US National Security Advisor John Bolton has landed in the UK over the weekend to attend various meetings over the next two days, and its not difficult to imagine what is on the agenda.
Bolton has been a regularly featured name in Republican Presidential administrations since the early 80s and is credited with being one of the more hawkish members of the current ruling mob. With Brexit a key concern for many parties around the world, the up-coming deadline is likely to feature in many conversations, though with the newly-appointed Prime Minister available for coaxing, China and Iran will also feature heavily.
Prime Minister Boris John is somewhat of an unknown entity in recent months. BoJo has never been far away from Brexit headlines, but after an exit from the Foreign Department in 2018, other comments have been largely immaterial. During the Conservative Leadership campaign, BoJo was kept under control by the PR gurus, with many assuming public engagements would likely do more damage than good to leadership ambitions. This does create somewhat of a void when it comes to the stance against China.
This is an area where BoJo has remained relatively quiet. Of course, there has been the odd outburst and political PR plug, but the relationship with China during the Johnson leadership is still relatively undefined. This could be seen though the latest update on the on-going Supply Chain Review.
During the Supply Chain Review update last month, then-Secretary of State Jeremy Wright gave little-to-no details on the Government stance. Legislative updates were promised, and homages paid to the value of increased supply chain diversity, but no decision, or suggestion of, on the role of Huawei in the UK were offered. Reading between the lines, Wright did not want to stick his neck out when a new PM was on the verge of being appointed.
Where BoJo sits is an unknown entity.
BoJo has made some big promises on the campaign trail for the leadership position, while he still has to deliver on the big Brexit claims made three years ago. Some of these were built around the idea trade negotiations would be simpler outside of the European Union, suggesting China would play a role in the post-Brexit future of the UK. This contradicts the US relationship however.
The Trump administration is very anti-China, with Huawei absorbing the largest damage in this prolonged trade-conflict. BoJo is somewhat of a pet favourite of President Donald Trump, however it will be interesting to see whether the ego-stroking with be returned from Number 10. Downing Street.
With Bolton in town, it is not difficult to imagine how the conversations with evolve. Bolton is a constant critic of the European Union, labelling the bureaucrats ‘EUroids’ in one of his books. His aggressive stance against China has been clear over the last few months, and we suspect this will continue through discussions over the next couple of days.
The decision on Huawei in the UK is still hanging in the balance. Bolton is very well-placed to nudge the UK towards a more strident position against China, though how healthy this is for the UK remains to be seen. The next couple of days might offer some interesting insight to the BoJo administration and the UK’s position in the international conflict which has dominated headlines for months.