OPINION - The Standard View: G7 leaders must continue to stand firm with Ukraine

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

This is a G7 summit heavy on symbolism. On the morning of August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. Nearly 78 years later, the leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies have gathered in the city. Support for Ukraine will be top of the agenda.

Britain has already committed to levying additional sanctions on Russia, including on diamonds and the import of Russian-origin copper, aluminium and nickel. Meanwhile, discussions between G7 allies will focus on military and economic support for Ukraine, as the West continues to try and maintain a united front. President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to appear in person at the summit, as he attempts to secure further support on weapons, aid and training.

This is a key moment in the war. The long-awaited Ukrainian counter-offensive may already be in its early stages — its success will be critical not only for the future direction of the war, but for maintaining international support. Britain, alongside our allies, must stick by Zelensky and his people. T

hat means maintaining our efforts to supply Kyiv. And it will take in the full spectrum, from sanctions on Russia to arms for Ukraine, as well as much-needed plans for the gargantuan effort to rebuild the country’s economy when peace finally comes.

Scrap the tourist tax

The return of VAT-free shopping is an economic no-brainer. The Evening Standard has today exclusively revealed that a major civil service survey of tourists carried out prior to the decision to scrap the scheme found not only that it was hugely popular with foreign visitors, but that much of the money saved was spent in the UK.

This is scarcely a surprise. High-yielding tourists do not only purchase goods, but spend their money in restaurants, hotels and the many other attractions the capital has to offer. These findings from confidential HMRC research call into question the decision by the then-chancellor, now Prime Minister, to scrap it on economic terms, claiming it would cost billions of pounds in foregone tax revenues and have little impact on the number of tourists.

The survey, conducted in June 2020, concluded that VAT-free shopping — formally known as the Retail Export Scheme — “encourages tourists to spend more in the UK” and that “most spend all or some of their savings in the UK, with a trickle down into hospitality and entertainment services, as well as further spending in retail.”

London’s retail and hospitality sectors are clear, now too is the underlying business case. The Treasury should scrap the tourist tax and encourage visitors back into the capital.

Indy’s final whip crack

It marks the end of a cinematic era. Still with his hat and force undiminished, Harrison Ford has reprised his role in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny for the last time.

Thanks for the memories — it’s been the thrill of a lifetime.