The UK has a long tradition of trading with the five continents of the world, of having state to state relationships with most countries, of seeking to improve understanding, communications and exchanges through substantial diplomatic activity. Much of the present day activity is designed to promote trade and cultural exchange with a large number of countries.
As a well armed member of the Security Council of the UN, with a substantial overseas aid programme, the UK also has a role in promoting and protecting the international peace and intervening against illegal seizures of power or the abuse of state force by others. The various interventions undertaken by the UK in conjunction with the US and others, often with UN support, in the Middle East in recent years have frequently proved contentious and have often been debated on this site.
We should not lose sight of the idea that foreign policy, backed by force you would rather not have to use, is in the first instance there to protect us and to advance our own country’s interests. If we look at the threats or challenges to the UK they do not primarily come from the Middle East, and they are not usually violent in nature. Many of them come from closer to home.
There are only two worrying challenges to our own family of territories – in the Falklands and in Gibraltar. It is true the Falklands did in the past involve military action to oust an Argentine invasion. Today the challenges to the British Falklands are diplomatic, based on challenges to trade, commerce, shipping and through international fora. The challenge to Gibraltar comes from a fellow member of the EU, Spain. The issue is often used by Spain to complicate other negotiations going on about differing issues. The UK believes in the free determination of peoples. We have shown that in Scotland, offering the Scots a referendum on their national future. Gibraltar and the Falklands wish to remain with us and should be allowed to do so. If Spain wishes to show her belief in the free determination of people why does she not allow Catalonia a vote on their future? Why is Spain so keen to keep Ceuta, violating arguments she uses to advance her claim to Gibraltar?
The bigger challenges to our national interests come from EU common policies. For years the Common Fishing Policy has damaged both our fisheries and our fishing industry. The common energy policy is leaving us short of energy and pushing up energy prices in an uncompetitive way. The common policies followed in many other areas are also damaging to the UK’s interests. Many UK people dislike the common borders policy, the criminal justice policy and parts of the common foreign policy. It is time to be thinking of these as a central preoccupation of foreign policy.