A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News. Delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Leading the week
Liz Truss returns to her roots as a foreign policy hawk next week with further interventions on China planned during visits to Copenhagen and Taiwan. In a comeback speech in Washington last month, Truss said the West needed to ‘get real’ and rediscover its ‘economic mojo’ to challenge Beijing’s growing influence, and the former prime minster can be expected to continue in a similar vein at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on Monday (May 15) in a discussion themed ‘Countering China’s Coercion’.
Truss will then ramp up the rhetorical stakes during a five-day visit to Taiwan, delivering a speech to a think tank in Taipei on Wednesday (May 17) on the subject of freedom and democracy on the island. Truss’s latest remarks come as the UK attempts once again to redefine its relationship with China and as the possibility of conflict in the South China Sea was discussed at this week’s ASEAN meetings. The issue remains high on the Westminster agenda following a phone call between China’s top diplomat Wang Yi and UK national security adviser Tim Barrow on Wednesday, so Truss’s contributions next week may not be well received on either the domestic or international fronts.
Local elections take place in 11 councils across Northern Ireland on Thursday (May 18) as the Windsor Framework continues to loom large over the country’s fractious political climate. With no agreement on a Stormont Executive in sight, the parties are heading into the polls looking to vindicate their respective positions on the agreement reached between Downing Street and the EU back in February. Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neil is hoping voters will ‘re-endorse’ last year’s Assembly election and show support for a working, united executive, while DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson recently attacked the notion that the party would withdraw its opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol and Windsor Framework after the locals, signalling that a poor result for the party wouldn’t necessarily change their position at the Assembly. With the deadline for executive formation extended until January 2024, next week’s results are likely to be raised repeatedly in the next seven months in intra-party negotiations over the future of the country.
For only the fourth time in its 74-year history, the Council of Europe will gather leaders for a summit in Reykjavík on Tuesday and Wednesday (May 16-17). The meeting of Europe’s oldest intergovernmental organisation is focused on ensuring ‘accountability for the crimes committed by the Russian armed forces in Ukraine’, including by setting a register for those who have suffered damages and harm due to the invasion. The summit comes at an awkward moment for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has not announced whether he plans to attend but would be expected to under normal circumstances. His flagship Illegal Migration Bill has been criticised by the Council of Europe’s top human rights official, while further amendments introduced last month would give ministers powers to ignore decisions from the European Court on Human Rights related to removals.
Ukraine is also top of the agenda as G7 leaders converge on the Japanese city of Hiroshima for their three-day annual summit from Friday to Sunday (May 19-21). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is slated to address the gathering via video, while Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has invited several non-G7 leaders to attend in person, including India’s Narendra Modi, South Korea’s Yoon Suk-yeol, Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Australia’s Anthony Albanese. Beyond the conflict in Ukraine, participants are set to discuss a host of other issues of global concern, including China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region, non-proliferation, global economic issues and food security.
Meanwhile, at the annual Arab League Summit taking place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday (May 19), all eyes will be on Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who is expected to attend following a decision earlier this month to end Syria’s 12-year suspension from the bloc over its brutal crackdown on protests. Assad’s attendance at the pan-Arab summit, while a symbolically important recognition of his regime’s grip on power, is unlikely to result in any immediate tangible changes. Several Arab countries have already made moves towards reestablishing diplomatic ties with Damascus, while Syria is unlikely to benefit financially until it resolves outstanding demands to find a political settlement to the civil war, make progress in combating drug trafficking, and facilitate the return of refugees.