Rishi Sunak was elected as Britain’s third prime minister of the year. He faces the task of controlling the economic crisis that has placed the nation’s finances in peril and millions of people struggling to pay their food and utility bills.
Sunak, the first leader of colour in the United Kingdom, met King Charles III at Buckingham Palace, where the monarch customarily requested the new head of the ruling Conservative Party to form a cabinet.
Sunak’s appointment has prompted responses from world leaders. After a few “turbulent” weeks, many extended their congratulations and expressed hope for stability.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “As you become UK PM, I look forward to working closely together on global issues, and implementing Roadmap 2030,” alluding to a framework agreement reached between the two nations. “Special Diwali wishes to the ‘living bridge’ of UK Indians, as we transform our historic ties into a modern partnership.”
India has taken notice of Sunak’s appointment, with news outlets starting to run rolling coverage. One channel described it as “Indian son rises over the Empire, history comes full circle in Britain.”
It is not surprising that Sunak’s ascent has garnered much interest in India. His father-in-law is Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys and one of the most well-known businessmen in India, and his ancestors are from Punjab. Sunak, a fellow Hindu, likewise took his oath of office on the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text for Hindus. Free trade negotiations between India and the UK have reportedly come to a standstill due to concerns from Sunak’s party that it might encourage greater immigration.
William Ruto, the president of Kenya, has not yet made any public remarks regarding Sunak’s new role.
Sunak’s appointment was described as another “Barack Obama moment” by the Taifa Leo daily. According to the Citizen Digital website, “Sunak’s case is nearly similar to that of former US President Barack Obama, who is an American citizen but has Kenyan roots as his father was born in Homa Bay County.” Macharia Gaitho, a well-known newspaper pundit, declared that “Kenya has conquered the British Empire.”
Yashvir, Sunak’s father, was born in colonial Kenya to parents who had immigrated there in the 1930s from Gujranwala, now in Pakistan. In the 1960s, Sunak’s father emigrated to the UK and graduated as a general practitioner.
The European Union
“Working together is the only way to face common challenges… and bringing stability is key to overcoming them,” European Council President Charles Michel said.
Even though Rishi Sunak supports Brexit, BBC Europe editor Katya Adler says that many EU leaders will be relieved that he, and not Boris Johnson, will be taking over as prime minister. Given his reputation as a pragmatist, EU officials will want to collaborate with him on issues like the Northern Ireland Protocol, a contentious subject that arose during the Brexit negotiations, and the rising cost of energy.
Sunak argued during the leadership election in August that a trade war with the EU was not in the UK’s best interests. However, reaching a solution may be politically challenging for him, and Brussels worries that he may avoid cooperating with the EU in order to maintain his domestic political support.
The prime minister of Ireland, Micheál Martin, expressed his eagerness to collaborate with Sunak “on the important issues we face on these islands and globally.”
Sunak’s reputation for “sensible politics” was welcomed by The Irish Times, but it warned that he would still encounter obstacles, especially in light of Brexit. According to the newspaper, it is yet unclear what his election implies for the Northern Ireland protocol. The Irish Independent claimed that the “folly” of Truss’s tax cuts had “vindicated” the new prime minister.
With the Northern Ireland protocol currently at the top of the list of priorities, Brexit continues to be one of the major challenges between the UK and Ireland. Currently, items entering Northern Ireland that are imported from Britain are examined. However, the UK government had previously advocated for a two-tier approach, with inspections limited to items going on to the republic.
Sunak’s nomination as the UK’s future prime minister was hailed by President Joe Biden as a “ground-breaking milestone” at a White House celebration of the Hindu holiday of Diwali on Monday. As per convention, the US president delayed officially thanking Sunak until after he has met King Charles III and been requested to form a cabinet.
The New York Times praises the Conservatives’ “record of representation,” noting that Sunak’s election is another significant development in a tradition of elevating women and people of colour to important positions. The Washington Post also highlighted Sunak’s status as the country’s first non-white prime minister. According to the newspaper, it would mark “the first time in history that the residents of Downing Street are richer than those of Buckingham Palace.”
Joe Biden has already stated that he will continue to have a “close relationship” with Truss’ successor. He referred to her abandoned tax-cut proposals as a “mistake,” which prompted some questions because US presidents often refrain from making comments on the domestic policy of friends.
According to Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, Under Sunak China will aim to “advance ties with the UK.” “We hope that we can work with the UK side on the basis of mutual respect and win-win co-operation and advance China-UK relations along the right track,” he added.
The reports that Sunak will be the first prime minister to be wealthier than the monarch were highlighted by the state-run CGTN. Many in the party saw him as the safest candidate because of “his experience managing the UK’s finances, and in particular, his strongly-voiced opposition to Truss’ disastrous plans for borrowing-funded tax cuts, prompted many in the party to view him as the safest choice,” it claimed.
Sunak’s victory “would appear to signal a new achievement in his efforts to overcome racism in British politics,” according to Shanghai-based The Paper, but it “could not overshadow his other controversies,” including the BBC video clip of him declaring in 2007 that he had no friends from the working class and his wife’s prior non-domiciled status that exempted her from paying some taxes.
Compared to his predecessor, Rishi Sunak has favoured deeper relationships with China, and Truss rebuked him for it when he was chancellor. During the summer leadership election, Truss stated that it was important to avoid “dependency” on China and that she would name it a “threat” to national security, similar to how Russia has been described. Additionally, it was claimed that she had privately backed designating China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjang as a genocide.
Sunak received President Volodymyr Zelensky’s tweets of congratulations, “I wish you to successfully overcome all the challenges facing British society and the whole world today. I’m ready to continue strengthening the Ukraine-UK strategic partnership together!”
First Deputy Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament Oleksandr Kornienko welcomed Sunak as a “colleague.” “Congratulations to the people of Great Britain on the fact that they have political stability again. After a short stage of turbulence,” he added.
Both Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson, according to the Glavkom website, would have been “good news” for Ukraine. The website compared Sunak’s admission in a debate that he did not want to meet Vladimir Putin with Liz Truss’s willingness to speak with the Russian leader, saying that Sunak’s comments on Ukraine thus far have been “promising.”
Under Sunak, UK policy won’t shift toward Ukraine. He pledged to support Ukraine going forward and to travel to Kyiv as soon as possible during the leadership competition in the summer. However, Sunak has stated that Truss’ objective of increasing defence spending from 2% to 3% of national wealth (as determined by gross domestic product) by 2030 is “arbitrary” and “not a plan.”
According to the Kremlin, Russia has no reason to believe that Sunak will strengthen ties with the UK.
Sunak was chosen without opposition, according to all three of the major TV networks: Gazprom-NTV, Media’s state-run Channel One, and Rossiya 1, the official state channel. Sunak was elected with such a small majority that it amounted to a statistical “margin of error,” according to TV’s London correspondent Liza Gerson, who called it a case of “British democracy not for everyone.”
According to Timur Siraziyev, a Channel One correspondent, Sunak was following his party’s position on Ukraine, which was “to keep the conflict in Ukraine going as long as possible.” As a result, Siraziyev said it was “not to be expected that with the advent of the new prime minister, relations between our countries will improve.”
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, ties between the UK and Russia have been much worse. One of the key supporters of President Zelensky, the UK retaliated with a number of rounds of sanctions. Additionally, Ukraine has received significant military assistance from the UK.
Sunak was referred to as a great friend of Australia by Treasurer Jim Chalmers. “I don’t think it’s insignificant a country like the United Kingdom has its first prime minister of colour,” he said.
Previously, Sunak called the trade agreement Liz Truss brokered with Australia and New Zealand “one-sided” and said the UK “shouldn’t be rushing to sign trade deals as quickly as possible.”