Britain is hosting the G7, but it is certainly not leading it
After years of trashing alliances and breaking promises, this must be the moment to change course and reset our relationships with the United States and EU.
As the leaders of the world’s largest democracies arrive in Cornwall, the stakes for the UK and the world could not be higher.
This is the most important G7 summit in a generation. The flames are licking at the sides of liberal democracies, under attack from autocratic regimes and weakened by the inability of democratic countries to work together to deliver for our own citizens. Covid-19 threatens lives and livelihoods, and we are running out of time to tackle climate change.
But while some countries are rising to the moment, ours is trailing in their wake. The British government is hosting these discussions but it is certainly not leading them.
President Biden’s game-changing proposal to make major multinationals pay their fair share through a global minimum corporation tax found support amongst all G7 nations – except one.
Tackling tax avoidance and global corruption weakens authoritarian states and should be a key plank of the Global Britain agenda
The British Chancellor led efforts to reduce the rate, costing Britain billions in lost taxes, and is now seeking loopholes and exemptions for big finance, gutting the deal he signed only days ago. The decision to side with the City has cost people in Britain dear and left us isolated amongst G7 allies. The summit is only just underway but already the Prime Minister looks like a man who has gate-crashed his own party.
With ambition, leadership and three clear priorities, it may not be too late to turn this around.
First, the Prime Minister should match his target to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 with a concrete plan to ramp up global production and capacity and invest in healthcare systems around the world. Beyond the moral case for the world’s wealthiest democracies to prevent millions of avoidable deaths, the International Monetary Fund describes this as the best return on public investment in modern times, projecting that a $50 billion outlay could boost wealthier economies by as much as $9 trillion.
The Prime Minister should work to resuscitate the long overdue global tax reform proposals he has worked so hard to kill off. The government has spent much of this week claiming that investing in children’s education across the UK is unaffordable. But the tax plans President Biden put on the table, would have met the cost several times over.
Tackling tax avoidance and global corruption weakens authoritarian states and should be a key plank of the Global Britain agenda. But with so much in lost taxes at stake, it is also central to the success of the levelling up agenda.
Finally, this summit must deliver tangible progress on tackling the climate emergency. There is less than six months to go until Britain hosts the crucial global climate summit, COP26, and negotiations this weekend must lay the foundations for its success.
The UK should demand ambitious targets from G7 partners to avert the inevitable environmental and economic crises created by inaction, not in decades to come but in the coming decade. This also means leading by example. The UK’s green stimulus package of £5bn pales in comparison to that of fellow G7 members Germany’s (£36bn) and France (£27bn) and is utterly dwarfed by the $2 trillion package of the Biden Administration.
The government goes into this historic summit rebuked by the USA over Northern Ireland, at loggerheads with the EU over trade and at war with its own MPs over international aid. After years of trashing alliances and breaking promises, this must be the moment to change course. The Prime Minister must use this summit to reset our relationships with the United States and EU, starting with a clear commitment to uphold the Good Friday Agreement. That will start to win him back some of the goodwill he has squandered over recent years and start to deliver the change we need.
Nothing less will do.
Lisa Nandy is the Labour MP for Wigan and Shadow Foreign Secretary.