Lula meeting tops off day of coronation diplomacy for Sunak

Rishi Sunak and world leaders discussed climate change, trade and sporting rivalry as the Prime Minister held a series of meetings ahead of the King’s coronation.

The calendar of pre-coronation diplomacy, which came amid a difficult set of local election results for Mr Sunak, saw the Australian and New Zealand prime ministers, the Emir of Qatar and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrive in Downing Street for separate meetings with the PM.

Climate change and trade talks dominated discussions, while the war in Ukraine also featured as Mr Sunak held the series of short engagements over the course of Friday.

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”.

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

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.

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New Zealand’s prime minister Chris Hipkins at 10 Downing Street with Rishi Sunak (Peter Nicholls/PA)

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

He added: “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”.

The pair also exchanged jokes about the sporting rivalry. 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.”

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”.

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese outside 10 Downing Street with Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The meeting between Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Mr Sunak saw the Prime Minister stress the “close partnership” on issues such as the war in Ukraine and regional security, while the Qatari leader spoke of the importance of last year’s World Cup, saying the country was “very proud” of the success of the footballing competition.

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.”

Amnesty International UK criticised Mr Sunak for his meeting with Sheikh Tamim.

Allan Hogarth, the group’s head of policy and government affairs, said that the Prime Minister should have used the meeting “as an opportunity to press him over the unfinished business of compensating thousands of migrant workers who were systematically exploited in Qatar in the run-up to the World Cup”.

He added: “The PM should be using what he calls the UK’s great partnership with Doha to insist that Qatar abolishes its disgraceful anti-LGBTQ+ laws, as well as lifting unacceptable restrictions on free speech and on women’s rights.”

The final meeting of Friday saw Mr Lula da Silva arrive in Downing Street, where he was greeted by crowds of supporters and protesters at the gates.

Mr Sunak joked to the left-wing leader that he hoped their conversation would be “less fierce than the competition between England and Brazil on the football field recently”, as he announced an £80 million UK investment in the Brazilian Amazon Fund to prevent deforestation.

The Brazilian president, who spoke through a translator, told the Prime Minister that his presence in the UK was not just for the coronation but to “re-establish normal relations”.

Apparently referring to his controversial predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, he said that this meeting was part of Brazil’s “comeback”.

“This is Brazil’s comeback in its relations with the world,” he said.

He said the country “isolated itself” in recent years, but said that Brazil wanted to come back and have discussions on trade.

Focusing too on climate change, he stressed the need for rich countries to support poorer nations’ efforts to prevent deforestation.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also met with Australia’s Mr Albanese, New Zealand’s Mr Hipkins and Israel’s president Isaac Herzog.