Esteemed Guests: Britain-Inimicus Summit
01 March 2016
10 Downing Street, London, England, UK
"Did you get the menu for the Inimican representatives?" asked the Prime Minister. He was picking out his smart blue tie, ready to compliment his suit and highlight the fact that he was, of course, the Conservative leader. It was his first major summit since coming into power, replacing predecessor Hugh Robertson. His wife, Samantha, put on a smart grey frock with light blue accents, trying her best to compliment her husband.
"Yes, the chef got all the ingredients and is making sure to include some Inimican dishes as well as some British varieties as well. He seemed rather insistent on getting particular Inimican cheeses. Something about how British cheese being too mild or something..." Samantha answered, giving the Prime Minister a peck on the cheek. "Hopefully Liz isn't going to be here, otherwise she'll go on about the food we're importing and inadvertently offend our guests."
"Christ..." muttered the Prime Minister, remembering how Liz became a British meme regarding the import of British cheese during the last Conservative Party conference. "No, I made sure she was busy negotiating with the dairy farmers in Jersey. We're going to be joined by the Chancellor and William," the Prime Minister explained, finally finishing his tie. He searched for his cologne and began to put it on. "None of us, of course, speak Inimican. It would have been nice to learn a couple of phrases or something to show that we care and are willing to learn more about other cultures."
"But you are," Samantha responded, somewhat stunned at her husband's concern. "Why on earth would they think otherwise?"
"Because Britain sometimes has the unfortunate stereotype of people who don't make attempts to learn other languages," the PM responded. He paused when he saw his wife. "You look beautiful. The kids are with your sister tonight?"
"Dropped them off on the way home from school," said Samantha.
"Excuse me, Prime Minister," an aide interrupted the light moment. "The Inimican delegation have arrived at Heathrow, and are making their way to Number 10."
"Oh, good luck to them. They've arrived in the middle of rush hour. It'll take them ages to get here through the traffic. This happened to the last Government, when they had an Inimican delegation come to Britain."
"Why did I have to come with you again?", Chancellor of the Treasury Sir Jonathan Barrington said as the Inimicians' car was cruising though - or rather, hopping from traffic light to traffic light in - London.
"Because I need someone to pick up the pieces if I make a mistake", Imperial Consul Marquis Maximillian de Barrington replied. The Consul had been chosen by Emperor Artabanos to represent the Imperial Prerogative at this meeting, but he had not been given any kind of instructions, just an absolute mandate to act on the Emperor's behalf. So, he had brought his brother Sir Jonathan, now Chancellor of the Treasury, to fill in the blanks he didn't known himself. As this was the first meeting between UK and Inimician officials since both countries adopted new governments. Well, kind of, at least.
"And I thought central Teluminan traffic was bad", Sir Jonathan moaned.
"Remember when mum used to drive us to the Palace in the eighties... You're taking after her road rage."
"You'd say they'd cordon off the roads. I bet they would've done if Artie had come", the older Barrington continued. It was well known he was envious if not hostile to the Emperorship, a dangerous opinion to hold in the current political climate. "You were always her favourite."
"Oh no you did not just say that." The two filled the time it took to get from Heathrow to 10 Downing Street by bickering over their family. The Marquis hoped the Camerons wouldn't mind two arguing siblings in their midst, although he expected they would be too polite to even mention their probably evident rivalry. Over the last few months, ever since Sir Jonathan was appointed as temporary Chancellor, the Marquis had been in constant political and personal strife, both wanting to get on the Emperor's good side. However, maybe that would not be an important issue anymore.
The Prime Minister and Samantha stood behind the famous door of Number 10, waiting for their guests to arrive and were given word that they indeed had arrived. The two walked outside and stood, watching as the two siblings from Inimicus actually were still discussing something in very stiff whispers as they arrived. The Prime Minister hid his stunned expression with a warm smile.
"Gentlemen, welcome to the United Kingdom. I'm terribly sorry we couldn't get an escort for you on the way in, but trying to stop London in peak hours is nearly impossible. This is my wife, Samantha, and we're most happy to have you both here with us. The Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor will also be joining us soon. Please, come inside!" the PM said, allowing the Barringtons inside.
"Could we offer you tea or coffee, sirs?" Samantha offered. They wandered into one of the spacious state rooms in Number 10. The Prime Minister grinned, thankful that his wife was chipping in with the hosting duties.
"Dinner will be served in about an hour or so. If you would like, we could begin some of the proposals and just discuss Europe itself until the Chancellor and Foreign Secretary arrive. They're just finishing up things at Whitehall and will be here shortly," Mr. Cameron offered.
One whole hour. Sir Jonathan was starving. He hadn't had anything on that ghastly airplane they'd taken from the Empire all the way over here, up north. The airplane food had been too horrible. At least that's one area he could still find allies in: Jacob Churchill, Imperial Defence Officer, abhorred flying - and bad food - as much as he did. However, his brother Maximillian seemed less bothered. He was always the favourite: best looks, the younger of the Barrington brothers, most intelligent, excelled at school, went on to do International Relations at Telum University. Sir Jonathan was the middle child, and therefore the most neglected. His marks had been good, oh yes, but Mr and Mrs Barrington had never devoted much attention to him. They had not even turned up to his graduation. But he had more important things to keep in mind: he was in the famous house of the British Prime Minister. on an official mission with delegated absolute Imperial Prerogative.
His brother, naturally, went and shook hands with the Camerons first. "Thank you for having us, Prime Minister." With the ghastly formalities over, they could finally turn to business - distracting Sir Jonathan from his rumbling stomach.
"Very well, Prime Minister. Which discussion subjects did you have in mind?"
"Well, I don't want to comment on what's happening in your home country. We here in the United Kingdom will wait for more information and take a cautious approach, largely because we do see the value in a partnership with Inimicus over time.
"I'd like to just talk to both of you on a more personal level, and ask you what your personal vision for Inimicus is. I'll share mine for the United Kingdom and Europe:
"I'd like to see the United Kingdom stronger still, with an expanded and even more robust private sector that will continue to power jobs and growth in the 21st Century and these turbulent times. I'd like to see all education systems in Europe prepare people for the inevitable day when our economies will have to innovate further. It's also vastly apparent that so many of our European members do not talk to each other, and national governments need to find ways to come together to work in Europe. How about you fine gentlemen?"
"Well, and a fine view it is", Marquis Maximilian replied, not being totally prepared for questions like these, "I suppose the both of us share the view of our Majesty" - he looked at his brother, who quickly nodded, clearly indicating he wanted Max to continue - "Emperor Artabanos has, throughout His administration, attempted to contribute to peace and well-being of both His own people and that of Europe. After appointing the both of us, and delegating some of His power, we are attempting to continue that trend. Of course, the region cannot be improved by one nation alone, which is why we are here and why we seek co-operation between the UK and our Empire. Although Inimicus may not be the most important economic power in the region - and we have never pretended that we are - I do feel Inimicus has been growing in size, economic importance, military strength, and now that we are officially a nuclear nation, world standing. We have delivered Commissioners, and the Premier twice, and will continue to engage actively in European politics if His Imperial Majesty wishes."
Max looked at Jonathan, who sprang up and said: "Yes, well, as Treasury Chancellor I am, of course, mostly concerned with economic well-being, and although the Emperor has promised my role is temporary, I am getting used to - and starting to like - representing my people abroad and ensuring their economic prosperity. As you say, European co-operation is key to this aim, and we are therefore very much interested in working together with the UK."
"That is excellent, and even though some of us here in Whitehall had reservations about the Inimican political structure and giving it nuclear weapons, it is encouraging to hear that His Majesty is so keen on cooperation in Europe. We hope to do a great deal of business with the Inimican government once everything gets sorted," said Prime Minister Cameron.
An aide walked into the room. She was pretty with passionately red hair, folding over itself in curled madness.
"Prime Minister, the Chancellor and Foreign Secretary are here," the aide said in a thick Belfast accent.
"Excellent, thank you Aoife," the Prime Minister said to her. She walked off and in walked the Foreign Secretary Henry Bellingham and Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid. "Then, if I could be so presumptuous, I'd like to get started a bit earlier. Gentlemen, this is our Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Henry Bellingham, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr. Sajid Javid.
"Well, let's begin. I believe that Inimicus and the United Kingdom have previously undergone trade agreements but I would like to offer you access into a free-trade zone between our nations so that all goods have zero tariffs between our nations. We believe that Inimicus will make nearly £100 billion when all goods, including luxury items, are taken off of tariffs. As it stands now, for every 10 British units of a product sold, only 3 Inimican ones are in British stops, departments stores and other commercial plays up and down the country. This is a perfect opportunity to increase competition and offer wider varieties of choice to both of our nations' consumers. Would that be agreeable to our Inimican counterparts?"
As the formal person in charge of Inimicus's treasury - apart from the Emperor that is - Sir Jonathan found it was his turn to speak: "I daresay this is an excellent proposal, Mr Prime Minister. Of course, I will have to check with My Emperor about whether or not this would be totally agreeable, but -- "
Marquis Maximillian interjected: "Let's not say that every time we find something agreeable, brother." He then turned to the British delegation: "I can assure you, gentlemen, we have the full support of the Inimician regime in everything we do, and we have been bestowed with the Imperial Prerogative to act. I am sure Inimician finance and business will welcome a free trade deal with open arms."
Sir Jonathan looked slightly put down. After a brief pause, he spoke: "Well, was there anything else we could discuss before your famed dinner is served?"
"Why don't we wait until dinner is served?" said Mr. Cameron, seeing Samantha at the door signalling that the dinner was ready. "Perhaps we can continue talking business and politics while we eat?"
The Prime Minister and his wife stood up together and led the delegation down through Downing Street. It was an odd assortment and going down the steps, they were able to pass all of the previous Prime Ministers, the most modern being towards the top. The Prime Minister shuddered as if a cold chill ran down his back after passing former Prime Ministers Obama, Miliband, Brown and Blair in succession. Samantha picked up on it.
"The thought of a Labour government got you bothered, dear?" Samantha quipped. The Prime Minister quickly shut up and said nothing; he knew his wife probably supported New Labour back in 1997 and didn't want to be reminded so much of that thought before dinner. It would have spoiled his appetite. He turned to his guests once they came down the steps.
"It must be so interesting to be involved in politics in Inimicus. Most of the British public don't understand exactly how that kind of politics would work; they seem to forget the days of feudal England, Scotland and Wales. I mean, all of that power consolidated into one person. I dare say that HIs Majesty the King would blush having so much authority over the United Kingdom. What is it like working in Government in Inimicus?"
"Well.....", Maximilian said, not quite sure how to put his answer to the Prime Minister's question, "It's a rather.... competitive business, to say the least. Unless you are deemed the most perfect person for your office, you will incur the wrath of at least two legislative bodies and the Emperor. Not to forget the various advisors and executive members. As you said, to some the Inimician political system may seem antiquated and undemocratic. However, one has to keep in mind that before the Empire was founded in 2012, and the preceding revolution starting in 2011, the Republic of Telum (as Inimicus was then called) was a de facto dictatorship: there was a permanent President appointed for life by his predecessor, and a 'parliament' with only one party. It was possible for the people to leave a vote of no confidence on the ballot, but when doing so it was obligatory to fill in one's address and telephone number. You can imagine what happened to those who voted against the government.
So, Emperor William came to power in 2012, after a rather bloody revolutionary war, and He had to completely start anew with the Inimician state. We are still, even three years after the Empire's founding, finding our exact bearings, what works and what doesn't, but I feel the Emperor has hit the nail on the head. That said, working in Inimician government is a rewarding yet challenging task: the both of us get to serve our people in whatever capability we've got, and yes, the rewards are plentiful. However, being open to such scrutiny from both the National Imperial Council and the National Senate, as well as an elected absolute monarch, does mean we both work in an extremely pressured environment. I can only imagine what it's like for His Imperial Majesty, but I suppose He chose to stand for election Himself and therefore feels the position is worth the cost of personal life.
But I imagine that's rather different in the UK. I've always found the Westminster system rather fascinating, although its peculiarities and, I admit, inefficiencies strike me as rather.. well.. peculiar. Perhaps you could enlighten us further."
"Ah, the Westminster system...it's certainly less dangerous. Interesting...hmm, hard to say.
"Of course, we have a Sovereign from whom the Parliament derives power, but that's about it. We have an elected House of Commons of 650 Members of Parliament, and over 800 Lords in the appointed House of Lords. Well, appointed and that many for now, that is subject to change. The Sovereign appoints the Prime Minister, who commands the majority of the House of Commons, so as of now it's 327 persons at its bare minimum. From there, I can appoint the Cabinet, who are in charge of various departments. We're held directly responsible to the legislature, namely the Opposition and Government backbenches and we answer questions about the state of the Government either in Prime Minister's Questions or questions to an individual Cabinet Minister. Whitehall also has its own permanent secretaries and permanent ministry heads that help keep stability, because as you would imagine, the Civil Service would have a nightmare if the only person at the top could lose their jobs in an election and be replaced by a radically different person. That two tiered structure of Cabinet and Civil Service helps the Government run smoothly. There are some very old traditions, like the State Opening of Parliament that are archaic and some of the bureaucracy levels can feel inefficient, but the built in inefficiency provides necessary dialogue between ministries, Cabinet and the Civil Service, and a good Government can coordinate all of these things and make it run smoothly.
"Running the Cabinet is probably the most notable difference. I tend to run mine more collegial and reach more consensus and listen to the people closer to the data and whose portfolio it affects the most., Prime Minister Obama, for example, liked to sort of give edicts and the Cabinet were supposed to make things work. That never seems to work.
"The relationship the Prime Minister has with the Sovereign is also deeply important. I have weekly meetings with His Majesty the King, and I can also call him at any time to discuss policy and the Government and the Sovereign advises me about the people. It's an important relationship, because in the end, the Sovereign CAN still deny Royal Assent to legislation. Now, that hasn't happened in nearly 80 years, but it is still a possibility so I still advise the Sovereign on His Government."
By the time the Prime Minister finished, they were all sitting in a red drawing room, where the picture commissioned of Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington and a former Prime Minister stared down at them with rather simple gold decorations. The salad course was on the table first.
"Hopefully, you find the Westminster system a little more interesting than I described it. It works for us, and quite a few other countries inherited it from us, but it's nothing tremendously special. Australia recently modified it by having an elected President in place of a Sovereign, so we'll see how it goes for them. Shall I put in for your main course, gentlemen? I thought venison Wellington would be delightful, so you'll have to explain how you take your meat. And what would you like to drink?"
Sir Jonathan was about to make a comment about the undemocratic nature of an appointed House of Lords, but quickly remembered he hadn't been elected to public office in his entire life and had relied solely on his brother and the Emperor putting him to office. "Ooh, rare for me, please", he said enthusiastically after hearing the mention of food. Salad was not 'the done thing' in Inimicus at dinner - it was something reserved for those who couldn't afford meat - but he understood this might not be the case in all nations in the region, so he took no offence. "I say, Prime Minister", he said, "a good piece of mature Inimician cheese would go excellently with this. I would've brought you some as a present."
The Marquis intervened before his brother started a rant about his favourite cheeses, something which he had had to do since childhood. "That is a most interesting political structure, Mr Prime Minister", he said, "Although I don't think Inimicus could ever change to a system like that. It seems it would have to grow over decades to an established political structure, and Inimicus simply has not had the time for that yet. We are only just finding our bearings, so to speak. But at the very least we have a great helmsman!"
"But, Prime Minister", Sir Jonathan then said, "do tell us about British cuisine and culture! If venison wellington is on the menu, what other delicacies does your country have to offer?"
"Oh, the cuisine of the United Kingdom....well, we've got a few different regions as you know, and some of the more common English food are the standard fare of fish and chips, various pies, bacon butty...we like a bit of lamb, a lot of people eat chicken and pork, but there aren't too many defined national dishes. Bubble and squeak, toad in the hole are quite good as well. We like trifles for dessert as well as some tarts and puddings and cakes, custards. Scotland's got some more Celtic cuisine like haggis, cullen skink and Scotch broth, Ireland has more of a potato and steak based diet with some nice vegetables mostly in stews or separate but they also make good use of pork like blood sausage and bacon and cabbage. The Welsh enjoy a bit of seafood from the west coast and fish from their rivers.
"The most popular though are foods that are hybrids from other cultures. A lot of our food has been influenced by Icholasen, Miraco, and the various ethnic minorities in London that brought their food to the masses, so largely it is a changing food that will keep changing throughout the ages.
"I wish we could have had some of that Inimican cheese. I've heard it's world famous, and it flies off the shelves here in the United Kingdom, but our Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister insisted that we served foods sourced from the United Kingdom in Number 10. A good thought in principle, but then that limits some choices at times....but we can open new pork markets for you." The Prime Minister said that last statement in a much more strained, upset tone than maybe he had intended at first. After a while though, he couldn't really give a damn about how he sounded when it came to Liz Truss and her previous Conservative Party speech about how Britain imported a third of its cheese, even though we make better cheese than the Miracans and how it was a "disgrace".
"Ha, well, nothing beets an Inimician mature slice", Sir Jonathan went on. "Inimician cuisine in itself is a melting pot, really. I mean, banquets in the Imperial Palace are delicious and servce the finest Inimician herring, mackerel, and other fish. But we get the best - or perhaps, the worst - of both worlds, as the fertile territories in the east of our country boast many kinds of vegetables and wheats."
"But", Maximilian interrupted, "I suppose the main reason why we have been sent here by Our Majesty isn't to propagate - or perhaps slander - Inimician cuisine, eh. Why not, while we're waiting for that undoubtedly delicious venison wellington (mid-rare for me, by the way, please. I'm not as bland as my brother here), let's discuss what we came here to do: trade and relationships. I'd like to know what you think Inimicus and the UK can do to solidiy their relationships and increase investment, obviously including the free trade we have already discussed."
"An excellent question. I think that the Government of the United Kingdom through investing in Inimicus and encouraging the private sector to operate in Inimicus could do a lot to help stimulate and grow the economies in Inimicus as well as generate growth in the United Kingdom.
"I'd also like to see the United Kingdom do more to exchange places at universities with Inimicus and work together to tackle big issues like climate change, green energy, and infrastructure projects. I'm sure these would do a great deal in expanding our economies and fostering good will. I'm sure our predecessor met with you to discuss visa free travel between our nations, but if they hadn't, that is definitely on the table as well."
Eagerly awaiting the main course, Sir Jonathan answered: "Oh, indeed, the Imperial Government, I think, did discuss this quite some time ago. But as you will have undoubtedly noticed by now my short-term memory isn't the best. Er, so, what as that other point you made? Ah, universities, yes. I have to admit, some Inimician highed education institutions are rather elitist and would not be very open to increased foreign places organised by the government. However, you ought not worry about this - fortunately, we have an incredibly detailed and valuable constitution which does not only state the exact rights of all Inimician governmental bodies, but also mandates that education should be the constant concern of the Government. Therefore, we could easily arrange an increase of exchange students. Ooh, I can already invisage them all meeting His Imperial Majesty when they graduate from Telum Imperial College!"
"Erm, yes, Jonathan", Maximillian interrupted his brother again. He was now regretting picking him to accompany him to London. His over-enthusiastic attitude and visionary mind may be extremely useful in internal politics - and of course, his surname carried an immense weight - but he was not the best to have as a companion on state visits. "We would, of course, welcome any kind of foreign investment and I will discuss with the Emperor how we could adjust and tweat tax rates and regulations in order to suit British business.
"We are, of course, or rather were, not known as the most climate-minded European state. I clearly recall my brother Sir Augustus and Mr Benfield in the European Council arguing an anti-interventionist case when it comes to climate change. However, Emperor Artabanos has massively refocused Inimicus's attention towards a co-operative effort in tackling climate change. So yes, definitely! We should work together on this.
"So I'd say we've got some real proposals on the table here!"
"Excellent. Ah, here's the main course now!" said the Prime Minister. They were served the venison wellingtons and their drinks of choice and the Prime Minister continued to talk in between bites.
"I'm glad these are workable proposals, and since you now know that I have to command a majority in the House of Commons, the parliamentary Conservative Party will be behind all of these proposals as these are definitely something we would like to hit the ground running. We'd also like to talk about security.
"As you know, national security is of great importance for any nation so we would like to offer you a defensive agreement with the United Kingdom. We would propose that the United Kingdom and Inimicus would be able to assist each other when any assistance is needed, whether it is an attack on either nation or cooperation on a humanitarian basis. His Imperial Majesty and Inimicus are viewed as important and valued nations not only in Europe, but to the United Kingdom as well. We would also like to offer the construction of a joint training facility on the English Channel where Inimican and British soldiers can run through drills regarding at sea rescue and our ships can engage in naval exercises.
"We would also like to propose through a defensive agreement that our intelligence services pass on information that is crucial to the national security of the other. Now, I know it may be rather presumptuous to propose such a defensive agreement right now, but this is an opportunity with a new Government here to reset the relationship that Inimicus and the United Kingdom experienced under the previous....shall we say ill-advised Labour Government...maintained. We are of the mind that we need to reach out to our European colleagues more and work to the benefit of not only the British people but Europeans across the region."
"See, that is something Inimicus does not have to worry about as much as you; going through the process of parliamentary debates to agree upon a treaty is something we don't need to do, haha!", Sir Jonathan said, diving into his venison, which though a tad too well-done for him, he seemed to enjoy a lot - perhaps a tad too much. "Although of course", he continued, "your system is highly respectable. But this is why Inimicus did choose to once again be united under a monarch with absolute prerogative: in times of crisis or when tough decisions that are best for the country, but may not be the most popular, have to be made, our Government can act quickly and effectively without having a few hundred member of parliament wanting to make a long speech on every detail of government policy! But, I have to say, the British House of Commons does provide for good drama television..."
"Yes...", the Marquis went on, calmly and politely slicing and eating his wellington, "Well your last proposal is a rather interesting one, Prime Minister, and one which, if implemented, would undoubtedly benefit the relations between our two great nations. However, you will also understand signing a defensive pact is no small feat, and although I have been graced with a full Imperial Prerogative to act on this day, I do not think I can give you the full assurance Inimicus agrees without informing my Emperor accordingly. He will want to have the final say in this, no doubt. However, He has recently been expanding and re-arming Inimicus's military and I think will be more than open to joint training and defence. Also, you will have noticed Inimicus was granted a license to construct and store 150 nuclear warheads in January, and as of right now we are almost finished with the production of the first prototypes. I'm sure the practical knowledge of British engineers would be extremely valued in this area, and we would be very interested in working together in this field too."
"Well, I do believe it's been quite the success!" said the Prime Minister. "Could I interest you in a desert? Profiteroles, tarts, any of the like?" He was thoroughly pleased with the outcome so far, and the dinner was delicious. Coffee, cream and sugar had been placed on the table for after dinner. "I do thank you for coming to London. Have you had a moment to see any of the sights on your way in? Aside from the ones that were on the way from Heathrow, of course."
Samantha got up and pecked her husband on the forehead, going to tend to the children who were in the upstairs apartment of Number 11, where the actual living of the Prime Minister took place (the apartment above Number 10 was far too small to raise a family in, and as such, the Chancellor took up residence in it instead).
"Do we have any other business to discuss?"
"Do they put that in their coffee?", Sir Jonathan whispered to his brother, referring to the cream and sugar that had been put on the table. Inimicus was a country where one either drunk tea with milk, tea with lemon, or coffee with nothing. Black coffee was termed the 'noble drink', and espresso doubly so. The Emperor Himself enjoyed a wild variety of hot beverages, but none of them He took with milk or sugar. Sir Jonathan and the Marquis had been brought up in an upper class family, and were completely out of touch with what other people drank. And the upper classes, mind, drank black coffee. Nothing else. "Just try it", Maximillian answered, and his brother followed his command. Sir Jonathan attempted to remain polite, but nothing more.
"Well, Prime Minister", he said, swallowing the tasteless drink, "I completely agree. I will confer with the Emperor about your proposed defensive agreement, but I am sure He will find that and the other points we discussed most agreeable. Sir Jonathan and I are pleased and extremely grateful to you for having us at your admittedly rather stately home. But oh my, I see your children need you, and we shan't tarry any longer. We have a long night and flight ahead of us!"