House of Commons
No business scheduled.
Hills to die on
Written by Sam Buckley, associate
Edited by Iain Gibson, partner
11 March 2022
Dawn is breaking and you exhale a deep breath. Frost clings to the ropes and metalwork of the thirty foot high gauntlet ahead, whilst you’re attuned to the laser focussed, eery silence of the soldiers around you. It’s the calm before the test. It’s in these moments that soldiers are bred, grappling with the question: When the time comes, can I do what is needed of me?
Being a peacetime soldier as a slightly younger man, I can’t speak to the experience of Ukrainian fighters risking their lives daily on similar cold, quiet mornings that are shattered by the grind of Russian tanks.
One serving British soldier has decided that he was not content to sit on the sidelines, becoming the first of a growing number who are flouting the MOD’s orders, reiterated yesterday, in an attempt to join the conflict. They are seemingly naïve to the consequences of NATO soldiers being captured in a direct fight with Russia.
Distinguished from mercenaries who ply their trade for pure financial gain, the tradition of fighting for the cause of another nation is not new. In 1936 George Orwell famously fought with the republicans against the fascists in the Spanish civil war. What has changed today is that modern travel and decentralised online coordination has made it easier to participate and harder for governments to control. This was most prominently witnessed with those fighting both for and against ISIS, and now in Ukraine.
The development of serving soldiers joining this ‘war tourism’ has taken it from the purview of intelligence agencies and created a mainstream diplomatic issue. Only yesterday, foreign secretary Liz Truss had to reverse her support for civilians joining the Ukrainian Foreign Legion. This seems appropriate given that Ukrainians are even turning away civilian fighters.
However, Ukraine is actively welcoming those with military experience. Notably, the son of Conservative MP Helen Grant, a former Royal Marines Commando has joined Ukraine’s Foreign Legion. He explained that the reason he was willing to put his life on the line was out of principle, because of the familiar question, noted in the first paragraph, that is bred into his mindset.
Ukrainians and foreign fighters have united in answering that one question for themselves, inspiring the world by demonstrating so far that, against the odds, with their backs against the wall, they have been equal to the challenge.
Ultimately, it’s not wise to join a conflict. Instead, we should keep our empathy and support Ukrainians in every other way we can, hoping that each morning they can face the challenge anew, whilst asking themselves if they have what it takes. Because for them, it’s an existential question.
There are now noted instances of outspoken criticisms of the Ukraine invasionon Russian television. This is despite Russia’s threat of fifteen years imprisonment for criticising the war, and the shows’ presenters attempting to resist the comments.
130 celebrities and world leaders, including Gordon Brown and former UN secretary general Bank Ki-Moon, have signed an open letter to wealthy countries criticising unethical, “self-defeating nationalism” that is seeing less wealthy nations struggle to access vaccines and control the coronavirus pandemic as a result.
Home secretary Priti Patel and the Home office have come under criticism from the defence committee for prematurely announcing the use of the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Marines (RM) to counter channel crossings by migrants. This resulted in a concession that the Home Office would not instruct the RN and RM to perform controversial pushback techniques unless deemed appropriate.
Business and economy
After mounting pressure from within the Conservative party and the prediction that inflation could reach 10% within months, Rishi Sunak will launch limited extra measures to address the cost of living crisis. The UK government has stated that it cannot fully protect consumers from the economic consequences of the Ukraine crisis, especially whilst still addressing the financial burdens of the pandemic.
In a step change to quantitative easing measures deployed in 2014, the European Central Bank (ECB) has announced that it will release measures that will raise interest rates toward the end of the year. The ECB is said to be divided on the issue, not least because of the economic stress of the Ukraine conflict, though it intends to press on with the plan. (£)
In a move to cushion against the effects of sanctions and allow more bilateral trade with Russia, China has announced that it will widen the daily trading band for the renminbi exchange rate with the Russian rouble. This will allow some protection for the Russian and Chinese oil and gas trade, also prompting speculation that China may try to eventually challenge the Swift international payment system with its own Union Pay.
David Gauke in the New Statesman, recognises history repeating itself, highlighting that the Conservative party is showing early signs of being unnecessarily restrictive with Ukrainian refugee visas. Gauke’s opinion is that, once again, the Conservatives are being driven by a fear that Nigel Farage may steal back UKIP votes that merged with the Conservatives post-Brexit. (£)
Gillian Tett in the FT claims that the Ukraine conflict may have catalysed the relevance of technological trends such as cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Since the war began, China has released its own cryptocurrency; Ukraine has benefited from significant crypto donations; and the US has grappled to ensure its sanctions are not evaded by these decentralised digital currencies. (£)
What happened yesterday?
As talks between Russia and Ukraine failed, and the European Central Bank hastened its exit from quantitative easing, the FTSE 100 ended the session down 1.27% at 7,099.09, and the FTSE 250 was 0.57% weaker.
In Europe, this surprise moves by the ECB, alongside the diplomatic failures in the Ukraine conflict, also saw the pan-regional Stoxx 600 index drop 1.69%, with France’s CAC-40 down 2.83% and Germany’s DAX falling 2.93%.
Sterling had mixed performance, falling 0.55% against the dollar to $1.3108, whilst strengthening 0.08% on the euro to finish at €1.1908.
In company news:
Netflix has raised the subscription cost to £16 per month, claiming it is to reflect the investment they put into new content. This is the second raise in less than a year.
Steelmaker Evraz had its London stock listing suspended because of sanctions being placed on its major shareholder, and Chelsea football club owner, Roman Abramovich.
John Lewis has decided to resume employee bonusses after being able to cut its financial losses.
After recent lacklustre performance, Amazon’s shares have jumped 5% on Thursday due to announcing a major stock split.
Stuart Machin and Katie Bickerstaffe will take over from Steve Rowe as co-chief executives of Marks and Spencer
What’s happening today?
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During the cold war Russian spies were able to infiltrate Britain and create maps that were more detailed than the UK’s Ordinance Survey equivalents of the time.
Source: The Times
House of Commons
No business scheduled.
House of Lords
Former EU Committee’s report ‘Beyond Brexit: policing, law enforcement and security’
Former Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 Committee’s report ‘An Electoral System fit for today?’
Former Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee’s report ‘Digital Technology and the Resurrection of Trust’
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