OPINION - The Standard View: The next phase of the war will be critical – Britain must stand by Ukraine

 (Simon Dawson/No 10 Downing Street)
(Simon Dawson/No 10 Downing Street)

Volodymyr Zelensky’s trip to Britain is about diplomacy ­— and hard power. Ahead of today’s meeting at Chequers, the Government confirmed it would send hundreds of long-range attack drones with a range of 125 miles to Ukraine. This follows an agreement to provide the country with Storm Shadow precision missiles, its first long-range cruise missiles.

This diplomatic push — the president of Ukraine visited Paris and Berlin last week — comes as Ukrainian forces appear to be making progress in Bakhmut, and before an anticipated counter-offensive to retake territory.

Rishi Sunak is right to maintain a policy of intensive support for Kyiv. Critical now, as ever, is to turn these commitments into reality by ensuring aid and arms get to the frontline in time to make a difference in the counter-offensive. Britain also has a key role in keeping the Western alliance united in its resolute support for Ukraine.

The next phase of the war will be critical, for the people of Ukraine, the future of Europe, and to lay the groundwork for a just peace, as determined by Kyiv.

Immigration is key

A new front has opened up in the forever Tory wars — those on immigration. In prepared remarks, Home Secretary Suella Braverman was due to say “we need to get overall immigration numbers down”, even suggesting that as a nation we “mustn’t forget how to do things for ourselves.” But in an apparent attempt to pre-empt this intervention, trade minister Nigel Huddlestone stressed that Britain needs immigration to rise “now and again”.

At a time of historically low unemployment and still tight labour markets, immigration is critical both to London’s economy and the wider country. Our NHS cannot be staffed, restaurants served or fruit picked without the hard work of people prepared to come to Britain. Indeed, higher levels of immigration were key to the Office for Budget Responsibility boosting economic growth forecasts following Jeremy Hunt’s Budget in March.

Clearly, levels of immigration must be controlled, and we want those coming here to have the skills we need. It is also true that an inflow of people puts greater pressure on resources such as housing and public services. But immigration is a net positive for Britain.

And the Tories should be aware that for every voter they hope to gain with Braverman’s rhetoric, they risk losing at least as many of those who are put off by it.

Wandsworth woe

Wandsworth Bridge is set to be shut to vehicle traffic for 10 weeks from July 24 to carry out repairs. This would be disruptive enough, were Hammersmith Bridge not already closed to cars.

Just as reports suggest it may soon take only a couple of hours to fly from London to Sydney via space, it feels typical that crossing the Thames could take longer.