Sunday, 4 July 2010

Foreign Policy - Putting British Interests First

In his first keynote speech on foreign policy the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has laid down some important markers.

The Foreign Secretary talks about delivering 'a distinctive British Foreign Policy that extends our global reach and influence, that is agile and energetic in a networked world'. In contrast to the last Labour Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who thought British influence must be exercised via the decision-making of a G3 of US, China and the EU, Hague's approach understands that increasingly fragmented international relations cannot be viewed through the dogmatic strait-jacket of a G3. We need a global foreign policy, with the agility - and self-confidence - to tailor diplomacy to build fluid partnerships that serve British interests. I believe we should strengthen the transatlantic alliance and cooperate with our European partners - but be tied to the hip of neither.

The Foreign Secretary also emphasises the 'primary' duty of foreign policy to 'serve and protect the interests and needs of the British people', anchored in reality. Hague is not calling for a selfish foreign policy and this is not a return to a cynical and introverted realism in foreign policy - Britain must discharge her responsibilities as (what I call) a 'global good citizen'. But Hague is right to recognise that Tony Blair's grand schemes for nation-building in inhospitable climates, or European political integration, require a firm reality check. Too often they failed to serve British interests. We need a foreign policy grounded in tangible interests and policy, not abstract ideological agendas.

Hague's analysis puts a renewed emphasis on economic diplomacy, bilateral relations and developing policy through the Commonwealth - all neglected under the last government. This is welcome. Britain should be a global champion for free trade. And it is astonishing that - even in prosperous times - we downgraded our diplomatic representation in key areas like Latin America, and neglected our invaluable Commonwealth links with nations across the globe.

These are just a few of the themes. You can read, or listen to, the speech here.


Richard Tebboth said...

"agile and energetic": how about ethical?

Europe: given the development of the European integration project:-
- do we need to maintain significant Embassies within the community?
- given the new European External Affairs Service will we need UK embassies elsewhere?

Lots of cope for savings in the current financial environment!

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