This week as world leaders descend on Carbis Bay for the G7 summit, major global challenges are on the table. So is Britain’s future.
International affairs are often framed as a choice between a country and the world. That’s nonsense. Diplomatic failures to solve the world’s problems have created real challenges – of low wages, economic decline, environmental damage and political upheaval – much closer to home.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s G7 is an opportunity to change that. We can seize the moment and embrace the big ideas that could deliver for communities from Barnsley to Baltimore.
World leaders such as President Joe Biden are responding to that hunger for change in their own countries with bold plans and new global ambition. G7 leaders will arrive in Carbis Bay armed with proposals to raise billions by forcing tech giants to pay their fair share in tax and invest big in green jobs.
However, it is the Conservative government – alone among G7 nations – that has been standing in the way of change. Boris Johnson has vowed to lead the world through Global Britain and promised to lead the country by levelling up, but whether through incompetence or indecision, he has dodged the tough decisions.
It is the British government that dragged its feet, trying to block a global minimum corporation tax of 21 per cent that could net £13.5bn for the UK every year. The government’s lack of ambition means that the agreement reached this week, well short of the original figure proposed by President Biden, will see the UK miss out on an additional £131m per week.
That’s money that could go towards delivering net zero carbon emissions in the UK and create 1.7 million new clean energy jobs in towns and cities across the country. In Grimsby and Hull, where offshore wind investment cut the number of people claiming unemployment benefit by close to 60 per cent, the future is calling.
Britain can be a world leader in developing the jobs and technologies of the future. But while G7 leaders will arrive in Cornwall with ambitious plans to invest in their own post-Covid green recovery, the UK is nowhere to be seen. President Biden has a $2 trillion (£1.4 trillion) climate plan. The UK has committed just £5bn to green stimulus – seven times less than Germany and five times less than France.
Now is not the time to be timid. Britain can lead the charge for change, but only if we are bold and ready to grasp the opportunities in front of us.
That means reinstating research partnerships into clean energy and bringing forward a multibillion-pound green recovery plan to create good-quality jobs in places that haven’t seen them for decades. It means leading the effort to vaccinate the world – fulfilling our moral duty and securing the livelihoods of people across Britain.
And it means investing in global programmes that save lives and protect our national security, not slashing aid funding in the midst of a pandemic. If Labour was in government, those would be our priorities for the summit. Priorities that deliver for Britain and for the world.
The prime minister begins this historic week with his promises on “Global Britain” and levelling up as little more than slogans, with no substance. Our country’s history is littered with examples – the creation of Nato, the cancellation of global debt, peace in Northern Ireland and a world first in the Climate Change Act – that show how, with leadership and ambition, things can be different.
This is the week to show it.
Lisa Nandy is shadow foreign secretary and the Labour MP for Wigan