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The British Empire’s Remnants Consider Moving On

As Britons celebrate 70 years of Queen Elizabeth, other countries are questioning her position as their head of state.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth and her family
Britain's Queen Elizabeth and her family
(From left) Prince Charles; Queen Elizabeth II; Prince Louis; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; and Princess Charlotte on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London on June 2. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the endurance of the British monarchy abroad, Russia-Africa ties, and more news worth following from around the world.

Have tips or feedback? Hit reply to this email to let me know your thoughts.


Who’s Sticking With the British Monarchy?

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the endurance of the British monarchy abroad, Russia-Africa ties, and more news worth following from around the world.

Have tips or feedback? Hit reply to this email to let me know your thoughts.


Who’s Sticking With the British Monarchy?

Britain marks 70 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s rule today with celebrations including a four-day weekend, street parties, and a host of official programs to commemorate her reign. Citing ongoing “episodic mobility issues,” the queen is expected to skip some parts of today’s program.

A hugely popular figure nationally (she commands a net favorability rating of +69, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson languishes at -42), that hasn’t stopped the countries where she remains head of state questioning whether to end their relationship with the British monarchy.

Late last year, Barbados became the latest country to abandon the Windsor ship, officially becoming a republic in November. The ceremony was a look into the country’s past and future, with Prince Charles acknowledging the “appalling atrocity of slavery” that the island had endured, while new President Sandra Mason used her new powers to anoint Rihanna, the country’s best-known export, as a national hero.

Barbados’s independence is part of a wider push in the Caribbean, home to six of the 14 states that still embrace the queen as head of state, to reassess their relationship with their former colonial overseer.

The drive is in part due to an “awakening of Black consciousness” across the world and in the Caribbean, in particular—largely spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, Arley Gill, Grenada’s ambassador to the Caribbean Community, or Caricom, told FP’s Mary Yang in April.

The next to move on might well be Jamaica. Prince William, second in the line of succession, received a frosty welcome on a recent Caribbean tour amid calls for a royal apology for colonialism and reparations for perpetuating slavery.

On the trip, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness told William the country would soon be “moving on” from the monarchy, later tweeting that a transition to a republic was “inevitable.”

In the two largest countries that still hold the queen supreme, Australia and Canada, the transition to a republic isn’t yet on the agenda.

Australia’s Labor Party, now in power following its victory in last month’s election, said it supported an Australian republic as part of its 2021 platform, but actions are unlikely to follow those words, for now.

“It will take time, but if you want to do it properly, we should begin the discussion now, so we’re ready to go in a second term of an Albanese government,” Matt Thistlethwaite, Australia’s assistant minister for the republic, told the Guardian.

In Canada, the complex constitutional amendment needed to replace the queen as head of state contributes to its inertia.

Polls don’t show a clear majority in favor of change, either, although support for a republic is increasing. A poll released in April found that 51 percent of Canadians were in favor of ditching the British monarchy, up from 38 percent when the question was asked in 2016.

In Britain itself, even a split kingdom—in the event of Scottish independence—isn’t likely to reduce the monarchy’s stature on the island. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her party’s independence policy was “to remain as part of the Commonwealth with the Queen and her successors as head of state.”

“I actually don’t think that this weekend is the time to really be talking about these things,” Sturgeon added.


What We’re Following Today

Russia-AU talks. Senegalese President Macky Sall heads to Sochi, Russia, today to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the “liberation of the stocks of grain and fertilizers,” Sall’s office said on Thursday, as rising food prices driven by the war in Ukraine hit home on the African continent. Sall, who also serves as head of the African Union, is also expected to discuss AU-Russia ties.

North Korea talks. Three-way talks on North Korea between Japan, South Korea, and the United States take place today in Seoul, with U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim joining his Japanese and South Korean counterparts. The meeting follows remarks from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Tuesday, in which she said the United States would pursue additional sanctions against Pyongyang if it conducted a nuclear weapons test.

At the moment, North Korea’s greatest concern is its COVID-19 epidemic, which puts its system at perhaps “its most vulnerable ever,” Doug Bandow writes in Foreign Policy. Bandow recommends preparing for a possible implosion of the North Korean state now, including planning for reunification, rather than later.


Keep an Eye On

Saied’s tightening grip. Tunisian President Kais Saied fired 57 judges on Wednesday as he continues to consolidate power following a power grab last July. Although popular, Saied faces increased opposition from Tunisian civil society groups, with the largest trade union, UGTT, set to hold a strike on June 16.

China’s Taiwan warning. China’s foreign ministry spokesman has criticized the United States for beginning new trade talks with Taiwan, which started on Wednesday. Zhao Lijian said the talks “disrupt peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” and urged Washington to “stop negotiating agreements with Taiwan that have sovereign connotations and official nature.”

Yemen’s truce. The United Nations announced a two-month extension to Yemen’s truce, itself two months old, after weeks of negotiating between the parties in the eight-year war finally bore fruit on the deadline day.

“The truce represents a significant shift in the trajectory of the war and has been achieved through responsible and courageous decision making by the parties,” U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said in a statement. In a statement welcoming the deal, U.S. President Joe Biden singled out Saudi Arabia for its “courageous leadership” in bringing about the truce.


Odds and Ends

A man in Singapore has escaped the death penalty after a fellow inmate was able to corroborate his alibi with a life-saving tattoo. Raj Kumar Aiyachami was sentenced to death for possession of nearly 4.5 pounds of cannabis, which he maintained was delivered to him in error instead of the bag of “butterfly,” a chemically treated tobacco he claimed to have ordered.

Mark, a cellmate, was able to back up his version of events, telling a court he had received the “butterfly” bag instead of the cannabis he wanted on the same day Aiyachami had. The reason Mark remembered the date, he said, was a small finger tattoo that read “RIP 21.9.15 PAT” that he had gotten in memory of a beloved pet hamster who had died that day.

An initial trial dismissed the evidence as likely collusion, but a court of appeal took the men at their word, acquitting Aiyachami. Ramesh Tiwary, his lawyer, told Vice World News that Mark’s testimony “was a lucky break.”


That’s it for today

For more from FP, visit foreignpolicy.com, subscribe here, or sign up for our other newsletters. If you have tips, comments, questions, or corrections you can reply to this email.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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