Global Britain and the International Rules-based Order

Part of Brexit, Science and Innovation – in the House of Commons at 3:49 pm on 6th September 2018.

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Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 3:49 pm, 6th September 2018

It is a genuine privilege to follow Darren Jones, who spoke very eloquently; it was a pleasure to listen to him. I thank the Minister for being here to listen to us. Not every Minister is impressive, but this one undoubtedly is.

It is a privilege to be here with representatives of the two Canadian units and the Australian unit in the Gallery. My great-great-uncle was the last member of my family to represent my seat, the Isle of Wight, which I have the huge privilege to represent. He served in world war one with the Canadian Cavalry. In fact, he led the Canadian Cavalry Brigade in world war one, and at Vimy Ridge, which was remembered in France earlier this year, it was the Canadian Cavalry charge that halted the German advance and saved the splitting of the allied forces and possibly the war in March 1918. He was very proud of his service with the Canadian Cavalry. He was a Brit from the Isle of Wight, but he was associated with the brigade. It is a pleasure for me to be here with them.

I would like to talk briefly about two things. First, I shall ask, what is global Britain? Secondly, I shall make some points about the international order that relate to China, Iran and Russia. I do not wish to be too critical of the Minister, for whom I have high regard. Global Britain is a great phrase, but we really need to fill it out. I have some questions about it. What are we prioritising? Every time our Foreign Affairs Committee says, “What are you prioritising?” the answer is, “Everything.” Correct me if I am wrong, but the FCO does not have unlimited resources. Global Britain is about more than just opening half a dozen extra posts in Papua New Guinea. It has to amount to something. Is the priority trade? Is it aid? Is it security?

For the past 15 years, we have had a foreign policy that has been somewhat gesture politics, and much more in the world besides. In the past five years, foreign affairs, threats to Britain and our role in the world have become much more serious, urgent and pressing questions. There is a strong argument that our priority has to be trade and then security and aid. That is not to underestimate the importance of aid, but it is to say that we have vital national interests that we have to try to meet.