A C Grayling has shocked commentators on social media by appearing to suggest that the government is deliberately trying to have a Type 23 Frigate destroyed by China to distract from Brexit talks.

Anthony Clifford Grayling is a British philosopher and author. Grayling was a director and contributor at Prospect Magazine from its foundation until 2016. He is a Vice-President of Humanists UK and Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and Patron of the Defence Humanists.

Many have likened his tweet to the plot of ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’.

The plot of the film follows James Bond on a mission which includes a media tycoon, his former lover and a Chinese agent. Elliot Carver wants to complete his global media empire, but in order for this to work, he must achieve broadcasting rights in China. Carver wants to start up World War III by starting a confrontation over British and Chinese waters, the film features a Type 23 Frigate just like HMS Sutherland.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson recently said HMS Sutherland, a Type 23 anti-submarine frigate, would sail through the South China Sea on its way home from Australia ‘to assert freedom of navigation rights’.

“She’ll be sailing through the South China Sea and making it clear our Navy has a right to do that,” he told The Australian newspaper after a two-day visit to Sydney and Canberra.

This comes not long after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told Australian ministers that HMS Queen Elizabeth will conduct freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea region on her maiden deployment in 2021.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said:

“We spoke about the challenges including in the South China Sea and we had a long discussion about the Pacific and the opportunities for deeper British engagement in our part of the world.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in response to concerns raised regarding freedom of navigation in the South China Sea:

“One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area, to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”

Britain recently deployed a squadron of Typhoon aircraft to conduct exercises with South Korea and Japan amid heightened tension in the region. According to local media, the ministers agreed to identify opportunities to conduct joint activities when the two countries have ships or other assets in the area at the same time. We reported recently that it had emerged that the UK plans to sail HMS Queen Elizabeth to the Pacific in 2021 amid concerns regarding freedom of navigation in the region.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail to the Pacific on her maiden deployment in 2020 according to an ambassador. Kim Darroch, Britain’s ambassador to the US said at a think-tank event in Washington:

“As we bring our two new aircraft carriers on-stream in 2020, and as we renew and update our defence forces, they will be seen in the Pacific. And we absolutely share the objective of this US administration, and the next one, to protect freedom of navigation and to keep sea routes and air routes open.”


  1. All mildly weird. I shall be pleased to see HMS Sutherland, HMS Queen Elizabeth, or any other RN or RFA vessel exercise their right to navigate through any international waters, but, how would we feel if Chinese PLA navy vessels were driving up the channel & Dover straits & doing exercises in the North Sea, just because they can? I think we’d be a tad irritated, as the Chinese will be by our deployment plans.

    • True. But Britain is not grabbing ever not of the North Sea it can and flaming the waters as ours. Which I believe China is, the whole point of this affair and annoying ever other country in the region.

    • Daniele had the straight of it. The South China sea is in no way China’s waters, and not even their strongest allies support their claim. and sailing through it is a strong message despite how annoyed I am at the government for once more thrusting yet more commitments on our armed forces whilst cutting them at the same time.

      Plus it puts to bed the whole rubbish how we’re China’s lapdog for pursuing a closer relationship and signing up to their investment scheme

  2. Foil hat wearing leftist nut job?
    Ring any bells….
    Is Pokomon still to blame for Hillary losing?
    What a stupid, stupid thing to say out loud.
    If this is what universities produce then we are all f’d!

        • Oh if only you knew… at my school you frequently hear people saying things like “Why don’t we just scrap the military, we don’t need it any more because the war is over” (In case you were wondering it’s a secondary school). Couple this with nearly every teacher being extreme left and having informal class poles on who would vote for which party where nearly everyone votes for labour, we are set for dark times ahead. This is despite coming from a place that has voted for Lib Dems or conservatives ever since voting began.

  3. Not sure what the education system has to do with this comment. Although it makes a change blaming that rather than brexit or foreign aid.

    I think it’s a valid comment, does the RN need to send an aircraft carrier or is it trying to show off its new toy? Ironically if there was a war in the South China Sea the carrier would be nowhere near there due to their cost.

    • Claiming that the government will try to get one of their frigates sunk with the deaths of many sailors is not a “valid comment”.

      It’s the ramblings of a political fanatic, nothing more.

  4. Prof. Grayling has a long record of outlandish comments when it comes to Brexit. China has tried to make her claims in the South China Sea de facto. By asserting the international law of the sea (the right of peaceful passage) Sutherland is ensuring that claim is not allowed to pass into reality by default. Another reason to be thankful we have at least some kind of navy left. Many regional countries will thank us for taking a stand alongside them.

  5. Interesting comments. Not sure we were so agitated when the Chinses sailed through the Channel last year, then again, Chinese Ministers didn’t make a huge song and dance about it either.

    Just saying like.

  6. I struggle to believe that a public figure could be ignorant enough to make a comment like that, gives remainers a bad name. He should be very aware that numerous western navies have carried out freedom of navigation exercises and flights through the South China Sea and China hasn’t reacted violently once. No reason to expect anything different this time.

  7. Dear UK Defence Journal: My tweet was about the too-late and too-little response of the UK government to China’s irredentist activity in the South China Sea and Spratley islands. I’ve been tweeting about this for ages. I’ve no doubt that anything that would distract from its Brexit shambles would be welcome to it. But I can’t seriously believe you think I was really, genuinely, actually suggesting that our government is trying to get one of our warships sunk for James Bond-type reasons! – so come on, a bit of grown-upness would befit you as a serious journal: see a throw-away polemical joke for what it is. – Best wishes with your otherwise always interesting coverage of defence matters.
    A. C. Grayling


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