HMS Queen Elizabeth: Threat to deploy warship may have scuppered Chinese trade talks

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CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond will not be visiting China for trade talks this weekend as reportedly planned – after defence secretary Gavin Williamson threatened to send the HMS Queen Elizabeth to the Pacific.

According to reports from The Sun, the chancellor was due to meet Chinese vice premier Hu Chunhua, but Mr Hu abandoned the meeting hours after Mr Williamson announced that he would be sending HMS Queen Elizabeth to the Pacific region.

HMS Queen Elizabeth during her maiden voyage to New York last year to test the F-35B. Picture: Royal Navy

HMS Queen Elizabeth during her maiden voyage to New York last year to test the F-35B. Picture: Royal Navy

Mr Williamson confirmed this week that HMS Queen Elizabeth's first operational mission will take place in the Pacific in 2021, where Beijing has been involved in a dispute over navigation rights and territorial claims in the South China Sea.

READ MORE: Royal Navy to create new strike ships as defence secretary Gavin Williamson confirms HMS Queen Elizabeth will deploy to the Pacific

The Chinese government was expected to lift the ban on British poultry and cosmetics not tested on animals during the talks.

Former Conservative chancellor George Osborne has criticised Mr Williamson for his ‘gunboat diplomacy’.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four, Mr Osborne said: ‘I think it's very difficult to work out what the British government's China policy is at the moment.

‘You've got the defence secretary engaging in gunboat diplomacy of a quite old-fashioned kind, at the same time as the chancellor of the exchequer and the foreign secretary are going around saying they want a close economic partnership with China.

‘Ultimately it's the responsibility of Theresa May as Prime Minister to sort this out because at the moment it looks all at sea.’

However, a spokeswoman for the Treasury said: ‘The chancellor is not travelling to China at this time. No trip was ever announced or confirmed.’