What lies ahead in 2023? Marjorie Orr, astrologer reads the signs

  • In 2023 footballer Ronaldo is facing a run of catastrophes ahead at the same time as sinking under a pile of money.
  • a central bank crash from March 2023 in many countries.
  • Nicola Sturgeon’s reign of glory hits the buffers in 2023.
  • Joe Biden’s Term explodes after mid 2023 with a high-risk events blowing him off course. Emotional pressures intensify into 2024, involving his son Hunter.
  • 2023 diplomatic hot spots – China versus Japan. France v GermanyUK v USA. Israel heading into escalating violence.
  • A freeze between King Charles and Prince Edward ahead.
  • Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen – a boiling combination.
  • The Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt dragged-out dogfight.
  • Johnny Depp & Amber Heard horror show.

In 2023 three planets change sign which will shift the culture and throw up black swan events.  On the good news side Jupiter will be upbeat, fiery and enthusiastic in Aries until May and then moves into indulgent, earthy Taurus to allow for a few treats.

Saturn moves onto a two year stay in regretful and anxiety-prone Pisces which will bring sympathy for the less fortunate with an urge to be helpful in discreet ways.

Pluto is the game-changer, moving for the first time in 250 years into Aquarius in late March for a twenty year stay. Pluto is the planet of transformation, which starts by destroying elements of the past and then slowly putting changes in place. Aquarius is an Air sign, a thinker and communicator, emotionally detached and friendly rather than passionate, better at group activities than one-to-one relationships, keen to dissolve the differences between the genders and humanitarian.

It will pull away from the materialism of Pluto in Capricorn (around since 2008) though it will start with a central bank crash from March 2023 in many countries.

In the longer term it will bring new ideas about fairness in society, new scientific inventions, a focus on technology.

Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee urges progress on the UK-India free trade agreement

 

Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee – (Non-Afl) (Maiden Speech) House of Lords

  • the importance of India as a market to do business with and seek investment from
  • not just the economic ties but the many cultural and educational ties that exist
  • the largest group of overseas students at my alma mater, Queen’s University Belfast, is from south Asia
  • great passion for developing stronger ties between his original homeland, India, and Northern Ireland
  • Many Indian-based companies have invested in Northern Ireland over the years
  • Northern Ireland companies are doing a lot of business in India.
  • Baroness Foster looks forward to progress on the UK-India free trade agreement.

My Lords, I am very pleased to be able to make my maiden speech during this timely and important debate. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, and congratulate her on bringing the debate forward.

Before I make my comments on the substance of the debate, I thank all those who have made my arrival in this place such a pleasant one. I place on record my sincere thanks to Garter, Black Rod and all the staff in the various offices, including the magicians in IT help—please always keep well—the catering and cleaning staff, our police officers and, of course, the wonderful doorkeepers, who have already kept me right on a number of occasions and welcomed me every day with a smile. Thank you to each and every one. I also thank the two noble Lords who were with me when I was introduced. The noble Lords, Lord Dodds and Lord Godson, are both dear friends; I thank them for their continued support.

My congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Minto, on his contribution today. I thank him for going first; that is always good when you are making a maiden speech as well. The Fosters were also reivers from the borders of Scotland. Like the Elliots, they left behind cattle stealing and moved on to law and politics—well, this one did in any event.

Noble Lords may be wondering why I have chosen a debate about the relationship between India and the UK for my maiden speech; it is quite a distance, in many ways, from Aghadrumsee to Chandigarh. Early on during my time as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment in the Northern Ireland Executive—a post that I was proud to hold for more than seven years—I realised the importance of India as a market to do business with and seek investment from. I visited on a number of occasions and, in doing so, appreciated not just the economic ties but the many cultural and educational ties that exist.

For example, in 2019, the Jaipur Literature Festival set up a partnership with Belfast. I enjoyed a wonderful evening celebrating the cultural exchange that took place in the city. I am pleased to see that the festival that is taking place now in India will again have representatives from across the United Kingdom, with Belfast-born author Elaine Canning showcasing her debut novel, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council.

Reflecting on the point about the importance of educational exchange made by the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, and the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, I am pleased to say that the largest group of overseas students at my alma mater, Queen’s University Belfast, is from south Asia. Seven years ago, Queen’s University attracted fewer than 10 students from there but, today, I can proudly say that it has close to 1,000 such students annually, so the educational exchange and relationship is also strong.

Although I am really pleased to see these developments in culture and education, it is in the field of economic development that I find the most reasons to be cheerful. In particular, I warmly welcome the fact that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Department for International Trade have recognised that representatives from the regions of the UK are much better qualified to promote the strengths, cultures and propositions of their own regional economies. Then, working alongside the British High Commission is a huge enabler for bringing more business to the United Kingdom.

As a former First Minister and Economy Minister for Northern Ireland, I was fortunate to follow in the footsteps of one of our local Peers and his great passion for developing stronger ties between his original homeland, India, and Northern Ireland. I speak of the noble Lord, Lord Rana of Malone, of course. The output of his work was Northern Ireland’s first ever office in Mumbai and Bangalore within the British deputy high commissions. I fondly remember a trip to India that we made together when I was Minister.

Many Indian-based companies have invested in Northern Ireland over the years. HCL, First Source Solutions, Tata Steel and a number of smaller companies have recognised the advantages of investing in Northern Ireland, bringing thousands of jobs for our young, bright population. Likewise, Northern Ireland companies are doing a lot of business in India. Companies such as Randox, CDE Asia and Terex are all companies that I know well and which are continuing to do business globally from their base in Northern Ireland. With an office of the Department for International Trade now in Belfast, and with the Mumbai branch of Invest Northern Ireland again open for business thanks to that department, I think that the future is bright for Northern Ireland as a region of the United Kingdom doing business in India.

It is critical that we have a stable and growing relationship with our friends in India, whether in culture, economic development, trade or defence. There are many strings to that bow; I look forward to hearing from the Minister how we are going to deepen that relationship further. In particular, I look forward to hearing about progress on the UK-India free trade agreement.

 

Ukraine is doing the fighting for us. Chancellor Scholz needs to grow a pair and get on with it

Germany, in the form of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, is making a bit of a fool of itself over its intransigence on letting its Leopard 2 tanks be sent to Ukraine. These tanks are widely available across European armies and some countries which have them, Poland for example, are keen that Zelensky should have some of theirs, but the Germans have proved stubborn in their refusal to modify their end user certification.

Britain has already promised a squadron of its Challenger 2s, of which more in a minute, but Scholz has stated that Germany will only send its tanks to Ukraine if the USA sends some of its M1A2 Abrams tanks too. This is the politics of the playground, and the German government needs to grow up.

The reason that Ukraine wants the Leopard 2 over others is because it is relatively commonplace in Europe and the supply chain is relatively short. Spares and ammunition should never be a problem. The American Abrams tank is fine too, but is a gas guzzler with a much longer supply chain, and Challenger 2 uses different ammunition to the rest of NATO.

To be brutally honest, fourteen Challenger 2s are going to make minimal difference on the vast battlefields of Ukraine. How then, to get around the German embargo and provide a larger British contribution to the 300 or so tanks that Zelensky says Ukraine needs to go over on the general offensive and clear the whole of Ukraine of the Russian occupiers?

One interesting idea that is circulation is that, rather than give Ukraine a measly fourteen Challenger 2s, the UK should give the entire fleet to them. Figures vary, but given that Britain acquired around 338 of them for its army and some 227 are currently “operational”, although I would take that stat with a pinch of salt. That leaves somewhere between fifty and a hundred spare and available. Ukraine could put them to good use.

And how would the UK fill the gap left in its armoured capabilities until Challenger 3 comes along? Why, buy Leopard 2s from Germany! Unlike our Challenger 2s, which came into service in 1998, the German tanks have had a comprehensive programme of updates and improvements over the past twenty years and are now markedly superior to our own.

And why stop there? Instead of upgrading 148 of our tanks to the Challenger 3 standard, would it not be better in terms of economies of scale and cross-NATO compatibility to equip the entirety of the UK’s tank fleet with Leopard 2? Let’s not pretend that the Challenger 3 programme is risk free, and recent disasters with the now abandoned Warrior IFV upgrade programme and the mummy and daddy of all fiascos, the Ajax programme, don’t fill anyone with much confidence in British AFV procurement, do they?

On the other hand, if we were to dispose of our entire Challenger 2 fleet and abandon the Challenger 3 programme, we could acquire the modern Leopard 2A7+ before we would see Challenger 3 enter service. It comes with an integrated active protection system and Britain would join the “Leopard Club” and benefit from future upgrades, plus be able to influence the design and manufacture of the future Leopard 3. It clearly makes sense.

Leaving that aside, even with the donation of the entire UK Challenger 2 tank fleet to Ukraine, it leaves Zelensky still short of about 200 tanks. The only way I can see around the German resistance to supply them is for Poland and other like-minded countries to basically ignore the export restrictions, send them anyway, and see what Germany does. I suspect that such action would get Scholz off the hook and be welcomed, albeit privately. Nothing risked, nothing gained.

Philosophically, I don’t think we can pretend any more that the Russo-Ukraine conflict is anything other than a proxy war between NATO and Russia. If the west does not do everything in its power to assist Ukraine to win and expel Russian troops from its territory then who knows where Putin’s aggression may take us next. Poland? The Baltics? If so it’s hard to see how NATO cannot become directly involved, and that means US and British troops, amongst the other nations, fighting once again in Europe.

It doesn’t need to come to this. Ukraine is doing the fighting for us. Chancellor Scholz, and his German government, need to grow a pair and get on with it. Tue das Richtige!

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a Defence Analyst and a former Army officer, author & broadcaster – sign up to his podcast at defencereview.uk

 Have you signed up for the Defence Review Podcast?  https://open.spotify.com/show/4vHJsYgxfrDyTkKgMpGlqs 

Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available for pre-order now

Britain sending Challenger 2 Tanks – is there more than meets the eye?

There has been a bit of a feeding frenzy this week over Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement that Britain is to send “proper” tanks, self-propelled guns, and other armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) to Ukraine.

The promise to send fourteen Challenger 2 tanks is, as I have written elsewhere, more political and symbolic than militarily useful. They are unlike anything other tank the Ukrainians have or are likely to have and will require yet another different logistic and supplies set up. Famously, or infamously if you prefer, the Challenger’s 120 mm rifled gun using different ammunition to the rest of NATO, to mention but one issue.

Nonetheless, tanks are tanks and they will be welcome. Britain’s move has more to do with trying to persuade the Germans to follow suit with their more modern and superior Leopard 2s, but so far Chancellor Olaf Scholz has refused to budge. Nor is he prepared to allow countries which have German tanks already pass them on to Ukraine. His latest statement, that Germany will send its tanks if the USA does the same with its M1A2 Abrams, is puzzling. It’s almost as if he fears Germany unsettling the Russian bear on its own.

Military social media has been awash with rumours and suggestions how the impasse might be solved. One seemingly sensible suggestion is that, as the UK hopes to replace its ageing tanks with the upgraded Challenger 3 model anyway, we may as well send all the remaining Challenger 2s to Ukraine and buy Leopard 2s to replace them. That would mean roughly seventy-five available to send, a much more useful addition to Ukraine’s inventory.

The main problem here is, as always, funding. Where is the money going to come from is the cry. Yet, with Secretary of State Ben Wallace now saying that we might have to look at increasing Britain’s overall tank strength anyway it may not be such a daft suggestion as some have said.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a Defence Analyst and a former Army officer, author & broadcaster – sign up to his podcast at defencereview.uk

 Have you signed up for the Defence Review Podcast?  https://open.spotify.com/show/4vHJsYgxfrDyTkKgMpGlqs 

Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available for pre-order now