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Trump: “Big day of negotiations with China” tomorrow with Xi deputy

Westlake Legal Group trump-xi-handshake Trump: “Big day of negotiations with China” tomorrow with Xi deputy Trade War The Blog Tariffs negotiations Huawei donald trump currency manipulator China

Could an end to the trade war with China be near? The highest level negotiations thus far since the two countries started lobbing full-scale tariffs at each other will take place tomorrow. Donald Trump announced a meeting with China’s Vice Premier Liu He on Twitter, but suggested he might not be all that eager to cut a deal, but China has also sounded less than positive about the potential for a breakthrough:

The U.S. and China have begun their principal-level negotiations in Washington on Thursday. Trump’s comment about a meeting with Liu contrasted with a report from the South China Morning Post that said the two sides made no progress in deputy-level trade talks this week and Liu will cut his visit short.

Stocks surged after the president’s tweet, rebounding from a wild overnight session sparked by the SCMP article as well as multiple other media reports.

Signs point to a potential change of direction. Rather than reach one overall settlement, the two countries might decide to make a series of targeted pacts where they can find agreement on trade issues:

Bloomberg News reported overnight that the White House is working up a partial deal to suspend next week’s tariff increase in exchange for a currency pact. The New York Times also reported that the Trump administration is grant licenses for some U.S. companies to sell nonsensitive supplies to Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

A deal on currency manipulation and Huawei would appear to be a balanced approach to each country’s interests and leverage. That could unlock other parts of a broader set of agreements down the road as a confidence builder. It’s not a bad place to start, but it doesn’t dig deeply into the US’ core issues of market access and intellectual-property protection, at least not yet.

Even before Trump’s tweet, rumors had floated about a potential trade deal with China. The Washington Post noted that investors got bullish yesterday afternoon after those rumors began to circulate, mainly leveraged off of the Bloomberg report. The Post also cast some doubt about Trump’s reluctance to deal:

Whether these escalating problems can be resolved during two days of talks is unclear, but the prolonged trade war has shown growing signs that it is causing problems for the economies in both countries. The Fed released the “minutes” of its September meeting on Wednesday, and the word “trade” appeared in the discussion 28 times. It said, among other things, that “trade policy concerns continued to weigh on firms’ investment decisions,” a sign that companies were cutting back while they await a resolution of the White House standoff with China.

Also Wednesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of new job openings had fallen to its lowest level since March 2018. The labor market has cooled a bit this year but it has remained relatively strong. Any sign of weakening heading into the 2020 election could create problems for the White House.

The labor market has cooled considerably, although job losses have not increased — yet. One has to go back a full year to find a monthly jobs report where additions significantly increase past the maintenance level needed for population growth. Last month, wages stagnated for the first time in a couple of years, which is another indicator of a job-market stall on the horizon. Trump needs an economy shifting back into high gear well ahead of the election, and most certainly won’t survive a recession or even a significant period of stagnation.

So yes, Trump needs a deal, but it can’t just be any deal. He will have to show significant wins now, thanks to the length of the current trade war and the damage it’s done to the agricultural sector especially. Farmers need to see immediate and significant benefits to keep them on board the Trump train.

Under normal circumstances, the presence of Liu and Trump at the bargaining table would indicate some sort of agreement has already been reached. That may not be true with Trump, who likes to do the negotiating himself, but it’s at least an indication that enough progress has been made for Trump to insert himself into the process.

The post Trump: “Big day of negotiations with China” tomorrow with Xi deputy appeared first on Hot Air.

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A UK-US trade deal. Never mind the economics (at least for a moment). Feel the politics.

“While trade deals have taken on an important political and symbolic value in the context of Brexit,” Dominic Walsh of Open Europe wrote recently on this site, “their economic benefits are typically smaller and slower to materialise than many realise.” This is the place to start when considering a possible UK-US agreement on trade.  Boris Johnson’s enthusiasm for one is as much political as economic: a successful deal would show Britain, as it moves a bit further from the EU, also moving a bit closer to America.

Such a rebalancing is a strategic consequence of Brexit, at least in the eyes of many backers of leaving the EU.  Future trade deals were a Vote Leave EU referendum priority – though it may be significant that the United States was not one of the headline countries named.  Perhaps the reason was a wariness of anti-American sentiment among a section of the voting public.  None the less, the prospect of a trade agreement with the United States was mooted during the 2016 campaign: hence Barack Obama’s line, written for him by Team Cameron, of Britain being “at the back of the queue” for such a deal.

The obstacles to one are formidable.  For while the Prime Minister is bound to view it through the lens of politics, Donald Trump is more likely to do through that of economics – though the one admittedly tends to blur into the other.  America’s approach to such matters as food safety and animal welfare, environmental protection and intellectual property rights is different from ours in any event.  Never mind the red herring of chlorinated chickens – so to speak – or autopilot claims from Corbynistas about NHS selloffs. The real action is elsewhere.  The United States has long had a protectionist streak, and is resistant to opening up its financial services markets, for example.

The conventional view is that Trump is the biggest America Firster of all; that he would drive a hard bargain, that he has the muscle to do so – and that he wouldn’t be in control of an agreement anyway.  Congress could block one if it wished, and might well do so in the event of No Deal, since the Irish-American lobby is as well-entrenched as ever.  It has been a headache for British governments over Ireland-linked matters before: remember the McBride principles.  A different take is that politics may win out in the end, because both Trump and Congress will want a UK trade deal in order to put economic and political pressure on the EU: we will publish more about that later this week.

John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Adviser, is visiting Britain.  He said yesterday that the UK will be “first in line” for a trade agreement post-Brexit – a deliberate counter to Obama’s line.  Bolton will be dangling the prospect as an inducement.  He will want Johnson to take a more resistant line to Huawei than Theresa May did, and for the UK to move closer to America’s position on Iran.  But the possibility of early sector deals – or at least the exclusion of Britain from new pro-protection moves – seems to be real enough.  As with the NHS, policing, immigration and stop and search, so with trade.  Johnson wants progress towards a quick win as a possible election looms.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Shades of Tiananmen? China orders police to tear-gas million-plus protesters holding up extradition bill

Westlake Legal Group cnn-hong-kong Shades of Tiananmen? China orders police to tear-gas million-plus protesters holding up extradition bill Xi Jinping Umbrella Movement The Blog Tariffs protests Huawei Hong Kong extradition CM2025 China Carrie Lam

China doubled down on its miscalculation in Hong Kong overnight after more than a million people spilled onto the streets to protest an extradition law demanded by Beijing. Roughly a seventh of the enclave’s population put the city in gridlock and prevented its semi-autonomous legislature from considering the bill. Police were ordered to break it up with teargas and water hoses, which already appears to be backfiring:

Despite the huge turnout and opposition across a wide swath of society, it seemed there was little anyone could do to stop it. Protests were expected Wednesday but more as a display of anger and venting of frustration, rather than an effective blocking tactic.

The young protesters, most in their teens or early twenties, had other ideas, however. By noon, the protest had transformed into a redux of the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

“(This) boils down to a display of people power in Hong Kong, a display in particular of young people power,” opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo told the tens of thousands who had gathered outside the Legislative Council building.

“At the end of the Umbrella Movement, didn’t we say, ‘we will be back’? And now, we are back!”

The Washington Post also recalls the 2014 protests in its report on today’s unrest. The larger issue is Beijing’s attempts to fully incorporate the former British colony and Commonwealth partner into its control. For the second time in five years, Beijing has miscalculated:

It was the second time in five years that Hong Kong’s main roads have been occupied in defiance of Beijing’s tightening control on the semiautonomous city. Hong Kong’s Harcourt Road, a major thoroughfare tying the city together, was the scene of massive street battles between the young protesters and police throughout the afternoon until the rally was dispersed by evening. …

Protesters said they wanted to send a clear message: that Hong Kong will continue to fight to the end against any move to extend Beijing’s dominance into their unique territory.

“We are trying to tell the government that the more they suppress us, the more we will fight back,” said Justin Tang, 25, an airline employee who was sitting on a road that would normally be filled with Hong Kong’s red-and-white taxis and speeding buses.

“Being the last city in China that is able to do that, we are going to hold on to that right,” he said.

The proposed law would essentially eliminate Hong Kong’s negotiated special status after the British pulled out in 1997. It would grant extradition requests with countries even without extant extradition treaties. That includes China, which would undoubtedly use that new authority to demand custody of dissidents remaining in Hong Kong, and more broadly have it as a threat against the enclave’s leadership. If they got too enthusiastic about autonomy, it wouldn’t take much for Beijing to trump up charges and force their extradition.

The miscalculation came not just in the law, but in the heavy-handed manner in which Hong Kong’s chief executive attempted to force it through. Carrie Lam is already known as “just a puppet of Beijing,” as one protester told the Post’s reporters, but this might put her in a new league of collaboration. Lam owes her appointed position to Beijing, and paid it back immediately on her installation two years ago by forcing out four pro-democracy legislators in a court challenge, then disqualifying a replacement for her support of “self-determination.” Lam’s status as a Beijing toady was therefore already well known, but this attempt to fully extend their authoritarian grip on Hong Kong may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Needless to say, this is not a good time for Xi Jinping to have to put down a revolt of his own making. The US is fighting a trade war with China, and a brutal suppression of democracy activists might swing even Trump’s opponents into supporting tariffs as a rebuke. Both the US and Europe are isolating Huawei, a Chinese telecom giant at the center of Xi’s plans to steal Western technology for its CM2025 project, and a new fight over Hong Kong will remind everyone as to what’s at stake in that fight, too. If Xi orders another Tiananmen-style assault on civilians, it might cut China off from the markets it needs to keep its grip on everyone else in China, if those repercussions last long enough.

Of course, they didn’t last anywhere near long enough after Tiananmen Square, the anniversary of which just passed in recent days. Have we learned a lesson from that failure?

The post Shades of Tiananmen? China orders police to tear-gas million-plus protesters holding up extradition bill appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group cnn-hong-kong-300x162 Shades of Tiananmen? China orders police to tear-gas million-plus protesters holding up extradition bill Xi Jinping Umbrella Movement The Blog Tariffs protests Huawei Hong Kong extradition CM2025 China Carrie Lam   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Our snap survey. The panel backs Williamson over May – up to a point.

Westlake Legal Group our-snap-survey-the-panel-backs-williamson-over-may-up-to-a-point Our snap survey. The panel backs Williamson over May – up to a point. ToryDiary Theresa May MP security National Security Huawei Gavin Williamson MP China

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-05-04-at-09.55.06 Our snap survey. The panel backs Williamson over May – up to a point. ToryDiary Theresa May MP security National Security Huawei Gavin Williamson MP China

We thought it would be interesting to find out what the panel thinks about Theresa May’s dismissal of Gavin Williamson.  So we inserted a question on the subject into our snap survey on yesterday’s local government elections.

Well over over two in five respondents, but not quite half, think she was wrong to do so.  Just under one in three believe she was right.  A plurality clearly think that her charge against him of leaking National Security Council discussions is unproven – if not unjustified altogether.

But with over one in five not taking a view either way, many Party members seem not to know quite what to think about the decision, at least yet.

What about the issue itself?  Over seven in ten of our respondents think that British governments should have nothing to do with Huawei at all – or at least that’s our reading of their stance.  See below.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-05-04-at-10.01.38 Our snap survey. The panel backs Williamson over May – up to a point. ToryDiary Theresa May MP security National Security Huawei Gavin Williamson MP China   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: The Williamson I got to know

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

When Gavin Williamson told a meeting of Ministry of Defence top brass that he had “made [Theresa May], so I can break her”, I doubt whether anyone in that room – let alone Williamson himself – could have foreseen that it would actually turn out to be the other way around.

Indeed, at a meeting in Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon, the Prime Minister told her Defence Secretary to “shut up and go Huawei” – or words to that effect.

Ad yet another shooting star joined that growing club of Ex-Future Prime Ministers.

It was without doubt the most brutal sacking letter issues by an occupant of Downing Street in living memory. Williamson’s reply was more measured, but full of hurt and a total lack of comprehension.

He remains adamant he wasn’t the leaker, and has refused to go quietly. The trouble is that there are few people who believe him. Circumstantially, the evidence points to him as guilty as charged – but we should bear in mind that circumstantial evidence can often be wrong. Ask Peter Mandelson. Ask Amber Rudd.

But, first, Williamson did indeed have an eleven minute telephone conversation with Steve Swinford, the journalist who wrote the National Security Council leak story, on the day of its publication.  Second, his media advisor is a former Daily Telegraph Defence Editor. Third, Williamson has a long track record of being China-sceptic. Fourth, although he is notoriously camera and microphone-shy, he is an inveterate gossip and relishes confiding in journalists.

But none of that means he can be found guilty without firm evidence, and that seems to be conspicuous by its absence here.

I wrote a five thousand word profile of Gavin Williamson for the Sunday Times last December. I didn’t know him before I was commissioned to write it. What I found was an incredibly likeable person. He seemed utterly devoted to his constituency and clearly loved doing the job at Defence.

He did tell me at one point, though, that he had also loved being Chief Whip, and would go back to the post like a shot. He had worked out by that point what his strengths were, and he clearly realised that being Chief Whip was a job he was almost born to do, and was bloody good at, whereas maybe Defence didn’t quite fit him like a hand in a glove.

He missed being in and out of Number Ten. He missed being so close to the Prime Minister. He missed her asking his advice so much. In short, he missed being a player.

Over the last year, after recovering from several high-profile gaffes, he knuckled down at Defence and scored some victories. However, Downing Street officials persisted in tearing their collective hair out over his various pronouncements, and his pivot from Remain to Leave, and his increasingly robust pronouncements on Brexit in Cabinet left them perplexed.

His relationship with Theresa May had certainly cooled, according to insiders. Perhaps this made her decision to sack him a little easier than it might have been otherwise.

I am not sure we will ever get to the truth of what exactly happened. Swinford, in theory, could come to Williamson’s rescue, if the latter wasn’t indeed the source of the leak, but it would be highly unusual for a journalist to do something like that, and it would set what might become an unfortunate precedent.

The only other way for anything to be resolved would be for the police to conduct an inquiry, and this is where Labour should concentrate their ammunition. In my view, unless there is actual physical proof, a policy inquiry is unlikely to reach an evidential bar – but politically the issue is a gift for Labour.

As for Williamson himself, he should take some advice from Andrew Mitchell, who has been through something vaguely similar. In his case, he resigned protesting his innocence over ‘Plebgate’.

That seems rather trifling, compared to the issue of leaks from the National Security Committee, but there are some parallels to be drawn. The worst thing that Williamson could do is spend the next ten years brooding over what might have been. Out of threats come opportunities, and he would do well to think on that.

– – – – – – – – – –

Talking of opportunities, let’s turn to Penny Mordaunt.

I’ve always considered her a real dark horse to succeed Theresa May, and this promotion certainly won’t do her prospects any harm at all. I’m certain that the new Defence Secretary will stand – and she could well come through the middle as everybody’s compromise candidate. There’s a lot to be said for being everyone’s second choice.

Mordaunt is a Brexiteer, although she will have some explaining to do with the ERG since, like Michael Gove, Liam Fox, Andrea Leadsom and Chris Grayling, she has dipped her hands into the Chequers blood.  But she’s popular across the parliamentary party, and I suspect that the same would apply to the voluntary party – but they need an opportunity to get to know her. This job gives her the chance to enable them to do just that.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Risking our security. Risking our alliances. Opening our infrastructure up to China is a risk too far.

Whether you think Gavin Williamson leaked or not; whether you think such a leak (by Williamson or anyone else) was justified or no;  whether you think May was right to sack Williamson for allegedly leaking or not, the Huawei question remains unsettled.

If, as is reported, the Prime Minister hoped to “draw a line” under both the leak and the wider policy dispute by acting so firmly, that has evidently failed. Not only because the former Defence Secretary is vocally protesting his innocence while the Government is unwilling to release its evidence, but because the underlying issue which the leaker was concerned about retains its importance.

It is three and a half years since Nick Timothy warned on this site that the UK was placing itself at risk of espionage and hostile action by allowing China to gain access to its essential infrastructure, from energy generation to telecommunications. His concern went unheeded then, as the Prime Minister has ignored it from many other voices now.

So is there an issue with Huawei? Should the UK be concerned about the company?

First, let’s not make the mistake of treating this as just another private sector provider. After all, China is not just another country. Despite a degree of marketisation and the toleration of the profit motive, it remains a fundamentally authoritarian state, a rising superpower which holds that its own citizens are first and foremost bound to be obedient to the collective interest. It holds no free elections, it tolerates no internal opposition, and it operates vast abuses of human rights – most recently in the huge repression targeted at Uighurs, which includes mass detention in concentration camps for the purposes of ‘re-education’. Domestically and internationally, China is notable in viewing modern communications technology as a threat to be controlled by the state and an opportunity to pry into and restrict its citizens and rivals.

It would be naive not to recognise that any organisation flourishing in these conditions does so only because it is allowed to exist and grow by the consent of the Chinese state. The exact nature of the relationship is a chicken and egg question; what matters is the fact that major Chinese telecoms companies are based in a totalitarian state which requires obedience and is known to run extensive cyber-spying operations around the world. It is an unavoidable fact that the state in question could snuff out such companies if it wished.

So in a simple assessment of risk on a common sense basis, allowing any such provider into sensitive UK infrastructure would appear unwise. What’s more, there are reports of specific concerns about Huawei-provided devices. Bloomberg reports that Vodafone found 26 security issues with equipment from Huawei, including six “critical” and nine “major” security holes, and that these problems were found in several Western countries.

Huawei deny those claims on the basis that these are not backdoors – intentional ways in – but innocent mistakes, a mixture of oversights and legitimate diagnostic tools accidentally not removed after installation. This should be treated with some scepticism. For obvious reasons, deliberate backdoors are designed to appear inadvertent, innocent and therefore deniable – that’s far from unusual in espionage. Furthermore, the report Bloomberg has had access to includes a claim by Vodafone’s then-Chief Information Security Officer at the time that Huawei failed to honestly resolve the issues when they were discovered:

“What is of most concern here is that actions of Huawei in agreeing to remove the code, then trying to hide it, and now refusing to remove it as they need it to remain for ‘quality’ purposes…”

A third and final consideration for the UK should be the position of our closest allies on Huawei. The company is banned from government work in the US and Australia, Canada is considering such a ban, and New Zealand’s security services have forbidden Huawei components from being imported for use in 5G networks. Those four countries, along with the UK, make up the essential Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance. If our trusted allies are acting on these concerns, we should take note. What’s more, the US is so concerned about China penetrating UK communications networks via Huawei that they are threatening to withdraw intelligence-sharing if London allows the Chinese firm to take part in 5G.

This is blunt stuff, but hard to ignore. There are sensible reasons to be wary of Huawei, and China’s cyber operations, in principle and, it appears, in practice. By definition there is no way to be certain except to take a severe risk and suffer as a result – it is in the nature of managing risks that we should err on the side of caution.

Even if you are not bothered by the evidence, or by the nature and circumstance of the company in question, and think it a risk worth taking in itself, then the views of our allies should still settle the question. This is a risk too far.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Williamson’s side of the story. Sedwill was “out to get him”.

Friends of Gavin Williamson offer his side of the story as follows.  He did speak to Steven Swinford, the Daily Telegraph journalist who wrote the story about the Huawei debate in the National Security Council, last Tuesday.  But, they say, Swinford phone him, and the discussion wasn’t about Huawei – let alone the NSC discussion about allowing the company to help build Britain’s 5G network.  “The conversation had nothing to do with national security – I can tell you that,” ConservativeHome is told.

The Williamson camp claim that Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary who undertook the leak enquiry, has had an unhappy relationship with the former Defence Secretary, and that Sedwill “was out to get Gavin”.  They say that the two got off to a bad start when Williamson clashed with the Cabinet Secretary over the National Security Capability Review.  The former wanted the defence element of the review dealt with separately – and eventually succeeded in doing so.

They go on to allege that Sedwill told a meeting of civil servants last Wednesday – the day of Swinford’s Telegraph story – that Williamson was responsible for the leak, that this pre-empted and prejudiced any enquiry, and that Sedwill consequently showed at least one private text message to him from the former Defence Secretary to third parties.

Williamson’s friends insist that the first he heard of the story was when listening to Today last Wednesday morning.  That he assumed the Cabinet Office was itself responsible.  That he told David Lidington, the Cabinet Office Minister, so at breakfast in the Commons that morning.  And that he then told staff at the Ministry of Defence both that this was his view, and that he had spoken to Swinford the previous day – but not about the NSC proceedings.

The Prime Minister apparently offered him the choice of resignation or sacking this evening – and left her own room in Downing Street to let him decide.  Williamson told her on return that he wasn’t responsible for the leak, was refusing to resign and that “he hoped she’d remember in the future that she’d fired an innocent man”.

The nub of the matter is whether one believes Williamson’s account; whether the enquiry has been properly conducted, and whether or not others who attended the NSC meeting in question – or still others who they may have spoken to – can be proven not to have been in touch with Swinford on the same day.

Common sense suggests that it will be impossible to prove that no-one other than Williamson did so, or that Swinford was not able to put his story together from a variety of sources.  The former Defence Secretary’s allies insist that “nothing would please Gavin more than if the police were called in – because then we’d be able to have a proper investigation”.  It is also being reported that the inquiry was instigated by Sedwill, not by May.

It should be added that Downing Street strongly denies that last claim, not to mention any suggestion of a vendetta, and “draws attention to the Prime Minister’s letter” – which suggests that other Cabinet Minister engaged with the enquiry with a fullness that Williamson did not, and that “the appropriate conclusion must be drawn”.

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WILLIAMSON FIRED OVER HUAWEI LEAK. MAY HAS “LOST CONFIDENCE” IN HIM. DOWNING STREET STATEMENT.

“The Prime Minister has this evening asked Gavin Williamson to leave the Government, having lost confidence in his ability to serve in the role of Defence Secretary and as a member of her Cabinet.

“The Prime Minister’s decision has been informed by his conduct surrounding an investigation into the circumstances of the unauthorised disclosure of information from a meeting of the National Security Council.

“The Prime Minister thanks all members of the National Security Council for their full cooperation and candour during the investigation and considers the matter closed.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How far should Sedwill go over the Huawei leak?

‘ “This is quite ridiculous,” David Cameron snapped at ministers gathered in Britain’s modest version of the White House situation room, known as Cobra, in the depths of the Cabinet Office. “Why cannot I just order they are going to go, and I will provide a waiver and indemnity on the legalities?” ‘

We quote from the Guardian‘s account of a National Security Council meeting in 2011, and of how “the Prime Minister’s irritation was directed at Dominic Grieve” in “Britain’s modest version of the White House situation room, known as Cobra, in the depths of the Cabinet Office”.  The row was over the legality of transferring money to Libyan rebels.

Are you dissatisfied with the Guardian as a source?  In which case, let us refer you to a Times report of the same year.  “[Alan] Duncan confronted the NSC with intelligence from the oil world that hastily arranged sanctions were hurting the rebels while leaving the Libyan dictator’s war machine untouched”.

Which brings us to the current row over the leak to the Daily Telegraph of an NSC row about Huawei – and whether the Chinese company should or should not help to build Britain’s new 5G network.  The point we are making is obvious.  Contrary to some claims, leaks from the NSC aren’t new.  The question is: given that context, what should be done about this one?  Journalists and Ministers have different interests here – not only from each other but even, sometimes, among themselves.

Journalists love leaks.  At least, those who get them do.  Leaks mean stories and stories mean kudos – which Steven Swinford, who took the lead in breaking the Telegraph story, has thus gained.

But what about other journalists?  Sometimes, they take a different approach, particularly if they don’t get so many leaks themselves.  They reach instead for another sort of story – exposing the mole!  Or at least hinting at who he or she might be.  Or at the very least luring one of their colleagues to do so, in a game of grandmother’s footsteps.  The first step of the game is well-known: ask cui bono?

In this case, the beneficiary might be an unhappy civil serrvant.  Or a Special Adviser doing what his or her Minister has told them to do.  Or that SpAd doing what he thinks his Minister would want without actually having been told.  (Cabinet Ministers are not meant to discuss NSC proceedings with their SpAds, by the way)  Or a Minister who is a leadership contender seeking to do down another Minister who is a leadership contender.  It is that delicious possibility which has excited some journalists almost beyond endurance.

No to mention some Ministers, too.  Naturally, they all deplore leaks – unless, needless to say, they are leaking themselves.  And so they are currently doing, on an unprecedented scale.  Some have always briefed journalists about what happens in Cabinet – in recent times, at any rate.  What has changed is that some now do so before the meeting has even taken place, telling those the hacks in question what they propose to say before they have even said it.  It isn’t at all clear why policy discussions at the NSC are more sacronsanct than those at Cabinet.

For Ministers, read civil servants, too.  Mark Sedwill is reported to be furious about the leak.  The Cabinet Secretary is demanding that the personal e-mails and mobile phones of Cabinet Ministers as well as SpAds are checked.  We trust that he is being no less exacting about the leak in March of secret Cabinet Office documents about the preparedness of government for No Deal.

On the Huawei leak, the following applies, or should do.

First, the Government is perfectly entitled to crack down on leaks, if it wishes.  If it wants, say, to check the mobile phones of Ministers – and not simply target their SpAds pour décourager les autres – all well and good.

Second – and the point does not contradict the first – the Huawei story is a legitimate one.  It was basically the account of a policy disagreement, not of secret operations.

It follows that proportionality is required.  Had the Telegraph, say, revealed the names of any British agents who may happen to be operating  in China – not that one can imagine such a thing – government would be entitled to bring the full force of GCHQ to bear.

But the paper did nothing of the kind.  Certainly, its account will have been inconvenient for Sir Mark, as well as for the Government more broadly.  It will have wanted to present the Huawei decision as Ministers getting tough on China, by restricting the firm’s access.   After all, this is a Home Office government with a security focus.  The Prime Minister is a former Home Secretary and Sedwill a former Permanent Secretary in the department.

Instead, the Telegraph framed the story as Ministers going weak on China, carrying a quote critical of the decision from Tom Tugendhat, and others presenting the country in a negative light.

A question for Sedwill, then, is: how far does he want to go over a leak that, though rare in character, was far from exceptional?  Is it worth perhaps obtaining a Ministerial scalp over the matter, with the Government in its current condition, by ordering an enquiry more exacting than the usual one?  Should the police be called in?  As we say, a crackdown on leaks would, within sensible limits, be perfectly in order.  But with a Government so febrile, Theresa May should beware of the law of unexpected consequences.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com