David Lammy embarks on diplomatic tour to strengthen UK-EU ties

David Lammy’s whirlwind first trip as Foreign Secretary, organized at very short notice, is focused on perception rather than immediate results or groundbreaking developments.

It showcases a new, energetic administration eager to build strong relationships with some of the UK’s key partners.

Lammy’s journey began with an evening spent with German counterpart Annalena Baerbock, even finding time to catch a few minutes of England’s European Championship quarter-final.

The tour then moved to the picturesque country estate of Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. After a couple of hours of talks, Lammy flew to Sweden, one of NATO’s newest members.

The choice of Germany, Poland, and Sweden for this tour is partly due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. These countries, along with the UK, play significant roles in supporting Kyiv’s war effort.

With new Defence Secretary John Healey on the ground in Odesa, Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer’s government is emphasizing the UK’s steadfast commitment to Ukraine.

Following meetings with President Zelensky and Defence Minister Rustem Umerov, Healey announced the UK would provide more artillery, ammunition, and precision Brimstone missiles, pledging to fast-track these reinforcements within the next 100 days.

“We want to double down on our commitment to Ukraine,” Lammy stated amidst the serene setting of a Polish lake.

France, engaged in a consequential election, was not included in this tour. Nor was Brussels, with Starmer having declared that the UK will not rejoin the EU “in my lifetime.” However, Poland and Sweden are crucial European partners and NATO allies, making them fitting starting points for Lammy’s exploration of closer future relations.

“I want to reset both our bilateral relationship and our relationship with the European Union,” Lammy declared, referencing Labour’s pledge for a new EU-UK security pact.

Meanwhile, during a visit to Edinburgh, Starmer mentioned efforts to improve the UK’s relationship with the EU, criticizing the “botched deal” by Boris Johnson.

Lammy highlighted the upcoming meeting of the European Political Community at Blenheim Palace, emphasizing the “new spirit of co-operation.”

This tour precedes Starmer’s first steps on the international stage as Prime Minister at the NATO summit in Washington, D.C., during challenging geopolitical times.

Acknowledging the complexities of current international relations, Lammy emphasized the importance of distinguishing disagreements within mature democracies from threats posed by authoritarian regimes.

He expressed concerns over Iranian drones in Ukraine, North Korean shells in Europe, and the growing partnerships among authoritarian states.

The ongoing war in Gaza also looms over Lammy’s diplomatic efforts. In Germany, he called for a “more balanced approach to Israel-Gaza,” hinting at the significant diplomatic time likely to be devoted to the Arab-Israeli peace process in the coming months.

Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski noted the shared pragmatism between the new Polish government and the Starmer administration, looking forward to a more practical approach in UK-Europe relations and discussing “creative ideas” to further these ties.

Credit: BBC

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