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16 Jan, 2024 13:42

Ex-UK PM lobbied for ‘expedited’ defense exports to China – Politico

Liz Truss attempted to speed up the sale of military equipment to a country she deemed a “threat”
Ex-UK PM lobbied for ‘expedited’ defense exports to China – Politico

Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss urged the British government to speed up the licensing process for a defense contractor hoping to sell military equipment to China, Politico reported on Monday. Publicly, Truss declared China a “threat” to Britain’s security.

Truss wrote to Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch in August, asking him to “expedite” an export license for Norfolk-based Richmond Defence Systems to supply landmine disposal equipment to China, Politico reported, citing a copy of the letter.

The former PM was told by the company that “if the license is not granted, the Chinese would simply reverse engineer and manufacture the products themselves,” she explained in the letter. “This would mean the loss of future sales running into the millions,” she added.

Richmond Defence Systems had applied for the license last April, and the case is still under review, the news site noted. In a draft reply to Truss, Badenoch wrote that the license application required “careful and thorough consideration,” and as such could take longer than usual to be processed. Badenoch sent a revised version of this draft to Truss in December, Politico reported, citing government officials. However, the contents of this letter have not been disclosed.

The identity of the Chinese buyer is unclear, although Badenoch’s letter reportedly expressed concern that this person or entity could then sell the equipment on to the Chinese government.

Just three months before she wrote to Badenoch, Truss visited Taiwan, where she made a speech calling on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to “state clearly that China is a threat” and work to establish “an economic NATO” made up of Western states and their Asian partners, excluding China. 

In a speech in Taipei, Truss also called for stronger military ties between Taiwan and the West. “If we’re serious about preventing conflict in the South China Sea we need to get real about defense cooperation,” she said.

Beijing called the visit – the first trip to Taiwan undertaken by a former British prime minister since Margaret Thatcher went to Taipei in 1996 – “a dangerous political stunt” that would “do nothing but harm to the UK.”

Truss was Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister, with her stint in Downing Street lasting from September to October 2022. Days before she took office, British media reported that Truss would upgrade the government’s formal description of China from a “systemic competitor” of the UK to a “threat.”

Sunak has since described China as “the biggest state-based threat to our economic security,” but stopped short of formalizing the description.