Leaders of Australia, New Zealand and Qatar visit No 10 for meetings with Sunak

Climate change, trade and quips about sporting rivalry were centre stage as Rishi Sunak held a series of meetings with world leaders ahead of the King’s coronation.

Mr Sunak, amid the backdrop of a difficult set of local elections results, continued with a calendar of pre-coronation diplomacy that saw him meet with the Australian and New Zealand prime ministers as well as the Emir of Qatar.

Australia’s Anthony Albanese said that the relationship between the two countries had “never been stronger”, while New Zealand’s Chris Hipkins praised ties as “the best it has been in a long time”.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who was greeted with a red carpet, said that the success of last year’s World Cup was in part a reflection of the strong partnership between the UK and Qatar.

King Charles III coronation
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, right, meets the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at 10 Downing Street (Peter Nicholls/PA)

The meetings were brief, with the Australian and New Zealand prime ministers spending about 30 minutes with Mr Sunak.

Mr Albanese, who spoke to reporters after the head-to-head, stressed the value of the recently agreed UK-Australian free trade deal and looked ahead to it coming into force at the end of the month.

He praised the “opportunities that presents for Australian businesses to have growth here in the UK and also, consequently, UK businesses to have growth in Australia”.

Mr Albanese said the two leaders also discussed how “people-to-people relations” could be “expanded”, referencing working holiday visas.

King Charles III coronation
New Zealand’s prime minister Chris Hipkins, left, at 10 Downing Street with Rishi Sunak (Peter Nicholls/PA)

He said the two men also discussed “co-operation on climate change”.

“Both governments believe there are enormous economic opportunities to be seized from action on climate change and, of course, our co-operation in the Indo-Pacific.”

He praised, too, the “bipartisan” nature of climate action in the UK, adding: “It should be in Australia as well.”

Mr Albanese also added he was glad the free trade deal has been completed in time for the King’s coronation, which he called a “historic event of enormous significance”.

Later, Mr Sunak and Mr Hipkins met over a plate of sausage rolls and tomato ketchup as the UK Prime Minister said that the “friendship and partnership between our countries is as strong as ever”.

The New Zealand leader, who stopped to chat to reporters after he left the meeting, said: “We discussed a range of areas in which New Zealand and the UK have mutual interests, that was a very positive conversation.”

He said the pair discussed the implementation of the free trade agreement between the countries, calling it a “significant milestone and a significant future opportunity for us to grow trade between both of our countries”.

The final meeting of the morning was between Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Mr Sunak, with the PM speaking of the “close partnership” on issues such as the war in Ukraine and regional security.

“We will also have a great conversation about strengthening our economic partnership, where I think there is lots we can do on the investment and jobs front.”

The Qatari leader said he was happy to be in London for the coronation, as he wished the King and all the people of the UK and Commonwealth “all the best”.

He spoke of the importance of last year’s World Cup, saying the country was “very proud” of the success of the footballing competition.

Sport had cropped up earlier too, with Mr Sunak and Mr Albanese exchanging jokes about the sporting rivalry between the UK and Australia.

This summer’s Women’s World Cup, hosted by Australia and New Zealand, as well as the upcoming Ashes series, both got mentions as Mr Albanese said that star striker Sam Kerr would help Australia “bring it home”.

Mr Sunak replied: “I’m sure the Lionesses may have something to say about that.”

In a statement, following the meeting with the emir, a Downing Street spokesman said: “The leaders discussed the exciting opportunities to deepen co-operation between our two countries, including through greater investment in strategic industries such the partnership between Qatar and Rolls-Royce to invest in ground-breaking green engineering projects.

“They highlighted the unique joint RAF squadrons operating in Qatar and committed to further develop our defence co-operation.

“Turning to international affairs, the leaders shared their deep concern at the unfolding conflict in Sudan. They stressed the importance of diplomatic efforts to facilitate talks between the parties, to end the violence and transition to a civilian-led democratic government.

“The Prime Minister also welcomed Qatar’s principled support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion and they agreed our governments would continue to work together to support Ukraine’s defence and recovery.”