Global Britain: A Twenty-First Century Vision

EVENT TRANSCRIPT: “Global Britain: A Twenty-First Century Vision”

DATE: 12:00-13:00, 11 February 2019

VENUE: Portcullis House

SPEAKER: Bob Seely MP, James Rogers & Boris Johnson MP

EVENT CHAIR: Dr Alan Mendoza


DR ALAN MENDOZA: The whole point of discussions like this is to broaden the debate and to make a national debate and hear peoples’ contributions.  So we’re going to start with our two speakers.  And I’m going to call on Bob Seely to introduce the report.

BOB SEELY MP: Thank you and thank you very much indeed.  I’ve been told – I normally like wandering around – so I’m going to try to stay here so all the microphones can pick up a bit of noise or pick up what I have to say.  Thank you very much indeed first of all for all you being here. I understand it’s a busy time so it’s appreciated.

We’re going to talk about global Britain today.  I had a real frustration about the level of debate and quality of debate in the United Kingdom at the moment.  We are obsessively focussed on Brexit and the weeds of Brexit and I find it – frankly – very difficult to talk about other things.  And what I want to talk about today is other things and specifically the bigger picture of where British foreign policy and British overseas policy could be.

Now you’re here not because I’m the Secretary of State or that I’m particularly powerful but because I hope that some of the ideas that we have are going to have attraction with not only Conservatives but with wider society.  And as Alan said it’s really not just about DFID: more or less – but, it’s how we “do overseas policy”.  And there are 20 specific recommendations in the document and frankly I’m going to do a little bit of background and then just talk through them for the next 10-15 minutes.  I’m going to have my co-author James intervene at a couple of places just to fill in the statistics. So hopefully like one of those team double acts we’re going to flow very naturally but we’re going to see how it goes.

How do I sum-up what we’ve done? First, our document explains how to do strategy better and outlines what we believe and outlines what we believe Britain’s three great global campaigns should be.  Second, it argues for changes in structure in the ministries that do overseas policy.  Thirdly, it argues for a change in spending priorities to make sure DFID spends better and it enables/empowers them to get more value for money and that includes peacekeeping and the BBC World Service – funded fully out of the development budget.  That is quite a big change. And finally we propose some specific policy ideas about supporting multilateralism by developing a new and deeper relationship with out CANZUK allies and about making our democracy more resilient here.

So I’m just going to go through those… Just briefly, I want to give a big shoutout to somebody in the audience; to Rob Johnson. Every time I use the word ‘strategy’, I think of Rob and if anyone wants to talk about strategy afterwards, he’s your man. Rob is the bloke in the very smart three-piece suit; he’s standing up now. Rob thank you for being here. Rob – I was on the changing character of war programme with him at Oxford for about a year and Rob runs the changing character of war programme and he does a phenomenal amount of work and he’s one of the foremost strategic thinkers and British historians in this country. And Rob was very kind to advise on bits of thinking about strategy. And fundamentally strategy – so if you want to catch Rob afterwards just talk about strategy from an academic expert point of view, he is your man because there is probably no one better person in this country to talk about strategy with.

Because one of the bizarre things about the UK is that we have so many institutes, so many think tanks that think strategy, that look at strategy and yet we don’t seem to bring strategy into our overseas policy unless muddling through is sort of national character and it sort of is ineffably but we think muddling through should have a little bit more strategy and strategic thought attached.

Right so what are our 20 big suggestions that we have for improving the way that the British state does overseas policy. Firstly, we believe that there should be a National Strategy Council. We need a forum for talking about strategy.  We believe a National Strategy Council should come out of the National Security Council – that’s what exists at the moment. And it’s evolving slowly and it has 16 implementation groups and those groups try to align strategy.  But the problem is it has been structured to be a little bit reactive and focussed on strategy. It does stuff that’s happening to us not stuff that could happen.  So we want to take that National Security Council and we want to evolve it into being a National Strategy Council.  And it would have two roles – it will do strategy.  IT will write our Global Britain Strategy for 10 years aligning all the Government Departments for people who do overseas strategy.  DEXEU, Home Office, MI5, MI6, Cabinet Office, Prime Minister’s Office, the FCO, DFID, the MOD, Police Liaison, National Crime Agency for all these different groups that need to be aligned much better. So we need to first have a National Strategy Council that produces a decade long global strategy for the UK and we update that every few years. China by comparison is producing a decades’ long belt and roads strategy and is putting a trillion dollars into it.  So we have to be in the field of strategic thinking.  So those are the first two points.

Thirdly one of the bizarre things that James and I found when we were doing our research is that actually we don’t know how much money we spend abroad.  People complain a lot about the 0.7 target but actually we spend more than 0.7 and it may be that we actually spend more than 0.8 abroad.

James – just give us a few figures.  Where are the figures in the report? They’re on page 26.  James why do we think that we spend more than 0.7% and tell us about ODA and about overseas spending?

JAMES ROGERS:  We spend around £13.9 billion – at least last year – on ODA.  Now this is a definition that was created by the OECD back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  It’s been reformed over the years and recent reforms occurred in this decade; in no small part because of the UK driving that initiative forward.  But in addition to that – the ODA – it’s possible that we’re spending around £1.5 billion in addition to that in other forms of overseas assistance.  Not ODA but nevertheless forms of assistance that help other countries to develop and ways that go above and beyond economic development.

BOB SEELY MP: Can I just interject because if you look at these joint Government Departments like the Stability Unit – great idea, we really like it.  Am I correct in saying, out of the 1.182 billion that they spend, 627 million is not ODA, correct?


BOB SEELY MP: So we know that we spend a lot more than 0.7 and realistically you probably spend at least 0.78 on overseas development money and maybe up to 0.8.  Thank you so much indeed for that intervention. So that’s where we’ve got to at the moment.  We also want an overseas audit of how much we actually spend.  I’m also going to borrow James again. Tell us a little bit about the state of the World because in many ways, the state of the world we are better off than ever before. However, there are some threats on the horizon. James over to you.

JAMES ROGERS: Yes, I mean the international geopolitical context is changing and we need to think about this as we move forward and if you look at the period just after the Cold War, it seems that things are getting very much better. So, in 1989, average Global GDP per capita was around $1,500. In twenty years by the end of the last decade it had reached $8,900. So it had more than doubled. The number of free countries has moved from 61 in 1989 to 89 twenty years later. So the world is getting better.  However, over the last few years, we’ve seen that things have started to change and go back again. So although the world’s continuing to get richer, the number of democracies in the world is actually falling and if you look at the latest Freedom House statistics that were produced this year, you would see that there has been a remarkable shift even in the Western world we’ve seen a decline in democracy.  Now beside that we have a number of changes – for example, we all know of the rise of Russia and its authoritarian Government and the revisionist urges that it has in countries like Ukraine and more broadly around the Eastern European space.  And we’ve also heard recently and I think that this was one of the points that the Defence Secretary made this morning that China is getting revisionist ability in the South China Sea.

So what we can see is a change in the global balance of power and a change in the way in which certain countries are reacting to the rules-based order. Beside that a wider, a broader issue is the economic centre of gravity is moving away from the North Atlantic and it’s moving increasingly to the Indo-Pacific.  So we need to be aware of all those changes and what they mean for us in the years ahead.  And in particular, what they mean for both our defence capability, our diplomatic capability but also our provision of ODA and other forms of aid.

BOB SEELY MP: James, thank you.  And for me the really big thing there is how the shift in power, trade, the importance of the trade routes in the Pacific and Indian Oceans plays out in our relationships with countries that we share interests but not necessarily values. Japan, Korea and India – not only those states that are allies but could be stronger allies.  But also, those countries that we share very deep ties with such as New Zealand, Canada and Australia and what that says about our CANZUK relationship, going forward. And for those people unfamiliar with the term, CANZUK is another term for the so-called Anglosphere. So those countries that are united by a shared history. We share the same language, a very similar political system, legal systems, we share a Head of State.  New Zealand, Canada, Australia and ourselves.

Right, so we’ve done the strategy – Strategy Council; Global Strategy. Three Global Campaigns. Three Global Campaigns that we suggest Britain should be championing as part of our cultures and our traditions. Our freedom from oppression; freedom for trade and freedom of thought. Because they sort of define us in the last few hundred years. So freedom from oppression – going back to the French Hugenouts who came here to flee oppression in Europe. We destroyed the slave trade, we destroyed slavery – we outlawed it in this country and a third of the Royal Navy’s power in the first half of the 19th Century was used to destroy the slave trade in the Atlantic.  In the last Century, in the middle of the last century, we helped defeat Nazi Germany with its ideology of racial purity. And in the latter half of the 20th Century, we defeated or helped to defeat the Soviet Union with its theories of class purity. So we’ve always championed freedom from oppression although we defined it in our national interest at the time.  Freedom of trade is axiomatic in this country and helps to explain our global identity. And in fact the Empire was in many senses borne out of trade roots rather than conquest.

And, thirdly, freedom of thought which comes from scientific revolutions, religious…

Hi Boris, are you coming in?  Do you want to come and say a few words?

BORIS JOHNSON MP: I don’t want to interrupt you

BOB SEELY MP: I’m just ranting so interrupt me when you want but thank you so much for being here.

Freedom of thought, axiomatically religious revolutions and the scientific revolutions and indeed in the founding of the BBC World Service today.  So, how do we improve our structures? So that’s the strategy bit so we’re moving on to the structure.

Integration – we think that we can improve the way that the FCO and everyone else in Government does business by integrating departments and that means we’re going to take DFID and we’re going to take DIT and using the Canadian and Australian models, we’re going to put them within a reformed FCO.  So we drive integration and then we use that to drive integration across Government as well. However, we integrate within departments and overseas as well.  So we believe, that we should have joint effects teams at an Embassy and Regional level. Joint Effects Teams taking someone from DFID and FCO or whichever agency MI5 or the Home Office and putting them into Joint Effects Teams becomes the institutionalised norm of the way that we do business.

Thirdly, integrated line management.  Ambassadors should control everything. They should have line management over who’s within their staff. And there should be a single legal change.  As someone, who’s served in the last four campaigns with the British Army, the legal constipation that comes through decision making where you’re moving at the pace of the slowest lawyer be it in DFID or the MOD or bits of the MOD or the FCO has really hindered our ability to deliver overseas.  And it’s one of the reasons why we are damaging our special relationship because the Americans are more unwilling to deal with us because of our legal problems in actually getting on men and women in harm’s way.

We need a common set of pay and conditions for staff overseas. Now again the Foreign Office have been talking about this for years and it still hasn’t happened. We also need a diaspora advisory council because we need the views of the wonderful diaspora communities we have in this country and we hope to (inaudible). Finally I’m going to come to some points on spending and policy which will take a few more minutes. You happy with that Boris?”

BORIS JOHNSON MP: Yes, of course

BOB SEELY MP: Spending. We want to change the definition of how we spend, and James in three or four sentences, ok. Official development money is 0.7, we want to change that and James is going to give you three options of how we do so. But to make DFID spending more credible with all the British people, and not just a vocal (inaudible), but all of us, we want British peacekeeping to involved, British peacekeeping to be paid out of development money and we want the BBC world service to be mandated to become the global broadcaster of integrity on all audio and visual platforms and effectively to be given the task of taking on those international authoritarian broadcasters – Russia Today, Chinese, Press TV from Iran, and re-establishing this great basis for the noble idea of freedom of thought globally. Now this is not a tool of government, the BBC world service is not a tool of government, but it absolutely should be a tool of British values. So, peacekeeping, BBC world service and peacekeeping funded by development money. How are we going to change these targets? There are three ways that we can adjust the 0.7, I know some people say ‘cut aid, cut aid, cut aid’ and all these tedious commentaries from the left and from the Labour Party on cutting aid. Actually, we’re not going to cut aid, we want to increase the aid that goes to people in need. Only 15% of DFID budget goes to humanitarian relief, but to re-jig things we’re going to have to look at how we do so. James, in a nutshell, can you sum up three ways we can change how we deliver aid, what the options are.

JAMES ROGERS: Yeah, I mean to be clear, we go on to cut the amount that we are giving in aid. So, we remain committed to giving 0.7% of GNI. However, there are ways in we think about aid beyond, above and beyond, economic development, I think forms of non-economic development, i.e. to engage in the changing of world where authoritarian (inaudible). There are three ways in which we can do that; one of the easiest would be to push for further reform of the OECD rules to enable the UK, and other EAC countries, the definition of (inaudible)  to allow for more to be spent on economic forms of international development. That is our favoured way, that’s the way we are continuing on from where the UK has been going in the past few years. Now there are additional ways, one of those would be to reform our own spending target and actually reduce it so we’re spending only 0.5% of our GNI on additional development assistance but that the UK government would spend the additional 0.2% of GNI on non-economic forms of international development defined by the UK government. Now even if we cut off additional development assistance to 0.5% of GNI, we could still be spending significantly more than any one of our international peers, including Germany, Netherlands, France, the Irish Republic, Italy, Canada, Australia, Japan, Spain, the United States, which spend often as little as 0.3 or 0.2% overall on aid. The final option is to simply ditch the OECD definition of global aid and replace it with the UK definition but still maintaining our spending at 0.7% of GNI, some of which would still meet the criteria set by the OECD for (inaudible) aid. But, as I say, our preferred option is the first option is we indeed push for changes to the existing OECD rules.

BOB SEELY MP: Thank you James. Either way, we want peacekeeping and a reinvigorated BBC to count within that, and for those people who say ‘where are you going to get money, you’re cutting back’. No, humanitarian aid is 50% of the DFID budget, approximately another 15 or so percent is the good stuff that DFID does to support development, so water, sanitation and electricity, important. Another 15%, approximately, is governance programs, which don’t have a strong evidential base, I’m not saying they’re not worthwhile but they don’t have a strong evidential base and we are saying some of that money can be taken into something that we know does deliver, and we know if you try to develop civic society, freedom of thought, BBC world service, (inaudible) both in the English language, Russian, Persian, and Mandarin services. These things have an effect because we know it. There are other ways we can use the DFID aid budget better; I’ll give you a couple examples, we spent 1.4 billion on economic aid. We can spend half that amount of leverage private finance and that’s now what DFID says it wants to do, so not the 700 million (inaudible). I’ll give you one more example, DFID needs enormous credit it does this really well, it’s got very low overheads. The problem with that is it’s easier to give away 100 million to spend badly than 10 million spent well. I was down at the Syrian border talking to some wonderful Syrian doctors about the life-saving things that they were doing treating children whose arms and legs have been blown off by the Assad regime. Every 10 million pounds the British taxpayer gives them, nearly 4 million is taken in NGO bureaucracy because we take that money and we give it to an NGO in this country and they take 10%, you go to a European NGO they take 10%, you go to Turkey they take 10% and then it goes to the regional aid provider and they take 10% as well. So every 10 pounds the British taxpayer will spend going to those wonderful, brilliant, superb Syrian doctors, may I say I was a guest of the David (inaudible) Foundation, David does wonderful life-saving treatments and many of you I’m sure know him here, he’s a surgeon, he does extraordinary work, but every 10 pounds the British taxpayers give to those guys, bit over half, between 6 and 7 pounds is actually getting through. Now if we hire a project manager to run small projects better, that money, much more of it would go to the people who need it, and I hear my colleagues who I hold high in respect, people like Andrew Mitchell, great work, say every penny of aid is accounted for and he’s absolutely right that every penny of aid is accounted for and if more people knew how much went it consultancy fees and NGO bureaucracy, there will be even more of a scandal about (inaudible). That’s not because DFID is incompetent because they’re not, they’re good, they’re good people who actually run budgets really well. But legally, they’re forced to (inaudible) shove money out the door than hit a target and it is easier for them to spend a billion badly than a hundred million well and we need to change that system because it’s not defensible and it is not moral. Three final points, page 18, 19 and 20, some policy ideas, the Anglo-Sphere. This isn’t a (inaudible), we’re not saying we’re going to be buddies with Australia and Canada because the Europeans don’t like us, I’m half German, my (inaudible) grandfather was killed by the Nazi’s, my German grandmother was killed by the Soviets, I really meant the whole, you know, having divided that Europe is a bad thing because half my grandparents were slaughtered in the last war. So this is not an either or, this is about keeping our relationships with everybody across the world and we are leaving the European Union, no bad thing in my book, it’s better to be a close friend to the European Union than a bad spouse. We should have never let our ties with the Anglo-Sphere (inaudible) and actually what we now need to do as hopefully an independent nation, inshallah touch wood all that kind of stuff, is deepen our ties with the Anglo-Sphere and look at, for example, the trade link ups between New Zealand and Australia and say ‘right how can we apply that, more widely to Canada, to Britain and maybe even the United States one day’ and how can we apply that to other countries? Other Commonwealth states, India, South Africa, great nations coming up, Kenya, these modern future powerhouses such as Nigeria. So, just want to counter things, freedom of movement, between 60 and 80% of folks in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the UK want free movement between our countries. We are pushing an open door. Free trade, integrated diplomacy, should we be sharing a UN seat with the council of nations, we’ve got positive ideas, we’ve got two aircraft carriers, I don’t know what we’re doing with the second one but can that be part of a small Pacific UK flotilla that becomes part of a CANZUK Pacific Fleet. Can we be sharing buildings in the UN? Can we be collaborating in space? There is talk in the MoD of next generation radar with our Australian colleagues, this is close to my heart because we make radars on the Isle of Wight. So actually when you talk about UK-Australian next generation radar, or (inaudible) next generation, or Isle of Wight next generation radar, but however it works I want it so there are lots of things we could do, and finally a defence pact. I know people say ‘well why are we interested in the Pacific?’, that’s where all our trade is or much of it now and that’s where future problems, future humanitarian disasters, future solutions for mankind are going to be. Canada, New Zealand, Australia are Pacific powerhouses. We are an Atlantic one. Together, we can become close and account for 10% of the global GNI. The four of us are absolute powerhouses in our own rights, and we are increasingly diverse, liberal bastion of open societies and in many ways, I believe, the next generation, the next 100 years are going to be a battle, maybe a subtle one, between open societies and closed societies and we need to stick together. Finally, multilateralism, dedicated to the UN, dedicated to multilateralism, we created the multilateral world of United States after the war, we should be proud of it, we need to invest more, whether it’s a new building for our staff at the UN so they can (inaudible) more parties and have more soft power influence, but whether it’s about more peacekeeping or a more unique role for the UK in specialised peacekeeping, and finally national resilience here. We’ve seen the way the Russians and the GRU hack and fiddle with the US presidential elections, I don’t want Russia to do the same to our future elections. I’m aware of an increasing Chinese influence in Australia, that’s why they have the foreign interference laws passed last year. The United States have had a foreign aid act since the 1930s, we should think about doing the same. So those are 20 ideas, as you can see DFID more or less spending is a part of that but it’s a small part of a much, much bigger whole of how this nation does foreign policy in a more integrated and better way. So we’re going to take some questions, thank you very much indeed for being here, Boris would you like to say a few words?

BORIS JOHNSON MP: Thank you very much for that, I think it’s a fantastic thing. My first day in the foreign office I took a call (inaudible). I said I wanted a global Britain, our policy should be for a global Britain and they all kind of bombed at me but I think it’s absolutely right and entirely in keeping with this nation’s history and instincts. It’s full of good ideas, what Bob has been saying about the Anglo-Sphere is entirely correct, I like your idea of the, I noticed the Defence Secretary is getting going, he’s accelerating the plan for a (inaudible) mission to the South China Sea, quite right to. I like what you’re saying about the BBC, I think it’s incredible we have this amazing national asset (inaudible) around the world, I love the BBC and yet the BBC has less impact, less penetration, for instance in Latin America, as you say Bob, than Russia Today, that is a tragedy and we need to rectify it. I think what you say about ODA spending is also timely and I think it is building a growing consensus that change needs to come. In my view, that needs to come through a change in the DAC rules, the Development Expenditure Committee that would be, I think, something this country should campaign, people have been quite frustrated when I was Foreign Secretary by our inability to spend on countries in the Caribbean badly it by hurricanes, allegedly because they did not fall beneath the right threshold for DAC spending, that needs to be addressed. But I love this paper already, not because it picks up the theme of Global Britain, but because it is full of confidence about this country that I paradoxically find overseas and less here among the classes of the United Kingdom in the present time, and people are studying our approach to Brexit and they’re thinking about the UK and not just the second biggest military force in NATO, one of the few countries in the world capable of deploying forces, as we have been saying, 7,000 miles overseas, but also its soft power superpowers as the Henry Jackson Society has said. You know, by some estimates, if you put together our cultural, our diplomatic, our academic, our intellectual impact on the world, we are the second most influential country in the world after the United States. Since I count the United States as a, broadly speaking, cultural epi-phenomenon of the United Kingdom, you know I can live with that. This is an incredible country and widely regarded overseas. That is why people are mystified by the way we are handling Brexit, by our seeming inability to set ourselves free. Now you’ve spoken in your pamphlet about the three freedoms, you want to champion freedom of thought and expression and I thoroughly support that.

I noticed there is going to be a conference on freedom of expression for journalism, run by the Foreign Office – I think it’s a great thing – coming up soon. Freedom from oppression and I think it is vital that the UK should continue to champion 12 years of quality education for every girl in the world – probably the single most important policy globally that we can continue to pursue. But, above all, we’ve got to be champions of free trade and I’m afraid we can’t be independent champions of free trade and evangelists for free trade if you remain in either two varieties of captivity on offer. And at the moment you have the bizarre proposal from the leader of the Labour Party that we should remain in the customs union with rather some form of small representation at the table in Brussels in a kind that he does not specify. Then, on the other hand you have the captivity of the backstop in the withdrawal agreement, by which where we would remain in the customs union but without the advantage proposed by Jeremy Corbyn, of having any representation around the table in Brussels; and, I’m afraid to say, out of the two, that is logically the less desirable of the options. And that is why it is so vital – and I think Corbyn’s option is absolute madness – but I don’t think we should be going for the backstop either. That is why it is so vital over the next few days and weeks for this government, our government, our Prime Minister, genuinely does find the way out of that backstop and creates a UK sized exit. For my money, that has to be a time limit that falls before the next general election, if it is to have any meaning, and it must be an exit route that we are capable of exercising on our own. It must be a unilateral exit route for the UK. Unless we can do that, I’m afraid that, Bob and James, you won’t be able to champion one of those three great freedoms. But if we can, if we can change the backstop – which I’m sure, with sufficient willpower and energy we can – then, we are at the races. Then, the way is open for the UK, genuinely to take its place in the WTO in Geneva as a great independent actor and campaigner for free trade, which is what we should be. And, we should be living up to the manifesto, the vision of a ‘Global Britain’ outlined in this very excellent paper today. Thank you very much.

BOB SEELY MP: Boris, thank you so much indeed.

(States how questions should be given)

Question 1 – ITV News: Boris Johnson, are you now concerned the Prime Minister is now flirting with Labour’s position on Brexit and what do you think would happen to the Conservative Party if she does happen towards the customs union; and just on the backstop, is it enough now to put a time limit on that backstop or do you want it to be jumped altogether.

Answer – BORIS JOHNSON MP: Well, I don’t think there is any mileage for the Prime Minister or the government in trying to do a deal with Labour because they’ll just backtrack, they’ll try to do a deal that is toxic and presents disastrous effects for the Conservative Party. Still, Corbyn’s proposal would still keep us locked in the customs union, locked into much of the single market forever and that will of Brexit – the promise that was made to the British people of coming out of the EU institutions – would be broken. If you are going to stay in the customs union and the single market and around the table in Brussels, there’s a name for that isn’t there? It’s called being in the EU So Corbyn wants to do that, and that isn’t the way.

On your point about the dilemma: could we have a time limit? I think it must be pretty obvious, that if you’re going to have a time limit to the backstop – and I think that would be a very good thing – it’s got to fall before the next election. There’s no point in having a time limit to the backstop some years after the next general election; and, as I say, there’s got to be some way the UK can come out.

Question 2 – (inaudible): Why the paper release now and how do you plan to remake ‘Global Britain’, when you have no idea what Britain is going to look like in a few days?

Answer – BOB SEELY MP: Why now? We’ve just finished writing it now, so it was going to have been in the first few months of this year, and because I’ve been thinking about it for the past few years, I thought about it when I was a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan and these places, and then when I was elected back here I continued to think about it. So, I want to do it now, specifically this week because we think the FCO is going to its own statement on ‘Global Britain’ within the next month. So I wanted to get it out at roughly the same time.

To come to your broader question: clearly, I don’t know where we are going to be in ten or twenty years but what I do know is where I would like us to be. We are leaving the European Union – what does an independent British state mean; interacting with the rest of the world, staying true to our values, fighting oppression, championing freedom of trade, championing freedom of thought, what does this look like? And this for me, is an attempt at saying: ‘this is what it could look like’. So yes, I’m imagining forward, because that’s what human beings do when we say, ‘what should we do and what would we like to do?’ So, the 20 ideas that we have, is where I would like to see ‘Global Britain’; how we do strategy, what it is to do strategy, I want us to integrate better and to use our power better, to use our power as a force for good. One of the complaints I hear from Diplomats, is that we spread ourselves too thin, that we try to say yes to everything. So what my focus is – freedom from oppression, freedom for trade, freedom of thought – is to try and get us as a nation and our overseas policy makers and those who implement it, to look at what we should and could be doing and see the world for the values we are trying to implement.

Question 3a – ABC News: The idea of an expanded and stronger alliance with Australia and Canada and New Zealand, to what extent is that nostalgia for the past and to what extent would that nostalgia would offend the sense of sovereignty of nations that have not been part of Great Britain for so long.

Answer – BOB SEELY MP: To read the question, is this some sort of aged parent suddenly clinging to her kids? The answer for me is absolutely no. Actually, these are nations that are similar in very many ways, that share very similar interests, that we have a uniquely set of shared (inaudible), including the same head of state, language, parliamentary systems – which are pretty similar. Understanding what popular (inaudible) to respect it, if we can get through Brexit and if Parliament respects the will of the British people, at least that’s the case for me, in whatever form it comes in. I agree with a lot of what Boris says, I’ve been voting to support the current government currently. So this is not about something where we are clinging to the past. It’s about nations, with similar interests, similar values and a similar world-view, working together for the good our peoples and for the good of the world frankly.

Question 3b – ABC News: And just to follow up, the former Foreign Secretary, do you have a view of whether the UK should reset the free movement of Australians, for instance?

Answer – BORIS JOHNSON MP: Yes, I think I actually proposed that about ten years ago in Australia to overwhelming support then… although not from the government or the Home Office back then. I think it would be a very good thing. But, the important point is that – as you know, I am very pro-immigration in this country, since this country has been able to benefit massively from being able to welcome people of talent to the UK, but we should have control and we should be able to decide, and as I said, our treatment of potential visitors and workers from Australia and New Zealand has been pretty odd over the last 25 years. And if we could do something better, then we certainly should.

On the Anglosphere, I do think there is a massive opportunity there. But, we shouldn’t overestimate the influence of the commonwealth and (inaudible) the real attachment and interest there is in commonwealth countries, in deepening cooperation of all kinds, and not just political cooperation, but trade deals as well. Now, that really came through the commonwealth summit that we had last year.

Answer – JAMES ROGERS: One more point, is that it’s not either/or. So, we have a number of allies in Europe and they are going to remain important as well – and we focus on this a lot in the paper, in particular we focus on Ukraine, which is one of the countries that is suffering under Russia’s actions. Also, we need to focus more on our existing partners and allies in NATO. So, it’s not about either/or, it’s about focusing in relation to protecting our three freedoms.

Answer – BOB SEELY MP: This may not be achievable in the way that we would want it. Our future relationship with the European Union, however we negotiate the backstop, may mean that some of the abilities that Canada, Australia and New Zealand have to share close relationships, we won’t be able to share with all of them. But we should – it makes absolute sense for us to try and see where can share and to deepen those relationships. And to go back to the first question, I’m not thinking about the next few years, I’m thinking about the 21st Century and what it’s going to look like, and it makes sense for free nations of open societies with shared values to stick together for the benefit of our peoples and our shared futures.

Question – HUGH MERRIMAN MP: Why would a good conservative advocate putting money towards the FCO, when according to the World Transparency Index, DfID spends its money as what is rated as “very good”, and the FCO, “poor”? So, Boris maybe one for you, with your time as Foreign Secretary. Secondly, this (inaudible) may look quite good from a leadership potential, perhaps with my own members, but did we not in 2015 win a majority with this policy? The type of policy that’s seen malaria deaths in Africa reduced from a million over 15 years, down to 400,000. So, it’s not just a question of appealing to our voters, but actually appealing to the voters that win us elections, and this would be my point to you, that this feels very narrow and it does not make me very comfortable as a Conservative.

Answer – BOB SEELY MP: Okay, you make a fantastic point here and I am going to talk not as a Conservative, as we have to be careful about this and how we are funded. But you raise a fantastically challenging point. It’s not about cutting; one of the key points that I said earlier, and I hope you were here for that, was that 15 per cent of the money that DfID spends is on lifesaving and humanitarian aid, what we’re talking about is balancing the other elements of the budget. Now, if anything, we want to increase the lifesaving aid. But if you’re saying to the British people that every penny spent by DfID is spent on treating malaria, you and I both know that is not correct. You know that 15 per cent of the budget – clearly you know a  great deal about it – is spent on lifesaving aid; another 15 per cent is spent on the water and electricity, the foundation blocks of development; another chunk of money is then spent on economic aid, which we could rejig in order to leverage more private capital and further amounts of money are spent on other issues as well. A lot of that is also spent on consultancy (inaudible). So what we’re saying is that we will make aid better and more credible for the British people and actually we’re not just appealing to our voters, but to everybody to make DfID a more credible organisation. Perhaps you could agree with me: DfID spends money fantastically well – and again, as you’ve already heard, we’ve already said that – and much better than the FCO and the Home Office because it is used to running big projects, but the problem with it is, it is legally bound to spend, rather than spend well, and it is legally bound to spend big, rather than spend smaller and more effectively. So what I am trying to do here is say how do you square the circle? This is not an attack on DfID, it’s about making DfID more efficient and aligning it with our strategic interests. So I absolutely agree. I want to reassure you about that the lifesaving element, which, if anything, we actually want to increase, but we’re saying, you can either spend on governance programs that are untested, or we can spend on the BBC World Service, where there’s more testing; that we can spend that economic aid – £1.4 billion – or we can spend much less government cash, but leverage that through private finance and – I’m sure you know, because you know this subject – that is what DfID is just starting to do.

So we think if we look beyond the headline to actually the reality of what we are proposing, you would know that we are actually supporting the 0.7 but we want it to have greater credibility and we want to explore the definition of coherence that includes two the greatest institutions that we have in this country – the air forces – we are spending 3 hundred million on peacekeeping –  and between 5 hundred billion on BBC world service. So I want you to read the report and I think the big chunk of it was actually about making different funding efficient, of better value for money for us to have a stable future. You want to say anything in addition?

BORIS JOHNSON MP: Yes. You’ve got it. Absolutely. This is not about cutting the overall available spending and everybody in the UK government is incredibly proud of the commitment and the success made of that spending. It is about making sure that it delivers more for the UK and also that it delivers well spending (inaudible). It is true that DfID is obliged by the sheer volume of expenditure crossing through the pipe to give money out in very large chunks, as Bob was just saying, without revision of the cycle. It is just suddenly cutting it down to NGOs and it will be spent as whether as badly as (inaudible) can spend. Now we should still be very proud of that but the question is, can we use those huge sums to deliver more for the UK and more for other countries? Let me give you an example. If you go to (inaudible) in Nigeria, you will see a landscape that is still be ravaged by (inaudible) – it is a disaster. It is causing them poverty and destitution. It is causing all sorts of things. There is also a possibility of course that we could step up the UK’s current military engagement if the Nigerians were interested and the question would then arise – how could that be funded? Will it have to come exclusively out of the MoD funds or might there be possibilities of some kind of synergies in respect to the undoubted development objectives that will be produced by reducing the threat in North East. I am not saying that I have answers but what you need to do is to start thinking about those questions, to start thinking about the daft rules of 1972 that are still appropriate and I think there are plenty of other countries around the table that may start thinking that maybe the Brits have a point and maybe they will start being more flexible. I think actually once people understand the (inaudible) it will be something that carries huge confidence and support. At the moment, we are vulnerable to a lot of attacks for wasteful spending and the rest.

BOB SEELY MP: Thank you very much for your question. I really appreciate. James.

James from BBC: James (inaudible), BBC. Two questions. One is, what response do you have in the government and FCO about these proposals? Secondly, just one criticism. There is an argument saying that in your report you guys are looking at council details, strategy changes, committees’ audits, organisations before actually saying look, what actually is foreign policy itself. What should we be promoting? Surely Brexit, more than anything else has revealed that the nation had different views about what Britain is for today in the world and therefore should that debate happen first before you start talking about what we should be paying to diplomats?

BOB SEELY MP: Fantastic, I am almost (inaudible) because – policy recommendations. First – three global campaigns. Two – national strategy council. Three – we have a national strategy. The very point we are making is that we don’t have a strategy and we need to develop one. If you ask us, this is what we should be doing. So we are trying to mend some big ideas, to some operational ideas, to some tactical examples. But to answer your question that is absolutely (inaudible). Secondly, what we are doing. We need a national strategy formed and made by national strategy council and we need three great global campaigns if you are asking us what our strategy is.

JAMES ROGERS: We need to move away, and we are trying to argue this, from a security driven approach, when we look at all the different challenges that are out there, and to start thinking from our own perspective, how do we project these kinds of ideas, how do we project these three great freedoms into the world, and we need to think about it in a different way and we need to get together different points regarding spending to maximise our ability to push this agenda, these three freedoms around the world.

BOB SEELY MP: I had a very friendly response. (inaudible) Penny said we are moving towards some of these things. So a better peacekeeping is funded now up to 50%. Wonderful. We are pushing in this direction and I think the point that we are making is that we are going with the government on integration, on better flexibility, but what we are saying let’s not think six months or a year ahead which all the Secretaries of States are doing, because they are trying to change the rules now. James and I, with Boris’s support, we are thinking well, let’s wait for a decade and see in decade where we want to be. We want to be much more integrated than we are now. So with some of the criticisms and some of the ideas it is welcomed in a sense that it is a contribution to the debate and actually I am surprised by how friendly Penny Mordaunt’s comments have been.

JAMES ROGERS: And this should not be associated with one particular party or another but it has to be a wider national approach which is why we aim to have these kinds of discussions to stimulate new debate about where the country is going in the future.

BOB SEELY MP: Brilliant, fantastic. I am aware it is five to one so we shall have a few more questions. Sir.

Question from Italian TV: Talking about the freedom of trade, it is a major provider of free trade for the UK is being in the single market since 1944. How do you judge the advantages (inaudible)? Boris Johnson, looking into economic figures also at today’s GDP forecast you said that no deal is better than a bad deal?

BOB SEELY MP: Sir, you are asking about Brexit – that’s not really the issue here. We respect the will of the British people to leave the European Union so what we are trying to do as an independent nation, we care about all our partners including the future European (inaudible) what is that relationship is going to bring about. Now you can say that we shouldn’t ourselves (inaudible) to leaving the European Union but I voted for Brexit as did my constituents and the majority of the British people so the prons and cons would be (inaudible). So within the confines of that decision we all are trying to do what we can to champion three freedoms that we have.


I don’t want to (inaudible) Brexit but just on your point about the single market. Actually since 1992, we have been invited in 1992, I think there were 36 countries including Switzerland, Japan and many others and we have seen a much greater increase in their exports into the EU 27 than it is now, than the UK has. Now that is in spite of our membership so I am not convinced by that. There are big opportunities for us right now particularly to create wealth. There are people in Geneva, the delegation that I was meeting with in Geneva, are incredibly enthusiastic about the UK and this paper suggests that (inaudible).

BOB SEELY MP: A couple of more questions. You Sir.

Masato Kimura: If I may I would like to ask Boris on behalf of Japanese companies based in London, how do you calculate (inaudible) compromise on Irish backstop?


Thank you so much, I think the most important thing to do is to ensure as the so-called Maltese compromise proposes, that you continue to have a freedom of trade on the Irish border using existing technology whilst still allowing the UK to set its own integral policy and that is the ambition that the Prime Minister wants to fulfil and she has everybody supporting that and I think that from that point of view, the investment into the UK should have all the possible encouragement (inaudible) to seek the increases of investment into this country.

BOB SEELY MP: I think we are going to take a few more questions and wrap it up so very briefly before I hand out to Alan.

Question from an expert from Chatham House: Two quick points. One is surely, instead of saying the spending governance is not working reform how it is spending because actually governance is a way for us to continue our interests. The second issue is, assuming Brexit does not happen, let’s just assume, I cannot see why a lot of the issues mentioned in the report cannot be implementable anyway. Is there a plan to continue to do this?

BOB SEELY MP: Absolutely and these are our ideas. I am a Member of Parliament; James is a researcher. We just thought, ok, if we were projecting some ideas that we might attract what will they be? You are absolutely right – we are doing this anyway. I would like to see us more integrated anyway so a lot of these ideas are applicable but the idea of Brexit and leaving the European Union gave us a greater impetus. Your first question sorry was? – I am not saying change all of it. I am saying change some of it and spend money on the evidence based stuff rather than (inaudible) targets. On that point, thank you so much indeed for being here. Alan is just going to wrap up and then I am more than happy to talk to you. Thank you so much.

DR ALAN MENDOZA: Thank you – very quickly. This paper is not a Brexit paper. And although it is inevitably tempting to think of it as a Brexit paper, because we have been talking about Brexit and there happens to be a man right here who is associated with that, but it really isn’t. And actually almost all the proposals could be (inaudible). It is not a left-right paper, I would argue. There is probably one or two of the proposals that have drawn some criticism, perhaps from the political left over the political right, but there are also people on the political right who have also criticised the papers, like Andrew Mitchell. So it seems to me that most of the ideas are not necessarily contentious ones, and therefore need tp be considered within the realm of the report and what we need for the country going forwards.

The whole point of an event like this and a discussion like this is to tease out ideas. We’re not going to all agree on everything in this report. I don’t even agree with everything in this report and I’m the director of this organisation. That tells you that its purpose is not to be a manifesto of such, but as Bob just said, the ideas of one man here and another man here who put together their thoughts on the subject to give you all to discuss it (inaudible). We hope you will take that opportunity going forward because there will be other papers in this series that reflect other views and different views on some of the subjects raised, this is just one of them then. I want to thank you all for attending and thank our speakers Boris and Bob and James for having joined in as well and thank you all for the discussion afterwards. Thank you.


Lost your password?

Not a member? Please click here