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Britain’s lack of participation at the defense summit in Munich generates allies’ concern

“I am very glad to be here, I hope I can make up in quality what is lacking in quantity,” said Sir Mark Sedwill at a leading foreign security conference where “global Britain” became noteworthy due to a shortage of senior ministers.

At the Munich Security Summit, Sir Mark, the National Security Adviser, was a last minute replacement to a miniscule UK squad, a glamorous meeting described as the “Davos for defence.”
The conspicuous absence of high-ranking London officials hasn’t escaped recognition.

Nancy Pelosi, the House of Representatives Democrat speaker – part of the biggest US delegation ever to the conference – said: “I hope it’s not an indication of their commitment to multilateralism.”
Many top political and economic figures who had gathered in Munich included French President Emmanuel Macron, US Secretaries of State and Defense Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper, respectively, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. It is also true of China and India’s foreign ministers, two counties in whom the UK is eager to create trading agreements post-Brexit.

British Secretary of Defense, Ben Wallace, backed out in the days running up to the case and MI6 director Sir Alex Younger has postponed his late stage participation. Downing Street refuted making the two people told not to participate.
A late substitute was James Cleverly, a former Foreign Office official. He did not appear on any of the panels while he decided to stress that he was involved, posting images of bilateral meetings with the Norwegians and Kuwaitis. Veteran negotiators spoke to their shock and disappointment at the evaporation of Britain’s diplomatic footprint.

Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, tweeted: “The one nation that is only completely absent from MSC2020 [Munich Security Confernce 2020] is the UK. Very strange, minsters were supposed to come, but then everyone withdrew. Has ‘Global Britain’ gone completely introvert?”

Wolfgang Ischinger, formerly of the German foreign ministry and one of the conference organisers, tweeted: “Needless to say, as a former ambassador to the Court of St James, I am saddened by the absence of senior ministers of Her Majesty’s government at @MunSecConf this year.”

Elsewhere, the top diplomat of the European Union stated that governments within the union would be able to participate in regional conflicts or face stagnation in their foreign policy.

“Europe has to develop an appetite for power,” Josep Borrell told the conference, stressing that did not only mean military power. “We should be able to act…not every day making comments, expressing concern,” he said.

Given its economic strength, the fact that policies require agreement implies that it is still split on foreign policy matters – with Libya and whether to respond to the “peace plan” for Israel and the Palestinians by Donald Trump among the topics that trigger pressure. US President’s actions have become a constant cause of stress.

“When there is no unanimity (in the EU), the remaining majority have to act,” Borrell said.

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