British foreign policy needs nation state revamp for modern era, senior MP says
By David Wilcock
Britain needs a "Conservative internationalism" foreign policy approach that promotes co-operation between nation states as organisations like the UN struggle to adapt to the modern world, a senior MP has said.
Tory Tom Tugendhat said that "multilateralism itself is coming apart at the seams" and too many people were relying on the old system that "pretends that Putin, Trump,Brexit, China, India and many other changes are just passing events".
In a speech on Tuesday the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman called for the Foreign Secretary, currently Boris Johnson, to regain powers "hollowed" out in recent years.
He also suggested a beefed-up Foreign Office be given a budget of as much as 5% of GDP - around twice what Britain currently spends on defence - warning foreign policy was more important now than at any time since the Second World War.
Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute in London, Mr Tugendhat said he rejected the "Davos view" that after the end of the Cold War the nation state was dead.
He said: "The state is back. It is the primary vehicle of global influence and power and it comes before multilateralism. It is time we acknowledged it."
Mr Tugendhat, previously a vocal critic of Mr Johnson, warned that the Foreign Secretary and his predecessors had been "hobbled" in the role, traditionally one of the four great offices of state.
He called for a "revolution" at the heart of Government to give the Foreign Office strategic control of diplomacy, intelligence, defence, development aid, international trade and leaving the EU.
The Tonbridge and Malling MP, the son of a High Court judge, suggested common legal systems could be used as a link between countries, floating the idea of loaning judges to foreign jurisdictions.
This, along with scholarships for bright students, could help foster a "Commonwealth of common law" that might help boost trade and anti-corruption efforts.
He said the EU's "centralising supranationalising instinct" was out of kilter with the age, while the UN was "struggling to keep up with a changing international order", especially through misuse of the Security Council veto power, mainly by Russia.
He told the audience: "Too often we have hidden behind treaties and organisations and it is worth remembering that is not how we started.
"Those who draft the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Charter were not frightened of our laws and our politics, they weren't choosing to put foreign authorities above our own, they were projecting power.
"They knew what we seem to have forgotten: that the laws that build Britain, the rules that recognised human dignity, economic liberty and political empowerment, shape our world towards justice and freedom." (PA)