New England foreign secretary David Lammy wants to restore ties with the EU

image source, EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

image caption, David Lammy (R) talks with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski

  • author, Paul Adams
  • stock, BBC News
  • Report from Bydgoszcz, Northern Poland

Arranged at very short notice, David Lammy’s first trip as foreign secretary was not about immediate results or bold new frontiers.

It’s all about sentiment – ​​the appearance of a new, vigorous administration, determined to hit the ground running, infusing goodwill with some of the UK’s most important partners.

After spending an evening with his German opponent Annalena Baerbach – and both found time to watch a few minutes of England’s European Championship quarter-final – Mr Lammy’s tour moved on to the country estate of Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski.

After two hours of talks, the plane turned for a short flight north to Sweden, one of NATO’s newest members.

Why Germany, Poland and Sweden?

Partly due to Ukraine. Along with Britain, all three countries play a key role in sustaining Kiev’s war effort. Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer’s government insists the UK’s commitment to Ukraine remains firm as new Defense Secretary John Healey takes the stage in Odessa.

“We want to redouble our commitment to Ukraine,” Mr Lammy said, as dragonflies swooped over the calm lake and a pair of majestic eagles circled overhead.

France, in the midst of its own election — which looks set to have far-reaching consequences — is not on the itinerary. Not this weekend.

But Poland and Sweden are both key European partners and fellow NATO members – good places for the foreign secretary to start exploring the contours of a closer future relationship.

“I want to reset both our bilateral relationship and our relationship with the EU,” Mr Lammy said, referring to Labour’s still-bad pledge to strike on a new EU-UK defense deal.

When European leaders gather at Blenheim Palace on July 18 for the next meeting of the European political community (established by Emmanuel Macron in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), “a spirit of new cooperation will emerge,” he said. .

image caption, Lammy and his Polish counterpart embraced ahead of the talks

Lammy’s concerns: Russia, China, Gaza

The trip comes just days before Sir Keir takes his own first steps on the international stage as prime minister at a NATO summit in Washington DC.

These are tricky times for strengthening ties, with France moving to the right and America on the brink of returning the unpredictable Donald Trump to office.

Mr Lammy acknowledged it was a “difficult geopolitical moment” but said it was important not to confuse differences between mature democracies with threats posed by authoritarian regimes.

“I worry when I see the return of Iranian drones in Ukraine,” he said.

“I am concerned to see North Korea’s bombs being used here on European soil.

“Certainly I’m worried about a partnership that sees Russia brokering work in those authoritarian states.”

image caption, The New England government reaffirms its firm support for Ukraine

In Germany on Saturday, Mr Lammy spoke of the need for a “more balanced approach to Israel-Gaza”.

It’s unclear exactly what he said, but as cease-fire talks prepare to resume, finding a way to end the Gaza war and revive the Arab-Israeli peace process looks set to take up a great deal of diplomatic time in the coming months.

For his part, Mr Lammy’s distinguished anglophone host said the relatively new Polish government shared something in common with the incoming Starmer administration.

Both, Mr Sikorski said, were “the result of the public being fed up with nationalist politics” – which only partly reflected the reality of last week’s general election.

Mr Sikorski said he expected a “more pragmatic approach” from Britain to its relationship with Europe and the two ministers discussed “some creative ideas about how to take that further”.

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