'You're Being Obtuse': Kemi Badenoch Clashes With Ed Balls Over UK's Approach To China

The cabinet minister was responding to worries about an alleged Chinese spy supposedly working in parliament.
Ed Balls and Kemi Badenoch clashed on Good Morning Britain
Ed Balls and Kemi Badenoch clashed on Good Morning Britain
ITV Good Morning Britain

Kemi Badenoch was repeatedly called out for refusing to offer more clarity about the UK’s current relationship with China on Monday.

The cabinet minister was scrutinised by presenter Ed Balls on Good Morning Britain following weekend reports of an alleged Chinese spy working in parliament.

Described in The Sunday Times as a Conservative parliamentary aide, the researcher was reportedly arrested on suspicion of a security breach back in March.

But, the trade and business secretary refused to be drawn on whether the UK would be acting on this alleged incident by preventing China from joining the Indo-Pacific trade deal.

As a soon-to-be member, the UK has a veto to stop other countries from joining the 11-member strong CPTPP, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

So Balls asked Badenoch: “So if the Japanese and the Australians say they don’t want to veto [China], you won’t want to veto or could you decide to do it in Britain’s national interest?”

The minister replied that it was “not a discussion I can have here”.

She added: ”Every single thing I do will be for Britain’s national interest. But what we would say as a group, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, all the countries would need to meet the very high standards of the group.

“As you can see from the news that’s come out this morning, those sort of high standards don’t seem to be there at the moment – so that’s something for all the members of CPTPP to discuss.

’This is something that is very serious. The prime minister himself has spoken to the Chinese premier, so I don’t want to downplay the significance of this incident in parliament.”

She noted that it took the UK several years to negotiate its own entry into the group.

Balls pushed: “I’m confused – so you are going to veto China, or you’re not going to veto China?”

Badenoch replied: “I’m not going to be making that decision on breakfast television, that’s something we have to discuss with security services, it’s something we have to discuss at cabinet, it’s something we have to discuss with the leaders of other countries.”

The minister also insisted that everything the government does is in the UK’s best interests.

But Balls hit back: “You can see why people are a bit confused about what the government’s policy is with China, because, if you can’t tell us, it’s very hard for us to work out what you’re saying.”

Badenoch repeatedly spoke over the presenter at this point, claiming she was not being confusing at all.

When he finished his sentence, she claimed: “It’s quite easy for you to work out what I am saying Ed, I think you are being deliberately obtuse here.”

Balls just said “you won’t tell us” if the government has plans to veto a trade deal with China.

She pointed out that the UK has not ratified its entry to the CPTPP.

“This is not the place or the timre to be discussing that,” Badenoch added. “You can ask me about our relationship with China but in terms of entry into CPTPP, no other country does this on breakfast television, and I am not going to be doing that with you.”

Badenoch spoke carefully throughout her broadcast round this morning, only defining relations with China as a “significant challenge”.

When asked on Sky News if China was friend or foe, she said: “We certainly should not be describing China as a foe.”

She also explained that the UK should not be “careless with how we speak about other countries”.


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