Charlotte Street Partners



Brinkmanship at the borders

Written by Javier Maquieira, senior associate 
Edited by David Gaffney, partner
15 November 2021

Good morning,

There’s something authoritarian leaders in countries bordering the European Union seem to have grasped: encouraging refugees and migrants to cross its borders has a particularly destabilising effect on the bloc.
Like Turkey and Morocco before it, Belarus has been accused of escalating ongoing tensions with the EU by “weaponising” thousands of asylum seekers from countries including Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, who have been trying to break through the Belarusian border into Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.
According to Polish estimates, between 3,000 and 4,000 migrants are currently stranded between Belarusian and Polish forces on the countries’ border amid freezing temperatures, with seven people having died since the crisis erupted.
Minsk, which is already under EU sanctions following Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed re-election as president last year, has denied using refugees to undermine the bloc’s security, and has in turn accused Warsaw of an “unprecedented” military build-up on the border.
In the face of more sanctions, the Belarusian government threatened on Thursday to cut off gas supplies that run through the country to Europe via a Russian-owned pipeline. However, Russian president Vladimir Putin – Lukashenko’s closest ally for years – warned him against such a move, which would risk harming their ties by constituting a breach of the EU’s contract with Russia.
Although Putin himself has admitted that Lukashenko could, technically, order Russian gas supplies to be cut to Europe as a president of a transit country, upsetting the Kremlin at a sensitive time for Russia’s energy exports could blow up in Lukashenko’s face.
Yet there seems to be more to the situation in Belarus than meets the eye. As former US national security adviser John Bolton points out in The Telegraph, the current migrant crisis may be a distraction from Russia’s more serious provocations at the border with Ukraine, playing into a larger strategy that hasn’t escaped western intelligence.
While US officials have privately warned their EU counterparts about a possible military operation as tens of thousands of Russian troops amass near the border, 600 British troops are reportedly ready to be deployed in Ukraine after defence chiefs and the head of MI6 warned the prime minister, Boris Johnson, about Russia’s plans.
Testing the waters on a Russian invasion of Ukraine while attempting to destabilise Europe and its allies is almost second nature to Putin. But if the worst comes to the worst, we can expect a new phase of confrontation between Russia and the west – via Belarus or elsewhere – to lead to mounting instability and human suffering at borders.


Three men have been arrested under terrorism legislation after a passenger was killed in a taxi explosion outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital. Detectives from Counter Terrorism Police North West said three men – aged 29, 26 and 21 – were detained under the Terrorism Act. The cab driver, who managed to escape before the flames spread, is in hospital in a stable condition.
The UK prime minister has defended the climate deal reached at Cop26 in Glasgow as a “game-changing agreement”, despite a furious backlash from campaigners and vulnerable countries. Although nations only agreed to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal, Boris Johnson said this was a fantastic achievement.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Cop26 president, Alok Sharma, said that the deal struck in Glasgow remained a “fragile win” as he urged China and India to “justify” their actions to nations that are more vulnerable to the effects of global warming. His words came after the two countries pushed for a softening in the language on the use of coal at the eleventh hour of the negotiations.

Business and economy

More than 300,000 people working for employers that have voluntarily signed up to the real living wage in the UK are getting a pay rise of 40p to £9.90 an hour. Almost 9,000 employers have signed up to the policy set by the Living Wage Foundation, which is not to be confused with the compulsory national living wage, currently sitting at £8.91.
The UK transport secretary is due to announce the outcome of the long-delayed integrated rail plan on Thursday. According to reports, Grant Shapps is expected to cancel plans for the HS2 link to Leeds, which may receive its own tram system “in consolation”.
A new deal between Sun Communities and Park Holidays is to be announced today. The US-listed real estate investment plan, which has a market value of £16.6bn, has reportedly agreed to pay in the region of £900m for Park Holidays, which owns more than 30 sites in counties such as Devon, Kent, and Sussex.

Columns of note

Will Hutton argues in The Guardian that despite Cop26’s seemingly disappointing outcome, the growing conviction of voters and consumers that the climate crisis is real is forcing change. Confronted by green demands from key audiences, governments and big companies are in a rush to act on their commitments to net-zero carbon emissions with increasing urgency. Ultimately, where voters and consumers lead on the climate crisis, Hutton concludes, businesses will have to follow.
Following the publication of Marks & Spencer’s half-year results last week, Graham Ruddick writes in The Times that the 137-year-old purveyor of goods has ceased to be a high street retailer. M&S performed well despite the high street, rather than because of it, as the results show that footfall at its shops selling clothing and home products was down by 36% compared with two years earlier, while online sales rose by 61%. Considering these trends, Ruddick expects the retailer’s emphasis on the high street to fall further in the future. (£)


The week ahead

Boris Johnson will address the annual City Banquet at the Mansion House this evening, where guests will include Vincent Keaveny, the newly installed lord mayor of the city of London, and business leaders. 
Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey and other members of the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee will give evidence to the House of Common’s Treasury committee today. MPs are expected to ask them why they did not vote to raise the base rate to tackle growing UK inflation when the governor had previously suggested that a move was imminent.
Elsewhere, the publication of the IHS Markit purchasing managers’ surveys will offer a better picture of the relative recovery of big economies around the world. Quarterly gross domestic product estimates and inflation data from Japan, the EU, the UK, and others are also due this week.
In company news, Vodafone, which has sought to expand its broadband footprint in the home market and is transferring its majority stake in Vodafone Egypt to Vodacom Group Limited, reports interim results on Tuesday. Investors in the telecoms group will be assessing the company’s post-pandemic growth prospects.

What’s happening today?




Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Wholesale Price Index (GER)
(10:00) Balance of Trade (EU)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

In 1946, a trapped moth caused an early computer model to malfunction, popularising the term “bug” as a reference for software errors. (Source: @UberFacts)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Defence (including Topical Questions)
Consideration of Lords amendments
Consideration of Lords amendments to the Social Security (Up-Rating of Benefits) Bill
Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [Lords]: Second reading
Committee on Standards
Closure of Amnesty International offices in Hong Kong

House of Lords 

The Lord Bishop of Exeter and The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
Oral questions
Publication of the government white paper on levelling up
Ensuring the immediate release of all Armenian military and civilians who remain in captivity in Azerbaijan following the Nagorno-Karabakh war
Funding charities based in the UK that work to remove landmines and dismantle of improvised explosive devices in other countries
Government position on adopting a formal definition of Islamophobia
Telecommunications (Security) Bill – consideration of Commons amendments
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – committee stage (day 8)

Scottish parliament 

No business scheduled.

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