protect Scotland’s place at the heart of the EU, as she visits North East Fife as part of her Leader’s Tour of the UK.

Jo Swinson will be visiting Crafty Maltsters Farm in Auchtermuchty alongside Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie. Speaking ahead of the visit, Jo Swinson said:

Voters in Scotland who despair

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Opinion: The UK is dead – long live the EU

The English are the last on this sceptred isle to realise that Britain is dead.

It’s hard to remember that the nation-state is a modern invention: the Treaty of Westphalia gave birth to the conception of crown and country. Britain herself was an elaboration on 18th Century statecraft.

Each of our constitutional nations brought their talents to bear on Britain’s great endeavour: the British Empire. A merchant empire defended with regiments of Welsh and Scots infantry and English seamen; managed by a ruling class composed of feudal aristocrats and nouveaux riche industrialists and merchants.

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Opinion: now that the Games are over…

For a very long time I have been of the view that the outcome of Scotland’s Independence Referendum this September will be a 60:40 split for the Union. Of course, it’s possible that something dramatic will happen in the next few weeks to change this, but I doubt it. I get the impression that most voters have made up their mind, and despite a higher than usual number of undecided, I can’t see the Yes campaign succeeding. That does not mean however that nothing will change. It seems to me, as a committed Unionist, that everything must change post referendum, …

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Opinion: Scottish independence – bleak consequences for LibDem and Labour Westminster representation

It seems to me that murmurs in political circles regarding the Scottish desire for independence are on the increase. It’s a very tangible situation. – Not least with the SNP as a single-party government in Holyrood and some polls showing a strong desire to break away from the UK. (I should point out, that many polls show that the English are more in favour of Scottish independence than the Scots).

What, then, are the consequences for Liberal Democrats and the composition of Westminster, should Scotland secede from the Union?

On first investigation, I’d say ‘bleak’ at best. Scotland has provided many of …

Posted in Op-eds | 34 Comments

Opinion: A New Approach to our Union

The current approach to the United Kingdom doesn’t work.

The current approach treats each home nation as an individual, yet this approach leads to everyone pulling the centre in every direction. It leads to infighting, or to one country taking control and dictating to the others how they should be run. Neither result leads to a strong union.

We currently have the Scotland Bill going through Parliament devolving more powers to the Scottish Parliament; Wales passed a referendum giving its citizens the ability to pass primary legislation; and Nick Clegg has set up a commission to address the …

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