The repayment comes as Harry and Meghan seek to forge new careers for themselves and attain financial independence.
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan have refunded British taxpayers 2.4 million pounds ($3.2m), the cost of renovating their United Kingdom home, in line with a commitment they made after announcing in January they would step back from royal duties.
The refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, a house within the grounds of Queen Elizabeth’s Windsor Castle west of London, had been criticised by some British media as too expensive.
The repayment comes as Harry and Meghan, an American former actress, seek to forge new careers for themselves and attain greater financial independence. They announced last week they had signed a contract with Netflix to produce content for the streaming platform.
Officially known as the duke and duchess of Sussex, the couple has moved to California but will keep Frogmore Cottage as their home when they come back to the UK, under the terms of their agreement with the queen, Harry’s grandmother.
“A contribution has been made to the Sovereign Grant by The Duke of Sussex,” a spokesperson for the couple said, referring to a pot of taxpayer money used to fund the monarchy.
“This contribution as originally offered by Prince Harry has fully covered the necessary renovation costs of Frogmore Cottage, a property of Her Majesty The Queen, and will remain the UK residence of The Duke and his family.”
The terms of Harry and Meghan’s contract with Netflix have not been disclosed. Prior to that, the bulk of their income was coming from the private estate of Prince Charles, Harry’s father and the heir to the British throne.
EU’s chief negotiator ‘worried’ as UK reportedly plans new law to override key parts of Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
Brexit trade talks have plunged into crisis on the eve of a penultimate round of negotiations in London, after the United Kingdom warned the European Union that it could effectively override the divorce deal it signed unless the bloc agrees to a free trade deal by October 15.
Tensions mounted on Monday, with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier saying he was “worried” about negotiations, and that he will seek clarification from London about plans to renege on commitments.
The UK is reportedly planning new legislation that will override key parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – a step that, if implemented, could jeopardise a treaty signed in January and stoke tension in Northern Ireland.
Sections of the internal market bill, due to be published on Wednesday, are expected to “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs, the Financial Times newspaper said on Monday, citing three people familiar with the plans.
If no deal is agreed, both sides should “accept that and move on”, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will say later on Monday. In this scenario, the UK would have a trading relationship with the bloc like Australia’s, which would be “a good outcome”, Johnson will say.
Johnson will also say there is no sense in thinking about timelines beyond October 15.
“If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on,” he will say.
As the prospect of a no-deal Brexit loomed, sterling fell against the dollar and euro.
The UK left the EU on January 31, but talks aimed at clinching a new trade deal before the end of a status-quo transition arrangement in December have so far snagged on state aid rules and fishing.
Without a deal, nearly $1 trillion in trade between the UK and the EU could be thrown into uncertainty, including rules over everything from car parts and medicines to fruit and data.
European concern over UK’s reported plan The reported plan to undermine the Withdrawal Agreement was condemned by parties on both sides of the Irish border and surprised some in Brussels.
“If the UK chose not to respect its international obligations, it would undermine its international standing,” said one EU diplomat.
“Who would want to agree trade deals with a country that doesn’t implement international treaties? It would be a desperate and ultimately self-defeating strategy,” the diplomat said.
“Without correct implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, I cannot imagine the EU would conclude a treaty with a country that does not abide by its treaty commitments,” said another EU diplomat.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who played a key role in negotiating the withdrawal agreement and Northern Ireland protocol, said on Twitter that the reported move “would be a very unwise way to proceed”.
Senior members of Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein and SDLP parties, the region’s two largest Irish nationalist groups, also criticised the UK’s reported plan.
Asked about the report in the Financial Times, British Environment Secretary George Eustice said there might be some minor “legal ambiguities” that needed to be tidied up over the Northern Irish protocol.
“We are not moving the goal posts,” he told Sky News broadcaster.
Barnier said everything that has been signed “must be respected”, as he planned to discuss the FT report with his British counterpart David Frost during this week’s talks.
“The important thing for me is what the prime minister says and does, and what the British government itself says and does,” he said.
Regarding Northern Ireland, Barnier insisted that under the withdrawal deal it will continue to apply the EU’s single market rules, intended to avoid a “hard border” with Ireland but which would effectively create a trade border in the Irish Sea.
The move is meant to avoid reviving sectarian tensions between Ireland and Northern Ireland that were largely calmed by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
“No land border is the pre-requisite for peace since the end of the conflict … and it’s the pre-requisite for a united and coherent economy for the entire island, and also to respect the single market,” Barnier said.
Post-Brexit trade talks have stalled over the UK’s push for autonomy over state aid and fishing rights.
The United Kingdom has set a deadline of October 15 to strike a free-trade deal with the European Union, and if none is agreed, both sides should “accept that and move on”, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will say on Monday.
The UK left the EU on January 31, but there has been little progress on a new trade deal after a status-quo transition arrangement ends in December. Failure to reach a deal could result in the imposition of trade tariffs and customs controls for goods moving between the UK and EU.
Talks, which have stalled over the UK’s insistence that it has full autonomy over state aid and fishing, are due to resume in London on Tuesday.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said an agreement on trade needed to be reached urgently and he blamed the stalemate on the UK’s attitude.
Johnson will say there is no sense in thinking about timelines beyond October 15.
“If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on,” he will say, according to comments released by his office.
If no deal is agreed, the UK would have a trading relationship with the bloc like Australia’s, which would be “a good outcome”, Johnson will say.
The EU has been negotiating a trade agreement with Australia since 2018 but has yet to conclude a deal.
‘Full control’ “As a government we are preparing, at our borders and at our ports, to be ready for it,” Johnson will say. “We will have full control over our laws, our rules and our fishing waters.”
In that case, the UK would be ready to find sensible accommodation with the bloc on practical issues such as flights, lorry transport or scientific cooperation, according to the excerpts.
The Financial Times newspaper reported that the British government is planning legislation that will override key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, risking the collapse of trade negotiations with Brussels.
Sections of the internal market bill, due to be published on Wednesday, are expected to “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs, the newspaper said, citing three people familiar with the plans.
A source told the newspaper that the move could “clearly and consciously” undermine the agreement on Northern Ireland – a part of the UK – that Johnson signed last October to avoid a return to a hard border with the neighbouring Republic of Ireland.
The UK’s Brexit negotiator David Frost said on Sunday that the British government was not scared of a no-deal exit at the end of the year.
Johnson will say there is still a deal to be had based on a standard free trade agreement if the EU is ready to rethink its current position.
“But we cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country to get it,” he will say.
The UK’s retailers were struggling with high rents and online competition even before coronavirus lockdowns struck.
More than one-in-ten British shops now stand empty, reflecting recent widespread closures which are partly the result of the coronavirus crisis, a report on Thursday showed.
Researcher Springboard said the vacancy rate rose to 10.8 percent in July, from 9.8 percent in January 2020, reaching its highest level since January 2014 as Britain’s store-based retail sector, outside of food, was hit by a lockdown to counter the pandemic.
Already weak players such as Laura Ashley, Debenhams, Oasis Warehouse, Cath Kidston and Monsoon/Accessorize have all gone into administration, with the loss of thousands of jobs, while other large retailers, including Marks & Spencer, Boots and John Lewis, are also closing stores.
Britain’s store groups were already struggling with high rents and business taxes, tight margins and online competition before the pandemic took a grip on the country’s economy.
Springboard said vacancies rose in six out of 10 areas, but by far the greatest increase was in Greater London, where the vacancy rate rose by nearly two-thirds.
“This result brings into sharp focus the difficulties faced by large cities in attracting customers back and the impact of this on our bricks and mortar retail landscape,” Springboard director Diane Wehrle said in a statement.
Springboard said that although shopper numbers improved in August for the third consecutive month, they were still down 30.8 percent from the same period in 2019.
Under the deal, whose value was not disclosed, the couple will produce content on issues that resonate with them.
The United Kingdom’s Prince Harry and his American-born wife Meghan have signed an exclusive multiyear production deal with Netflix Inc, a major step in their plan to make a living for themselves outside the royal family.
Under the deal, whose value was not disclosed, the couple will produce films and series ranging from children’s shows to scripted content, the streaming platform said on Wednesday.
The couple moved to Southern California with their infant son Archie this year after stepping back from royal duties in January and announcing plans to be more financially independent.
They said they will produce content on issues that resonate with them and that their nonprofit Archewell is focused on.
“Our focus will be on creating content that informs but also gives hope,” the couple said in a statement on Wednesday. “As new parents, making inspirational family programming is also important to us.”
Meghan, a former star of the USA Network television show, Suits, has no plans to return to acting under the deal.
The couple has no previous experience as producers, but Netflix said they already have several projects in development, including a nature documentary series and an animated series that celebrates inspiring women. They said they plan to highlight diversity in front of and behind the camera.
“We’re incredibly proud they have chosen Netflix as their creative home,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement.
The Netflix deal follows a similar pact in 2018 with former US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.
NRM said Harry and Meghan had been speaking with other Hollywood companies, including Walt Disney Co and Apple Inc. Variety reported earlier this month that they had met with Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal.
Netflix last month released, Rising Phoenix, a documentary about the Paralympic Games, in which Harry, who founded the Invictus Games for wounded veterans, makes a brief appearance.
Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth, had previously teamed up with the Apple TV+ streaming service to make a documentary with Oprah Winfrey about mental health.
The documentary, which was in the works before the couple stepped back from their royal duties, has yet to be aired.
In June, the couple signed with the Harry Walker Agency in New York, which serves as an agent for lectures by clients such as former US Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton, as well as Oprah Winfrey.
Harry and Meghan are expected to speak together and individually on issues such as racial justice, gender equity, the environment, and mental health.
The couple recently bought a mansion in the celebrity enclave of Montecito, north of Los Angeles, which is more sheltered from media attention.
Since arriving in California in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, they have undertaken some low-profile charity work, handing out supplies to families in need.
Hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters marched through the streets of London, blocking traffic outside Notting Hill tube station and lying down in the road staging die-in.
The “Million People March” is advocating against racial injustice and is taking place instead of this year’s Notting Hill carnival.
Organisers have said the event is more important than ever amid the worldwide campaign for justice after George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis.
Naomi Bennett, protester and nurse spoke to the press;
“I’ve known about deaths in custody of black people, from when I was, from back in the 90s. We’ve been protesting all these years. Fortunately the George Floyd (death), has just highlighted that to the rest of the world. Now this is a fight that is not new to black people in this country.”
Aside from highlighting racial injustice in the UK, organisers said the march was also to denounce forthcoming government spending on prisons.
The “Million People March” was held in place of the annual Notting Hill Carnival, which will be streamed online this year due to coronavirus restrictions.
Notting Hill Carnival is Europe’s biggest street fair, tracing its roots to the late 1950s.
The Million People March comes the day after thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square in central London to protest against lockdown restrictions and the wearing of face masks.
The government has reversed policy on wearing facemasks in schools in England, sparking fresh criticism about its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Ministers had insisted face coverings were not necessary when children go back to school from next week after nearly six months out of the classroom amid concern about a rise in infections.
But in new guidance late Tuesday, the British government advised that secondary school students and staff should wear face coverings in corridors and communal areas.
The change is being seen as another U-turn, just weeks after ministers were forced to scrap the use of an algorithm which gave 17- and 18-year-olds lower-than-expected exam grades.
Teaching unions have been calling for English schools to follow guidance in Scotland, which has a separate education system, that requires pupils to cover their nose and mouth between lessons.
But while welcoming the change, critics including the main opposition Labour party said ministers had shirked their responsibility by leaving enforcement to individual schools.
Labour’s education spokeswoman Kate Green slammed a “half-baked U-turn”. “The government should have given clear guidance and a plan to deliver it,” she said.
Under-fire Education Secretary Gavin Williamson had insisted masks were not required in schools and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said there was no plan to review the policy.
But Williamson, widely blamed for the furore over exam results, on Wednesday said the government would now follow World Health Organization advice for children aged 12 and over to wear masks.
“Outside of local lockdown areas face coverings won’t be required in schools, though schools will have the flexibility to introduce measures if they believe it is right in their specific circumstances,” he said on Wednesday.
“I hope these steps will provide parents, pupils and teachers with further reassurance.”
Some 41,500 people have died in the coronavirus outbreak in Britain — the worst death toll in Europe — and the government response to the pandemic has been criticised.
Ministers were accused of not reacting quickly enough, failing to ensure enough protective equipment for frontline health and social care workers, and over the testing regime.
London reversed policy on the wearing of facemasks in shops in England after initially saying they were not necessary, and was forced to backtrack on a planned reopening of primary schools in July.
Education is a devolved issue for regional governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Older students in Northern Ireland will be asked to wear face coverings outside classrooms from next week. The Welsh Assembly in Cardiff is due to make its decision on Wednesday.
The British government promised Monday to build thousands of miles of new bike lanes to get people moving and healthy after months of coronavirus lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge comes on the heels of a plan to force restaurants to display calories on menus as part of a broader effort to win the battle of the bulge.
Government data show two-thirds of UK adults are above a healthy weight. Some studies suggests that the virus is especially deadly to people who are obese.
“To build a healthier, more active nation, we need the right infrastructure, training and support in place to give people the confidence to travel on two wheels,” Johnson said.
“That’s why now is the time to shift gears and press ahead with our biggest and boldest plans yet to boost active travel — so that everyone can feel the transformative benefits of cycling.”
Johnson introduced a bike sharing programme in London during his spell as the British capital’s mayor from 2008 to 2016.
But the so-called “Boris bikes” stood largely untouched during a months-long lockdown that still sees swathes of central London stand empty during working hours.
The government’s efforts to tease people out of lockdown and into their old spending habits that can give shops and restaurants a boost are complicated by Britain’s inability to safely reopen its schools.
Polls show people are also worried about using public transport. Many trains and buses are running half-empty during morning and evening commutes.
Johnson’s plan envisions more Briton’s biking and walking to work in the long term.
It promises to build “thousands of miles of protected cycle routes in towns and cities” as part of a £2 billion ($2.6 billion, 2.2 billion euro) “cycling and walking revolution”.
The government has also promised to start releasing the first batch of £50 “bike repair vouchers” to help people get old cycles fixed.
Britain’s official virus death toll of 45,759 is the highest in Europe.
Twitter on Monday faced a temporary boycott by some critics in Britain and a backlash from the government over its handling of a series of anti-Semitic posts by a high-profile rapper.
The social media giant, along with photo sharing site Instagram, on Friday banned grime artist Wiley from their platforms for seven days after he posted messages described as “abhorrent” by interior minister Priti Patel.
But some see the punishments as too soft and that the US companies took too long to remove the messages, prompting politicians, celebrities and other high-profile figures to launch a 48-hour Twitter boycott from Monday.
Patel has written to the firms asking why some of Wiley’s posts were visible for more than 12 hours before being removed, and the government has said it expects a full response.
“The message is clear: Twitter needs to do better on this,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman told reporters on Monday.
The British government on Sunday defended its decision to impose an immediate requirement for passengers arriving from Spain to self-isolate amid a resurgence of coronavirus in the popular holiday destination.
The new rules took hold at midnight Saturday, hours after being announced, causing uncertainty for holidaymakers and leading to criticism from travel industry leaders.
“I think it’s quite poor that they did it so instantaneously,” Philip Bradby, 55, told the domestic Press Association after returning early to Britain from Barcelona.
But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government was required to take “swift” action.
“The data we got was on Friday, it showed a big jump right across mainland Spain. That was then assessed yesterday afternoon and we took the decision as swiftly as we could,” Raab told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.
“We can’t make apologies for doing so,” he added.
“I understand it is disruptive for those going through this …but we must though be able to take swift, decisive action.”
Passengers arriving in Britain will have to self-isolate for two weeks following the surge in cases.
“The Joint Biosecurity Centre together with Public Health England have updated their coronavirus assessments of Spain based on the latest data,” said a British government spokesman.
“As a result, Spain has been removed from the lists of countries from which passengers arriving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are exempted from the need to self-isolate.”
Britain is advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain, but that does not apply to the Canary Islands or the Balearic Islands.
Barely a month after Spain ended its months-long state of emergency, new infections have been rising.
Transport minister Grant Shapps was caught in the ruling as he is currently in Spain for his summer break.
Labour called the decision “frankly shambolic”, with shadow health minister Jonathan Ashworth saying holidaymakers had been left “confused and distressed”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday rejected calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence, despite an apparent surge in support for a breakaway.
Scots voted to maintain the status quo by 55 percent to 45 percent in 2014, in what even the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) agreed was a “once-in-a-generation” vote.
But spurred by tensions between London and Edinburgh over Britain’s departure from the European Union, and political and personal differences, the issue refuses to go away.
Polling now suggests a majority of Scots are in favour of going it alone, and breaking up the more than three-centuries-old union with England.
Conservative party leader Johnson, however, reaffirmed that the UK parliament would not approve powers for the Scottish Parliament to hold a new vote.
“The union is a fantastically strong institution. It has helped us through thick and thin,” he said on a visit to Orkney, off Scotland’s far northeast coast.
“We had a referendum on breaking up the union… only six years ago. That is not a generation by any computation.
“What people really want to do is to see our whole country coming back stronger, together, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The coronavirus outbreak, which has led to more than 45,000 deaths across the country, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s more cautious approach have fuelled the debate.
Majority for independence Earlier this month, polling group Panelbase said a record 54 percent of Scots were in favour of independence. An average of polls in the last six months put support on 51 percent.
SNP leader Sturgeon’s approval ratings soared to 60 percent — well above that for Johnson, who has been accused of not acting fast enough to curb the spread of the virus.
Sturgeon and Johnson were not scheduled to meet but she said his visit, which included a stop to talk to crab fishermen, underscored the need for independence.
“One of the key arguments for independence is the ability of Scotland to take our own decisions, rather than having our future decided by politicians we didn’t vote for, taking us down a path that we haven’t chosen,” she tweeted.
The main thrust of Sturgeon’s push for a new vote is that a majority of Scots did not vote for Brexit, which changed the fundamental nature of the relationship with England.
But Johnson said the strength of the union, which dates from 1707, had been shown to be effective in the coronavirus response.
The issue is unlikely to go away, with warnings of dire economic consequences both from the coronavirus shutdown and Brexit if no trade deal can be agreed with the EU.
China accuses Britain of interference as UK gov’t lays out path to citizenship for three million Hong Kong people.
The United Kingdom has unveiled the details of its plan to offer an estimated three million people in Hong Kong a route to citizenship in an offer Home Secretary Priti Patel described as “very generous” and China condemned as a breach of international law and interference in its internal affairs.
In a briefing paper released on Wednesday, Patel said people with British National (Overseas) or BNO status, a type of nationality created when Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, would be able to apply for the programme from January next year.
They will not have to meet skills tests or minimum income requirements and can bring their dependents, including those who do not have BNO status.
Patel said BNO status “recognised the special and enduring ties the UK has with those people as a result of our role in Hong Kong before 1997”.
Referring to China’s imposition of a new National Security Law on Hong Kong at the start of the month, she added: “Now that China, through its actions, has changed the circumstances that BN(O) citizens find themselves in, it is right that we change the entitlements which are attached to BN(O) status.”
The paper triggered a swift condemnation from China’s embassy in London, which said the move amounted to interference in China’s internal affairs and that it would demand effective countermeasures.
“The Chinese side urges the UK side to recognize the fact that Hong Kong is part of China, have a right and objective understanding on the National Security Law for Hong Kong, immediately correct its mistakes and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs,” an embassy spokesperson said in a statement posted on the embassy’s website. “Such interference will shoot itself in the foot.”
‘Unique obligations’ Hong Kong was a British colony for more than 100 years until it was returned to Chinese rule under the so-called “one country, two systems” framework, which afforded the territory substantial autonomy and guaranteeing the people of the territory rights and freedoms unknown on the mainland for at least 50 years.
The UK has said the security law contravenes the promises that were laid out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984.
The policy statement said the changes to migration for people from Hong Kong were a reflection of the “unprecedented circumstances” in the territory, and Britain’s “unique obligations” to those with BN(O) status.
Those who apply will get a visa for five years, after which, providing they have supported themselves financially and not committed any crimes, they can apply for permanent residence and, after a further year, citizenship. They will not need to meet any income requirements, have a job prior to arrival or seek additional permissions to work or study.
However, they will still have to pay for the visa – the fee has still to be decided – as well as all subsequent applications for settlement and citizenship, and will not be eligible for any social security payments.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab voiced concerns about new national security law and alleged human rights abuses in China.
The United Kingdom suspended its extradition treaty and blocked arms sales with Hong Kong on Monday after China imposed a tough new national security law and was accused of forcibly sterilising ethnic minority women in Xinjiang.
As tensions grow with Beijing, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had concerns about the new law and alleged human rights abuses in China, particularly the treatment of the Muslim Uighur minority. He described the measures as “reasonable and proportionate”.
“We will protect our vital interests,” Raab said. “We will stand up for our values and we will hold China to its international obligations.”
The UK followed the example of the United States, Australia and Canada by suspending extradition arrangements with the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The ban is another nail in the coffin of what then-prime minister David Cameron in 2015 cast as a “golden era” of ties with China, the world’s second-largest economy.
London has been dismayed by a crackdown in Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 from British rule, and the perception that China did not tell the whole truth over the coronavirus outbreak.
Noble Reporters Media learnt that the UK government has offered three responses to China’s new security law, which “has created new crimes and new severe punishments”.
“The first is to offer refuge to up to three million Hong Kong citizens to come live and work in the UK,” Barker said, speaking from London.
“The second is to extend an arms embargo to mainland China – which has been in place since the late 1980s – to Hong Kong and that includes equipment that Raab said could be used for ‘acts of internal repression’ – which seems to be a veiled criticism of police tactics in Hong Kong against demonstrators.
“The third is to end a 30-year extradition agreement between the UK and Hong Kong, which will be effective immediately.”
The arms embargo extends a measure in place for China since 1989. It means Britain will allow no exports of potentially lethal weapons, their components or ammunition, as well as equipment that might be used for internal repression such as shackles, firearms and smoke grenades.
The review of the extradition measures comes only days after Britain backtracked on plans to give Chinese telecommunications company Huawei a role in the UK’s new high-speed mobile phone network amid security concerns fuelled by rising tensions between Beijing and Western powers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has already criticised China’s decision to impose the sweeping national security law on Hong Kong.
The UK accused Beijing of a serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration – under which the UK returned control of Hong Kong to China in 1997 – and announced it would open a special route to citizenship for up to three million eligible residents of the community.
But Johnson said on Monday he would not “completely abandon our policy of engagement” with Beijing.
The UK leader said he will not be “pushed into a position of becoming a knee-jerk Sinophobe on every issue, somebody who is automatically anti-China”.
“China is a giant factor of geopolitics, it’s going to be a giant factor in our lives and in the lives of our children and grandchildren. You have got to have a calibrated response and we are going to be tough on some things, but also going to continue to engage,” said Johnson.
China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) on Sunday that Britain was “dancing to the tune” of the United States and rejected the allegations of human rights abuses against the mainly Muslim Uighur people.
Even though China has not taken any countermeasures, at least publicly, against the UK over its ban on Chinese telecom giant Huawei from its 5G development, many in the UK – from business leaders to scholars – are wary of potential devastating consequences from the move on bilateral ties and on the UK economy, which is already facing what has been described as the worst period in decades.
Such anxiety stems from a strong backlash from China, which vows to take “all necessary” measures. It was illustrated by the widespread attention toward media reports of Chinese short video platform TikTok scrapping a massive plan to build a global headquarters in the UK. Businesses and experts on both sides fear that bilateral businesses ties could see further long-term damage due to deteriorating relations.
Still, in interviews, some Chinese and UK businesses leaders and scholars argue that the UK left some room for potential change in its handling of the Huawei situation and that talks between the two sides to address the dispute are still possible. Some stressed that the UK will eventually realize the importance of positive engagement with China for its economy in the post-Brexit era and change course, though bilateral ties remain under serious pressure on multiple fronts, including Huawei, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
Uneasiness in the UK over the recent diplomatic row was on vivid display over the weekend after the Sunday Times reported that Beijing-based ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, had suspended talks with UK officials over building a headquarters in the UK following the UK’s Huawei decision.
Media report on Sunday, which cited an unnamed source, reported that the Chinese company halted talks over the project that could support 3,000 jobs due to “wider geopolitical contexts,” an apparent reference to the Huawei case.
ByteDance did not respond to a request for comment as of press time on Sunday.
Chinese officials have harshly criticized UK’s decision and vowed to take “all necessary measures” to protect Chinese businesses. Though Chinese officials have not announced specific measures, they have stressed that the move has seriously undermined mutual trust and Chinese businesses’ confidence in the UK market.
In a recent interview, Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming hinted that Chinese investments into the UK could be at risk as Chinese companies are wary of Huawei’s treatment by the UK.
“In the past 10 years. Chinese investment in the UK increased 20 times…This is a big opportunity for UK,” Liu said, noting that with $20 billion Chinese investment, the UK is the largest recipient of Chinese investment in Europe, according to a transcript published by the embassy on Sunday. “I think UK really missed the opportunities.”
Annual flow of foreign direct investment from China to the UK.
Beijing’s reaction over the UK’s decision carries weight. The head of a prominent UK business group said that there was a certain degree of anxiety over bilateral ties and voiced hope that the two sides could “sit down and talk” on the matter. On Friday, the Sunday Times reports Beijing based business leaders were called to a meeting by Chinese government officials where they were warned they could be at risk.
“Britain is rejecting Europe and rejecting China at the same time, in a situation where the British economy, as we know, historically has been in long term decline,” Martin Jacques, a senior fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University, said on Friday, noting that the British economy is in the “worst period in British economic history since before the industrial revolution…the consequences from rejecting China are going to be extremely serious for Britain.”
Apart from the massive Chinese investment, China was the UK’s second-largest trading partner after the US in 2018, with two-way trade reaching 68.3 billion pounds ($85.78 billion), according to UK official data. Chinese students also contribute at least 1.7 billion pounds a year to UK universities, according to the UK’s National Institute of Economic and Social Research, which warned a trade conflict with China could result in a 90 percent fall in UK trade and a 0.75 percent drop in GDP.
Room for change?
“The fact is that [the UK] is facing a very difficult time because of Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and so on… we are in a much better place,” Chen Fengying, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing, told the Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) on Sunday.
However, Chen said that though China must make its “principled stance” over the Huawei case clear, “we need a much more nuanced, long-term strategy toward the UK” rather than getting into an endless tit-for-tat tussle. “I think the UK understands how important China is. It’s just that the US got in the way… but things could change over time,” she said, noting that the presidential election results in the US could change the dynamic for China and the UK.
In the decision last week, the UK government gave its companies several months until after December to purchase 5G equipment from Huawei and seven years to phase out devices that are already in use.
Jacques thinks there is still a lot of uncertainty attached to this situation including the upcoming presidential election in the US, the cost that the UK needs to pay to replace Huawei equipment and whether the replacement can be successful. “Britain needs to have a relationship with China. It needs China, so China needs to consider the situation as a long game,” he said.
Apart from the reported move by TikTok, there were no other changes of plans reported by Chinese businesses in the UK. Although some expressed concerns, certain business deals are moving forward.
Chinese private steel enterprise Jingye Group, which acquired the bankrupt British Steel in March, said that the company’s plan to invest 1.2 billion pounds in the UK over the next 10 years is moving forward, the company told the Global Times.
However, the risk of long-term damage to bilateral ties and business deals is increased, not just over Huawei but an increasing number of issues, including Hong Kong and the South China Sea, where the UK appears to be keen to join the US and interfere.
Commenting on the UK’s plan to send an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea, Liu warned that it could be “a very dangerous move” and “I don’t want to see that the UK would like to gang up with the United States to challenge China’s sovereignty and disrupt the stability and tranquility in the region.”