Gulf crisis uniquely difficult strategic moment for UK

  • 22 July 2019
  • From the section UK
Grace 1 oil tanker Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Could the release of the tanker Grace I from custody in Gibraltar change the current dynamic?

The Gulf crisis catches the UK at a uniquely difficult strategic moment.

Its military means are quite limited, Iran's are greater than many might think, and the option of defaulting into its usual partnership with the US is not straightforward because of disagreements over the wisdom of breaching the nuclear deal.

For this reason, on Monday, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested that the response to the crisis should include a "European-led maritime protection mission", complementary but separate to the US effort.

The issue, he insisted, was one of freedom of navigation in the Straits of Hormuz rather than increasing pressure on Iran.

The UK's options for protecting its merchant shipping in the busy Gulf sea lanes are distinctly limited.

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UK's special forces set for new Russia mission

  • 13 June 2019
  • From the section UK
A US Special Forces soldier shoots with an assault rifle on a firing range Image copyright Getty Images

The SAS and other UK Special Forces (UKSF) are poised to receive a new mission countering Russian and other forces around the world.

The plan is called 'Special Operations Concept' and has been drawn up by the senior officer in charge of the special forces, the Director Special Forces (DSF).

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Blair: Social democracy needs 'narrative about the future'

Tony Blair
Image caption Social democracy must have "a narrative about the future" says former Prime Minister Tony Blair

"The central problem of social democracy is simple", former prime minister Tony Blair said. "They've got to have a narrative about the future."

By his formulation then, the crisis of Europe's centre-left may have been long and painful, but it need not be terminal.

Read full article Blair: Social democracy needs 'narrative about the future'

Salisbury attack 'evidence' of Russian weapon stockpile

  • 4 March 2019
  • From the section UK
People dressed in British Army fatigues walk away from the Skripals' house in Salisbury Image copyright PA

The Salisbury attack demonstrated that Russia continues to research, manufacture and stockpile chemical weapons, US state department officials have told BBC Newsnight.

If true, Russia would be in violation of one of the major post-Cold War arms control treaties.

Read full article Salisbury attack 'evidence' of Russian weapon stockpile

Brexit: Is Brussels ready to give UK more time?

French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel speak at an EU summit Image copyright AFP

Publicly, the EU27 have told Theresa May the clock is ticking and that preparations for a no-deal Brexit are intensifying. Privately, the talk is all about extending the Article 50 period and defusing that time bomb due to go off on 29 March.

Brexiteers have long told us that the EU27 have much to fear from no deal, and in this they are right.

Read full article Brexit: Is Brussels ready to give UK more time?

Post-Brexit: Will a new leader of the EU emerge?

Angela Merkel at the Bundestag Image copyright Michele Tantussi

The prospect of Brexit looms large in Berlin these days and people are not happy about it. "We lose Britain, and we keep Italy: it's grotesque", one former minister commented ruefully to me.

That barbed remark lays bare a real anxiety among Germans, that somehow the European Union's centre of gravity will shift once the UK has gone, that a delicate balance will be upset, and it will not be in Berlin's favour.

Read full article Post-Brexit: Will a new leader of the EU emerge?

Yemen: will calls for peace lead to more violence?

Houthi Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Houthi followers demonstrating

At last there is the chance of meaningful Yemen peace talks, so we'd be well advised to expect an intensification of violence.

How does that make any sense? It comes down to the desire of the warring parties to influence the negotiation, by making last minute gains.

Read full article Yemen: will calls for peace lead to more violence?

Brexit: Article 50 is not fit for purpose

Brexit graphic Image copyright Getty Images

Perhaps the greatest fallacy in the UK's Brexit referendum was that there was a viable way to leave the European Union.

Each side in the campaign had its own reasons for wanting to ignore the fact that the process set out under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty was at best vague, at worst unfeasible.

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Brexit: sympathy without support from Europe's right

Graphically drawn Big Ben in blue overlaid with yellow EU stars

Time and again, the unity shown by the 27 other members of the European Union in the face of Brexit has wrong-footed Downing St.

Indeed, Karin Kneissl, the Austrian foreign minister told us in a Newsnight interview, Brexit is "the only topic [on which] we are as cohesive as we are".

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Salisbury poisoning: Skripals 'were under Russian surveillance'

  • 4 July 2018
  • From the section UK
Yulia and Sergei Skripal Image copyright Reuters/BBC

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were being monitored by the Russian authorities in the months before their poisoning, BBC Newsnight understands.

The government alleged, in a letter to Nato, that the Russian authorities had hacked into Yulia's email account in 2013.

Read full article Salisbury poisoning: Skripals 'were under Russian surveillance'