Sunak Forced to Deny Being Snubbed at G-7 After D-Day Gaffe

(Bloomberg) -- Rishi Sunak can’t afford another D-day gaffe.

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On what is likely one of his last high-profile international trips, the UK prime minister was left denying being snubbed at the Group of Seven summit. He is under intense scrutiny as he heads into a July 4 general election that polls say he will lose by a wide margin.

He’s still apologizing for skipping out early on his most recent foray overseas, so the last thing he needed was to have to tell a UK press pack that his G-7 cohort weren’t ignoring him.

Sunak had failed to schedule any official one-on-ones with other G-7 leaders before sneaking in an unplanned meeting with Japan’s Fumio Kishida toward the end of the summit, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. He’s crossed paths on the sidelines with Italian host Giorgia Meloni, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Olaf Scholz.

That schedule is unusual for a British prime minister at a G-7 summit. At last year’s gathering in Hiroshima, Japan, Sunak sat down with the host, as well as the leaders of Italy and France.

In Italy, Sunak defended his timetable to reporters.

“You can do lots of meetings with people in the margins of things and that’s exactly what I have been doing,” he said Thursday in response to a Bloomberg question at the summit. “I’ve already sat down with Emmanuel, spoken to Olaf about a bunch of things.”

He added: “That’s the beauty of summits like this, actually: the intimacy of them.”

He did meet formally with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and India’s Narendra Modi, and is scheduled to meet a delegation from the UAE. He told reporters he also plans to watch the first fixture of the European football championships, between Germany and Scotland, with Scholz on Friday evening.

The British premier is on track to lose the UK election next month, with Keir Starmer’s opposition Labour Party holding a stubborn poll lead in excess of 20 points over the governing Conservatives. In a new setback, Reform — led by staunch euroskeptic Nigel Farage — overtook the Conservatives for the first time in an opinion poll on Thursday.

“We’re only halfway through this election, so I’m still fighting very hard for every vote,” Sunak said in Italy, when asked if this caused him despair.

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The G-7 gathering had been due to be Sunak’s last foreign visit before the election, but he’s now going to attend a summit about Ukraine in Switzerland this weekend, people familiar with the matter said.

--With assistance from Ania Nussbaum, Arne Delfs, Alberto Nardelli and Alex Wickham.

(Updates with details of Kishida meeting in the fourth paragraph.)

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