This is an important report and requires comprehensive consideration. Fostering relationships and working for certainty is key to the UK’s future in this complex, uncertain world. As applicable to beyond the EU as within, engagement, trust-building, negotiation and agreement are key. I remain for ever hopeful that conditions can be met to reset a number of relationships.
The sum of four strands makes up relevant relationships: government, both central and local, parliamentary, the private sector, and civil society, including culture exchange and soft power. Central government’s role must be to uphold standards and exercise its mind on such matters as national security, but also, importantly, to co-ordinate the other components. After all, it does not have a monopoly on relations.
I will run with the theme from the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. The report underlines the essential need for parliamentary scrutiny and engagement. Enhanced inter-parliamentary dialogue could serve a real purpose. However, the UK’s APPG movement requires an urgent overhaul. Its role, and that of the IPU and CPA, should be properly funded and not be as a single focus group, so as to become effective in advising government. Chairs and officers should be selected for their approach to being even-handed, but will the Government take parliamentarians seriously or do they believe themselves to be a centralised cabal?
In my time as chairman of the APPGs for the five states in central Asia, I endeavoured to make the groups meaningful by signing co-operation agreements with opposite numbers to underline their importance to the broadest range of priorities, from security, the environment, climate, trade, human rights and others, including parliamentary exchanges. That process could become a model.