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What to Expect Under Rishi Sunak

The new British leader assumes power amid political and economic turbulence.

By , a reporter at Foreign Policy.
Then-British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak leaves the prime minister's office.
Then-British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak leaves the prime minister's office.
Then-British Treasury chief Rishi Sunak leaves the prime minister's office at 11 Downing Street in London on May 26. Leon Neal/Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Britain’s new prime minister, the fragile Black Sea grain deal, and the U.S. Justice Department’s charges against two suspected Chinese spies.

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Who Is Britain’s New Leader?

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Britain’s new prime minister, the fragile Black Sea grain deal, and the U.S. Justice Department’s charges against two suspected Chinese spies.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Who Is Britain’s New Leader?

Rishi Sunak officially became the British prime minister after meeting with King Charles III at Buckingham Palace today, making him the third person to hold the position in just two months as Britain is embroiled in economic crisis and political turmoil.

This political whiplash underscores the turbulent period in which Sunak has assumed power—and the mountain of obstacles he will soon face. From soaring inflation to painfully high energy bills, the British public has been confronting a gloomy economic outlook, and the government’s revolving door of prime ministers has done little to ease widespread uncertainty.

“There is no doubt we face profound economic challenges,” Sunak said on Monday. “We now need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring my party and country together.”

Sunak’s victory is one of historic milestones: He is the first person of color to assume the position and the youngest to do so in two centuries. A former British Treasury chief, Sunak is replacing the deeply unpopular Liz Truss, whose plan to make unfunded tax cuts roiled markets and ultimately forced the Bank of England to step in.

Both Sunak and Truss had previously faced off in the leadership race to replace then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson in September. In July, Sunak had criticized her proposed plans as a “fairy tale.”

What his own economic agenda will look like is more hazy. He has divulged few details on his proposed policies. Although, given the country’s precarious economic outlook, most expect higher taxes and reduced spending.

As Sunak attempts to wrangle the country’s spiraling economic crisis and restore public confidence in the government, there is also the added dimension of his own financial position—he is among Britain’s wealthiest. That has drawn concern among some Britons that he will not be able to understand a public strained by soaring inflation.


What We’re Following Today

Shaky grain deal. Ukrainian authorities have accused Russia of undermining the Black Sea grain deal by holding up ships, thereby limiting the amount of grain able to reach other countries. According to the United Nations, there is currently a logjam of over 150 cargo ships. Officials are now scrambling to extend the fragile agreement, which is set to end in late November.

Huawei investigation. The U.S. Justice Department has charged two Chinese intelligence officers with working to undermine a U.S. investigation into a Chinese telecommunications company, officials announced on Monday. The company is widely believed to be Huawei; officials said the individuals had attempted to bribe a U.S. official in order to obtain secrets concerning the case.

“This was an egregious attempt by PRC intelligence officers to shield a PRC-based company from accountability and to undermine the integrity of our judicial system,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.


Keep an Eye On

Ethiopia’s peace talks. Delegates from the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces convened for African Union-brokered peace negotiations in South Africa on Monday. During the last week, Ethiopian and Eritrean forces have made substantial military advances into the Tigray region, further escalating the nearly two-year war.

Turkey’s forced deportations. From February to July this year, Turkey detained and forcibly repatriated hundreds of Syrian refugees, according to a new Human Rights Watch report. Refugees reported being beaten and forced to agree to repatriation paperwork. At the border, Turkish authorities forced them to exit the country at gunpoint, they said.

“In violation of international law, Turkish authorities have rounded up hundreds of Syrian refugees, even unaccompanied children, and forced them back to northern Syria,” said Nadia Hardman, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.


Monday’s Most Read

What the Hell Just Happened to Hu Jintao? by James Palmer

Veteran Israeli Diplomat: ‘We Are Only Part of the West When It Suits Us’ by Ben Lynfield

Xi’s Third Term Is a Gift in Disguise by Craig Singleton


Odds and Ends 

Scientists are training rats to carry miniature backpacks and help rescuers locate survivors after natural disasters, such as earthquakes. In current training exercises, the rats are taught to find a target, set off an alarm in their vests, and then go back to their starting point, CNN reported. Researchers are still working to create a backpack that can hold a microphone, camera, and location-tracking device.

“Rats are typically quite curious and like to explore—and that is key for search and rescue,” Donna Kean, the research project’s leader, told CNN.

Christina Lu is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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