UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has reportedly instigated a huge row at the heart of government after threatening to send a warship to the Pacific, prompting China to withdraw from trade talks with Chancellor Philip Hammond.
China’s Deputy PM Hu Chunhua, who was expected to hold talks with Hammond this weekend, has now dramatically pulled out of the engagement after Williamson’s menacing remarks on Monday, according to the Sun. The defense secretary said that the UK must “show [China] the high price of aggressive behavior.”
The fervent speech delivered by Williamson warned China and Russia of Britain’s “hard power,” and revealed that HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth,’ the country’s largest warship, would be deployed to the Pacific with two squadrons of UK and US F-35 fighter jets.
He argued that talking without acting “risks our nation being seen as little more than a paper tiger,” while China develops “its modern capability and commercial power.”
The diplomatic row, reportedly instigated by Williamson, is said to have enraged Tory government ministers, who see his British Empire 2.0 rhetoric as putting at risk access to Chinese markets that are worth billions of pounds.
“There is huge anger across cabinet. Gavin was partially inciting a war – the team knew China wouldn’t be happy,” a source told the Sun.
China had been expected to remove bans on cosmetics which have not been animal-tested, as well as British poultry. Such a move would have given Britain access to markets worth an estimated £10.2 billion ($13 billion) over five years.
The deals would have given the UK a significant boost as it desperately tries to secure post-Brexit trade agreements. However, the Chinese deputy pulled the plug at the eleventh hour and only offered up junior officials – all but ending any hopes of deals being struck, according to the paper.
Williamson is known for pushing Britain to reassert its role as an influential military power. He also often makes headline-grabbing statements. In September, commenting on plans to send British troops to the Arctic, he called the region the nation’s “backyard.”
At the end of last year, he unveiled plans to build military bases in the Far East and the Caribbean, suggesting that it would help the UK to become a “true global player” after leaving the EU.
During tensions over the Skripal poisoning case, Williamson went on a fiery tirade against Moscow, saying that Russia should “go away and shut up.”
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