William Hague on UK Foreign Policy

September 11, 2011

Sometimes you can tell when people enjoy their job. Maybe they don’t enjoy it all the time but there are moments in which they positively rejoice in a certain task.

Here is William Hague’s speech on the UK FCO and UK foreign policy from a few days ago.

No, I am not talking about Mr Hague enjoying his job. He may well do but it is not him to whom I refer. I am talking about the FCO speech writer who was tasked with writing this speech for Mr Hague.

You can almost feel the delighted flicks of quill on paper/fingers dancing on keyboard, as the D Miliband and T Blair sidelining of institution and continuity is consigned to the wastepaper basket of particularly dumb ideas and the reinstalling of institutional continuity of knowledge and relationships returned to its rightful place.

Now that sounds like a very partisan thing to write, however it must be remembered that politicians come and go, often at very short notice (if they fiddle their expenses or are caught in a compromising position with somebody they ought not to be) so there is much to be said in favour of the civil service, particularly the FCO, when it comes to retaining the longevity of collective and individual knowledge and relationships with foreign states and supra-structures such as the UN, NATO and the EU.

There is even more to be said for circulating the FCO staff in regions in which they gain knowledge and personal relationships. There would be little point to having a mandarin fluent in Russian working within the FSU region where currently all leaders, opposition and captains of industry still know each other from the days of the USSR and send them to Bangladesh on their next posting (even if that is where they want to go). It seems rather unlikely that an FCO mandarin with extensive knowledge and contacts within the FSU could put that knowledge and their command of Russian to greater effect in Bangladesh unless they happen to be able to speak West Bengali or any other commonly used language in that region as well and be so personable that they can easily take over an existing network and gain the same level of trust and understanding of said network.

Of course all relevant and salient issues can be recorded for those who follow but that never takes the place of any personal relationships that are built completely. Just as much as a tap on the shoulder at a drinks party or in a university library can begin a career, so do the personal connections made with opposite numbers in far off lands once that career has started.

Anyway, enough of pointing out the poor decisions of D Miliband and T Blair in respect to the FCO. Hopefully the speech writer’s words that came out of Mr Hague’s mouth will become a reality.

Somewhat coincidently, having clearly stated the FCO will not outsource foreign policy to the EU entity run by Baroness Ashton, it would appear that a call from Germany, France, Italy, Poland and Spain for a permanent EU military HQ is gathering steam, again under Baroness Ashton. Considering Mr Hague’s previous statement on this matter “I have made very clear that the United Kingdom will not agree to a permanent operational HQ. We will not agree to it now and we will not agree to it in the future. That is a red line.” we may soon see just how good British diplomacy is, for it will surely be tested publicly on this matter.

Given Ukraine has a declared non-aligned military status, any form of EU Army and guaranteed commitment to it on full mambership would become a serious stumbling block for Ukraine’s full entry into the EU as far as current Ukrainian positions go.

Time will tell of course. By 2025 – 2030 which is the earliest realistic time frame for full EU membership (if it is ever actually sought) the positions of Ukraine may be quite different and the EU, if it still exists, may be quite a different animal from today and not worth joining as a full member.

Nevertheless, bravo to a victory for common sense as far as the speech and FCO policy goes. Let us see if the words become deeds.

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