Photo: Embassy of Ukraine to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (c) 2020

UK-Ukraine Relations: Trade, Politics and Security

19 October 2020

On 13 October the British Ukrainian Society hosted its first autumn webinar with His Excellency Mr Vadym Prystaiko, the newly installed Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Kingdom. His talk was entitled, ‘UK-Ukraine Relations: Trade, Politics and Security‘ during which he discussed the recent visit of President Zelenskyy to the United Kingdom, and the signing of the Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement.

Lord Risby introduced the Ambassador and also the Prime Minister’s newly appointed Trade Envoy to Ukraine, Baroness Meyer.

Mr Prystaiko began his talk by thanking Lord Risby and Baroness Meyer for their part in helping with President Zelenskyy’s trip, and more generally thanked all the British officials involved for their assistance with his historic visit.

President Zelenskyy’s visit was deemed historic because of the myriad of high-level government officials and ministers that it brought together. The president was accompanied to the UK by the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine. In London they met with the Speaker of the House of Commons, multiple cabinet ministers, the Lord Mayor of London and top businessmen working in the City of London. President Zelenskyy held separate meetings with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in addition to other officials during a trip to Portsmouth. All of this was successfully arranged despite numerous limitations due to the pandemic.

The Ambassador emphasized the importance and significance of the latest wording – a strategic partnership – being used to describe our bilateral relationship, language that is codified in the agreement signed by President Zelenskyy and Boris Johnson. The agreement lays the foundation for intensified cooperation in trade, politics and defence in the face of Russian aggression. The UK has extended £2.5bn of credit to Ukraine, half of which will go towards rebuilding the Ukrainian navy through the creation of two new naval bases and their fleets, which will be constructed in both the UK and Ukraine. During his visit to Portsmouth, President Zelenskyy visited the naval base there to see its newest aircraft carrier, the HMS Prince of Wales, a ship-type which the Ukrainian navy aspires to build in the longer term. This financial assistance is underpinned by Operation Orbital, the UK’s training mission in Ukraine that began in 2015 and has trained over 18,000 members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Most recently 200+ British paratroopers jumped into southern Ukraine where they teamed up with thousands of Ukrainian troops ahead of Exercise Joint Endeavour; it was the first multinational exercise in Ukraine since Ukraine achieved NATO Enhanced Opportunity Partner status in June. Ukraine endeavours to participate in a Membership Action Plan to fully integrate into NATO.

The remaining £1.25bn will go towards promoting cooperation between our two nations in agriculture, infrastructure, energy and healthcare. It is a ten-year loan that Ukraine must begin to pay back after the first three years. A portion of the funds allocated towards healthcare will eventually procure a British-made covid vaccine after it is out of the testing phase.

Under the new trade agreement, 98% of all Ukrainian goods will have free access to British markets and quotas for some goods will increase from 13% to up to 20%. This means that regardless of the terms that are ultimately concluded between the UK and the EU, and whatever agreement Ukraine and the EU come to, the bilateral UK-Ukraine trade relationship has been safeguarded. Ukraine will be able to renegotiate the terms as early as 2021, once the UK has withdrawn from the EU, and a special strategic partnership commission will be created which will meet once a year to discuss all trade issues.

The British service industries account for 10% of all expenditure on services that Ukraine imports from around the world. Ukraine would ultimately like to create a financial district in Kyiv, a specialist municipality like the City of London, that could be called the City of Kyiv. If implemented, Kyiv would seek specialist advice from the City of London.

The Ambassador expressed his appreciation for Baroness Meyer’s appointment as the Prime Minister’s new trade envoy to Ukraine, and confirmed that the Ukrainian government intends to appoint a member or multiple members of Parliament to act as her counterpart in Kyiv. He also indicated that he would like to extend an invitation to Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, to come to Ukraine after discovering that the last visit by a British speaker was 20 years ago. There will also be an effort to increase interactions between the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ukraine and the Rada’s Ukrainian British Parliamentary Friendship Group. Two MPs from the group accompanied President Zelenskyy to London and had the opportunity to meet with Lord Risby.

The First Lady of Ukraine had her own programme whilst in London, which focused on gender equality issues and the signing of a memorandum with the Tower of London for the launch of a new Ukrainian language audio guide in 2021. This is just the first step towards introducing Ukrainian language audio guides in other museums and historic royal palaces within the UK.


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