Boris Johnson has started implementing his Brexit instruction manual and many Britons don’t like the image the mirror returns to them. A 0.7% to 0.5% cut in international development aid, contrary to obligations imposed by a 2015 law, has sparked an unprecedented uprising among many conservatives. The reason is the pandemic and the enormous internal public expenditure required to mitigate its impact. The consequence: when the G-7 summit kicks off in Cornwall this Friday, the UK will be the only wealthy economy to cut back on foreign aid. The Global UK that Johnson promised after leaving the EU would thus, in the eyes of many critics, become a more selfish nation with less international influence.
“It is morally untenable to ease our financial burden at the expense of some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people,” said former Conservative Prime Minister John Major. The last five heads of government before Johnson – Major himself, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May – have joined their voices against a decision they see as a permanent blow to Great Britain’s image. Along with them, all opposition parties, major humanitarian associations, and up to a dozen members of the Democratic US Congress, who have demanded that Joe Biden speak out against the cuts, just as Washington significantly increased its budget allocation.
A group of rebels from the Conservative Party, led by former International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell, had forced a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday about the alleged illegality of the decision. They have involvement speaker (Speaker) The British Parliament, Lindsay Hole, was the first to be outraged by the Government’s efforts to prevent MPs from addressing the issue. This has become an “emergency debate”, and the Government has avoided a final vote, but most interventions have given rise to the liberal and internationalist color of Johnson who is seen as defending a just cause. “I’m running in an election where my party program proudly delivers on the 0.7% promise,” former Prime Minister May said with real annoyance on her face. “They are listening to us around the world not because we are British, but because of our actions, and because of how we apply our principles. The damage to our reputation from this action will make us weaker in the argument for whatever reason.”
Britain’s aid to foreign development will continue to be among the highest of any developed country, but the planned cuts, of around 5.2 billion euros, translate into a drastic reduction in the amount allocated to girls’ schools, water purification or the fight against slaves. trade in countries like Somalia, Syria, Yemen or Afghanistan. The loss of the dedicated department for International Development, the integration of its budget into the Department of State, and the increase in international vaccination assistance, have drained resources on other projects of equal or greater urgency.
Waiting for court
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Johnson’s government confirmed that its decision is temporary, and will return to 0.7% as soon as the economy allows it. The International Aid Goals Act, approved in 2015, in its text considers exceptions: “the state of the economy, and in particular, substantial changes in gross domestic product”. But it’s a legally moot exception, as it refers to the possibility that the goal could not be met, not to the fact that it was intentionally altered. In addition, Downing Street has resisted even a commitment to reverse action next year, despite the fact that the Bank of England has announced – and the Johnson Government is counting on it – that the economy will grow again strongly in the US. 2021. Everything indicates that the final word is the British court.
Beyond Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak’s stubbornness to balance the accounts, there are political reasons why Johnson has stayed on. Traditional left-wing voters in northern England called the ‘red wall’, the same people who supported Brexit and who have now moved to the far more nationalist and populist ranks of the Conservative Party, supported the decision. According to a recent survey from youGov54% of citizens, compared to 28%, believe that “The government has the right to reduce foreign aid.”
“This decision is immoral for the world and very impractical for the UK”
David Davis, Conservative MP
The problem with the survey, however, lies in the simplicity of your questions. Conservative MP David Davis, one of the most rabid defenders of Britain’s exit from the European Union, paradoxically put it, but on this occasion he has allied himself with the rebels: “Of course they would prefer that the money be spent on Britain. school before any other country,” Davis said. “But when you put it on the table, the real question is when England’s honesty comes up. When you ask if they want children to die from contaminated water, 76% are against it. This decision is immoral for the world and very impractical for the UK.”
After more than a year of pandemic and confinement, during which Johnson could do little more than state in speeches and gestures his vision of a new Britain ‘free from the shackles of the European Union’ and open to the world, his best chance to shine is coming this weekend. The G-7 summit in Cornwall, which kicked off on Friday, was the first face-to-face meeting of the leaders of the world’s richest nations. And the new American president, Joe Biden’s first visit to Europe. His message of global solidarity, his renewed efforts to fight climate change, his commitment to extending a vaccine to all continents, were preceded by a hard slap on the wrist from Parliament, which accused the prime minister of showing a darker side. Global Britain that Brexit will bring.
A slap on the wrist for Northern Ireland
Joe Biden never liked Brexit. But despite that irreversible reality, the American president, with Irish roots, found it important to maintain the Northern Ireland Protocol which brought with it the British Withdrawal Agreement from the EU. This is a guarantee, according to Washington, to maintain the peace achieved in the region with the Good Friday Deal. Biden arrived on British soil this week just as tensions between London and Brussels over the issue are at their highest. David Frost, Johnson’s negotiator on European affairs, and the vice president of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic, met this Wednesday in the British capital to try to unravel the extremely complicated situation. Frost demands more flexibility from the EU to review protocols that have imposed serious bureaucracy on trade between Northern Ireland and the UK. And it has fueled the spirit of union power in the region. Sefcovic has warned, on the pages of British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, that “if Britain takes more unilateral action in the coming weeks. [el Gobierno de Johnson ha decidido ignorar los controles acordados], the EU will not be ashamed to react swiftly and decisively.” In the past, Biden’s team has suggested that London’s lack of compliance with its commitments in Northern Ireland would be a very serious obstacle to the conclusion of a trade agreement between the United States and Britain. It is precisely the main goal set by the conservative government itself to show that the Brexit adventure is not in vain.
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