Global Britain

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th June 2018.

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Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 12:00 am, 26th June 2018

What progress his Department has made on the Global Britain agenda.

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Global Britain is about being open, outward-looking and engaged with the world so as to maximise our influence, and I give the House the clearest recent example of that: the 28 countries who joined us in sympathetically expelling 153 Russian spies.

Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is the perfect opportunity for us to fundamentally rethink our foreign policy post Brexit, and that more work could be done on the idea of global Britain to ensure that we have a foreign policy fit for the 21st century?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is why we have responded to the challenges that the world presents us with today by increasing our diplomatic staff by another 250 diplomats, in addition to the 100 that we added to our European strength, and we are opening 10 new sovereign posts in the Caribbean and the Pacific, with more to come in Africa.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Finance Committee (Commons)

I hope that global Britain is also about being extremely robust where there are strategic issues in Europe that we have to address, such as Nord Stream 2. Will the Foreign Secretary make it absolutely clear that Russia has systematically been bullying smaller countries in Europe for years through its energy policy and we will assist the Danes and the Germans if they want to make sure this does not go ahead?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Germans import a great deal of their gas from Russia and they are conflicted in that matter, but we continue to raise the concerns that he mentions with our German friends and of course with all the other states on the periphery of the EU that are threatened, as he says, by Russian gas politics.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Mary Robinson Mary Robinson Conservative, Cheadle

Thank you, Mr Speaker; it most certainly is.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will be aware that the Australia-United States free trade agreement was negotiated within 13 months. Can he outline what preparations his Department is making, so that when we leave the EU we can begin to negotiate speedy free trade arrangements with our Commonwealth counterparts? In the spirit of Commonwealth friendship, while he is on his feet, would he mind wishing the Socceroos every success in their game tonight?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I have just been warned by the Minister for Asia and the Pacific that the Socceroos are playing Peru tonight. I have just been to Peru and I would not want to forfeit any friendship I may have acquired on that mission. We wish both sides well in that encounter. Not just the FCO, but the Department for International Trade are waiting, straining in the slips—unlike the Labour party—to do the free trade deals that my hon. Friend rightly refers to.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

Given that yesterday the Foreign Secretary found himself in Afghanistan, may I ask what lessons he has learnt from Britain’s most recent intervention in Afghanistan and how he intends to employ those lessons in future?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

May I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question because, as the House may know, the National Security Council is about to consider a substantial uplift in our engagement in Afghanistan? It is a timely moment to assess the worthwhile aspects of that offer. I believe the UK has contributed massively to modern Afghanistan. Life expectancy for males is up 10 years since the UK first went there as part of the NATO operation; female education—girls attending school—has gone from 3% to 47%; huge tracts of the country are now electrified that were not. We have much to be proud of in our engagement with Afghanistan.