Alliances are UK’s biggest asset – MP

Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne MP attracted a capacity crowd for the YDL’s first ‘Distinguished Speaker Series’ in the House of Commons.

Outlining Britain’s policy priorities for 2012, the FCO Minister, whose portfolio includes many of the world’s emerging powers, said there were three main drivers of British foreign policy: “changing opportunities” and the shift of power towards Asia Pacific; “global threats” such as terrorism, organised crime and climate change; and “changes in the way communication happens” notably the recent shift in power from governments to people, not just in the Middle East, but in Africa and Asia.

In an era of unprecedented change, Britian’s greatest asset was its “global network of friendships and overlapping alliances,” said Mr Browne, the son of a diplomat who has lived in Iran and Zimbabwe.

In Syria and Libya Mr Browne spoke of the importance of the role of the Arab League in leading the process of change.

He added he was disappointed Russia and China had “not been persuaded by the moral position” of the Arab League.

In Africa, the role of the African Union was increasingly important in bringing stability back to Somalia. ASEAN meanwhile had been crucial in encouraging the political changes taking place in Burma. “But we don’t want to celebrate change that hasn’t yet happened,” he cautioned.

Asked about the Eurozone crisis, he said Europe had been weakened by the crisis but it remained a powerful forum to “magnify” a diplomatic position on issues such as Iran or Syria.

Responding to a question about Britain’s cooperation with states who still abuse human rights, he admitted there were “gaps in values” but that he was pleased that the countries “standing up for core human values” now included a much wider range of nations.

Asked about the Falklands/Malvinas dispute with Argentina, he said the UK’s view was “consistent with the UN view” that people should have the right to determine their own destiny. He said the UK was talking to other Latin American countries to explain Britain’s position.

He added that this view extends to the issue of Scottish independence, where Westminster will grant Scotland the chance to determine its future in a referendum.