We live in tumultuous times. Who would have believed that within the space of a few months, electors would take the United Kingdom out of the European Union, and Americans would elect a President not in thrall to vested interests, but prepared to deliver on campaign promises.
This has come as a great shock to many within the European establishment - They appear unable, and unwilling to accept the decisions arrived at democratically, in both the UK and USA, and continue their childish behaviour, by insisting that Britain must be punished for leaving the EU, and that the US ambassador must be excluded from the European Parliament.
If 2016 was a political earthquake, then 2017 may yet be the year of political aftershocks that will be felt throughout this continent. Unless this European establishment learns from the lessons of Trump and Brexit, they may well find themselves washed away.
Not content with tearing down Europe’s relationships with the United States, these same Europhiles push for ever greater sanctions against Russia, and for the EU to take action against Russia in the Crimea.
Yet these very same politicians come from European states refusing to honour their defence commitments to NATO, thus, placing at risk, the future of the organisation that has guaranteed the peace in Europe since 1945.
What could be more ridiculous than picking a fight with Russia, alienating the new American administration, and undermining the one organisation that can protect us? - Welcome to the world of European Union foreign policy making; a world of unaccountable, crazy decisions that further destabilise an already uncertain world. Everywhere the EU has meddled has turned into an unmitigated disaster, and I don’t believe that Africa and the Middle East has the capacity to withstand any more EU ‘help’.
So now we are on our way out of the EU, what is the future for UK foreign policy; what are the challenges and opportunities?
I believe that we must work closely with those who share our values and aspirations, that have a similar outlook on the world, but respect difference and the right to self-determination.
Let me touch on our future relations with Europe, whether as individual states or as a Union.
Our decision to leave the EU does not mean we are turning our back on the European continent. We want to maintain close relations and close co-operation with those that are willing to enter into a constructive relationship outside of the restrictive confines of the EU. It is important for us to maintain political, military and trade relationships in Europe, and to use our influence to persuade our neighbours to fulfil their financial and military obligations that will keep our continent safe. I don’t believe that the EU has a long term future, but we can develop our bilateral relations with each European state, and be as constructive as they will allow.
I say to our partners that the UK remains committed to maintaining peace and prosperity in Europe. In fact, I hoped the shock of Brexit would have given the EU elite pause to think, but they seem as determined as ever to push on with the European project.
We will continue to enjoy close cooperation with our European partners, especially France, the Republic of Ireland and other states with which we enjoy close bilateral relations outside of EU structures. I hope a successful and free independent Britain will inspire our partners throughout Europe to follow suit, or at least to rethink their foreign and defence relationships with the EU. Above all, we must ensure that NATO remains the organisation for the security and defence of Europe.
To my mind, this means working closely with the United States, projecting our joint values around the world. This means a closer trading relationship with the US, a closer political relationship and a closer military relationship.
In times of threat and instability, the US and the UK have stood steadfastly together, and this we must do now. If European states will not fairly contribute to the defence of Europe then we must strike a deal with our American friends that will protect these shores. We must also join forces to fight the myriad terrorist groups around the world that would threaten our way of life.
Of course, it would be nice to strengthen the role of NATO, but can we rely on European members to honour their commitments, and ensure NATO has the capability to defend us?
I want a committed NATO membership and this will take time and considerable pressure from both the UK and the US. In the meantime, let’s maximise the co-operation between willing partners.
But of course, it is not only the United States that share our values and dreams. We have, in the Commonwealth, an organisation bringing together countries that have historical political, trade, cultural and defence ties upon which we can build.
This provides us with the opportunity to project our influence and values around the world, and to develop the Commonwealth organisation as a forum where like minds can work together.
I have spoken previously about the Commonwealth and the great benefits of membership, the trade flows and the preference for intra Commonwealth trade. This I strongly believe is the future-strong trading relationships with the most dynamic economies in the world, based on free trade and national interest.
I recently spoke at the Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels to which the Indian Ambassador to the EU was invited, and to no one’s amazement various MEP’s stood up to condemn Brexit and express a desire for India to concentrate on its relationship with the EU, to the detriment of the UK.
I’m delighted to report that the Indian Ambassador publicly agreed with me that the historic links between India, the UK and Commonwealth go way beyond the European Union, and that Britain and India will continue to work together, despite the best efforts of others.
I have consistently spoken in support of those who seek self-determination. In October I visited Somaliland, on the Horn of Africa, and saw for myself how even the most disadvantaged state can prosper. I learnt how these countries seek a level playing field so that they can trade - What they do not seek, are handouts.
So let’s ensure that we have an equitable system enabling developing countries to trade globally, allowing them to stand on their own feet, ending the aid dependence that blights so many African and Asian economies.
We as a party, must stand ready to hold our government to account, but also provide guidance where appropriate. I’m concerned that there is a perception, justly, that the government lack clarity on what Britain’s foreign policy should be post Brexit. The White Paper is hardly a strategy; it reads like an overview of some very basic facts with no analysis of what options exist, a muddling of foreign and defence policy, and an explanation of what has happened in the past rather than what we should aspire to in the future.
We are entering an exciting time for UK foreign relations, and a time of great opportunity.
What we do now, can lay the foundations for future generations to prosper and once again, make us proud citizens of a truly independent & free, United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland.