G7 summit agenda is toughest yet as Boris Johnson faces tough baptism – Bernard Ingham

IN line with today’s perceived imperative of getting out of London, this weekend’s G7 Economic Summit is to be held in Carbis Bay in nether Cornwall.

Boris Johnson will host this week's summit of G7 world leaders.

It may seem a curious place for the leaders of the free world to meet after my tour of these summits as the British spokesman in the 1980s.

I briefed the media in Venice (twice) Montebello in Quebec, Versailles, Williamsburgh, USA, Bonn, Tokyo, Paris and Houston as well as London.

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While Carbis Bay is not in the front rank for international summit venues, it presents problems that dwarf those of its 46 predecessors.

President Joe Biden's first overseas visit will be to Britain and this week's G7 summit of world leaders.

It is lifting with issues compared with my 10 gatherings of the leaders of the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK.

I would go so far as to say that this G7 is also probably the most crucial we have yet seen.

The range of issues on its plate is enough to make even that eternal optimist, Boris Johnson gulp at the sight of it.

How’s this as a test of the free world?

Police officers patrol the railway tracks into Carbis Bay, Cornwall, ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall.

1. Overcoming Covid and preventing a damaging viral recurrence – global vaccination and the suspicions about the source and China’s early handling of it;

2. Securing global economic recovery threatened by protectionism and inflation;

3. Improving East-West relations, with both China and Russia in expansionist Cold War mood;

4. The relative weakness of the West with President Joe Biden yet to make his mark, Angela Merkel on her way out, possibly followed by Emannuel Macron, and discord within the EU whose Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, also attends;

5. Facing the threat to the Far East from Chinese ambitions and the damage it is wreaking on Hong Kong in breach of a treaty; significantly, the leaders of Australia, India and South Korea have been invited;

6. Sorting out the mess that is the Middle East with Israel in political turmoil after its latest clash with Hamas in Gaza, and the likelihood of a new hardline supreme leader in Iran;

7. Combatting climate change amid all the manoeuvrings before the UN’s 26th summit on the issue (COP) in Glasgow in the autumn.

8. Confronting the tech tycoons of Silicon Valley; while Chancellor Rishi Sunak seems to have got a deal on taxing their profits, what about their moral responsibility for controlling the output of the anti-social media that is corrupting young people and enabling criminals to prey on the unsuspecting?

All this is an unprecedented test of the West’s statesmanship, seriousness of intent and ability to come together in a crisis in the interests of billions of people.

Any apparent weakness or lack of resolve in the leaders’ response to these issues will only encourage the Communist world, Iran and the world’s criminals.

This is where perhaps the EU is the greatest threat.

Discontent is growing in both France and Germany causing worries that we could see ‘Frexit’ and ‘Gexit’ after Brexit.

The institution’s cohesion is at an alarmingly low level, partly as a result of its unimpressive response to Covid.

Yet there is precious little discussion 
of an end to federal integration which 
was primarily the cause of the UK’s secession.

It falls to Boris Johnson to lead the 
free world out of this threatening 
maze.

Can he inspire his colleagues to rise to the challenge or are they too preoccupied with domestic affairs to respond?

It will be a severe condemnation if they are, given the vital need for unity of purpose.

We shall see.

But what they must avoid, especially over economic recovery, tackling Silicon Valley’s moguls and climate change, is signalling virtue without accompanying intent.

Before he meets the Queen, President Biden’s apparent belief that he can spend his way out of Covid and its economic consequences needs serious examination.

Is Boris, with his well-known lack of financial discipline, the man to do this? If not, who else?

Similarly, the risk is that the summit will promise the earth to combat climate change, given the impending UN conference and Boris’s attachment to thousands more wind farms.

The lot of them have still to explain how we can save the planet without wrecking the economy and the countryside we are supposed to be re-wilding and keeping the lights on.

In short, what the free world wants (and the Communists don’t want) from Cornwall is a sober recognition of the enormity of the problems facing a divided world and a realistic plan for action.

Let’s hope the leaders emerge as the Magnificent Seven.

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