China, Russia, Trump, Brexit: Can PM navigate difficult decisions while keeping everyone on side? | Politics News

The UK’s place in the world may not have been the focus these last few months, for obvious reasons, but this week the prime minister won’t be able to ignore pressing international matters.

While coronavirus still occupies most of the government’s waking hours, a deepening rift with China, allegations of Russian interference in UK elections, a US president demanding loyalty, and fractious Brexit talks are all weighing heavy on Boris Johnson.

Today could see the UK end its extradition treaty with Hong Kong after pressure from MPs and campaigners demanding a tough response to new Chinese security laws.

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And while Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab refuses to call this a reset of relations, it will likely be seen as just that.

It follows a controversial decision to exclude Huawei from the UK’s 5G network after initially welcoming bids from the Chinese technology firm.

Whispers about pressure from America, where Donald Trump is determined to show China he will not be bullied, have prompted questions about where the UK will position itself in the months to come.

Asked on Sunday about the potential for further sanctions against China in the wake of the Huawei decision, the country’s Ambassador threatened retaliation against the UK and others who shun the superpower.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has held discussions with his EU counterparts over securing a Brexit deal.

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But Mr Raab knows he has a difficult line to walk. On the one hand he cannot be seen to condone human rights abuses and allegations of interference by the communist state, but on the other he can’t shut China out completely when the balance of trade with the UK is so important.

Add to that pressure from allies around the world, as the UK leaves the European Union and seeks to forge a new place for itself on the world stage, and questions about whose side Britain is on become even more important.

That’s before you consider the Russia report due to be published this week by the Intelligence and Security Committee into interference in UK elections and fraught talks between the UK and Brussels on fishing rights and trade.

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The reality is the UK doesn’t yet have a clear long-term strategy for how it will project itself after Brexit – plans are under way but not yet fully developed.

Without this ability to look beyond the here and now it will be very difficult for Mr Johnson to navigate difficult political decisions while keeping everyone on side.

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