Garvan Walshe: Leaving Afghanistan wont’ stop terrorists using failed states. How do we learn from this failure?

16 Sep

Garvan Walshe is a former national and internationals security policy adviser to the Conservative Party.

The rewriters of history have got to work in the weeks since the American rout in Afghanistan. The mission failed because Afghanistan was a graveyard of empires. Or because humanitarian intervention never works, according to realist high priest Stephen Walt.

This is far from the truth, as Robert Kagan explains at length. We went into Afghanistan because of 9/11, not for purely humanitarian reasons. Even in more overtly humanitarian interventions, like NATOs in Kosovo or the removal of Gaddafi in 2011, strategic considerations mattered.

Success in Kosovo owed much to Milosevic, always an opportunist with a healthy sense of his own self-preservation, agreeing to give in after NATOs bombing campaign. The alternative, an invasion of Serbia and Montenegro through Albania and Hungary, while Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia rose up against the Dayton peace settlement would probably have led in Serbia to a destructive guerilla war not unlike that in Iraq or Afghanistan. The last minute paradrop into Pristina airport should remind us that even late Yeltsin Russia would not have been helpful.

Nonintervention is not the easy option frozen-blood realists like Walt would like it to be. They would have stood by as Kosovars were raped and murdered, or the inhabitants of Benghazi driven into the sea. They got what they wanted in Syria: hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of people displaced. Whether this sits more easily with their conscience or ideas of a globally influential West, I leave to readers to judge.

It is harder still where there is a strategic objective. How comfortable would we have been, for example, relying on Polish tanks to dash through Eastern Ukraine to protect Lviv? (Hint: it matters that the Poles call the city Lwów).

Or consider the French intervention in Mali, against central African jihadists. Would you be the President pulling troops out only to find your citizens attacked by a plot originating there? What of an allied government, with which you had important commercial or strategic ties, being toppled by hostile rebels?

Commercial ventures, military operations, people, religion and ideas now flow across borders more easily than they could in the past. Or rather, they have started to flow back the other way. Western business, armies, people and ideas have after all been flowing out of Europe to the Americas, Asia and Africa for five hundred years. Along with supply chains and investment flows, conflicts have become globalised.

It’s not viable any more for a single country to retreat, and there is no disputing the principle that if we’re to provide security at home, we need to get involved abroad. Disagreement is only over the manner of involvement.

In the last twenty years, the difficulty has never been to remove a hostile force from power, either through direct intervention, or Western air power supported by allies. Problems have set in afterwards, even though the need for long term post-conflict stabilisation is very much a “known known” (however much Rusmfeld himself was in denial about it). The question is why we’ve made the same mistakes over and over again.

Afghanistan suffered from intermittent attention and dispersed accountability. It only drew high level political focus at the beginning and when problems mounted. Different administrations tried varying strategies, with greater or lesser emphasis on state building, smaller footprints, or a “surge” of troops.

Meanwhile the mission was split, between the mission to capture bin laden and that to stabilise the country. The former a unilateral American operation. The latter a multilateral NATO one. Similar problems bedevilled the postwar reconstruction in Libya (with France and Italy backing rival governments), or Iraq, with the US reducing troops only to find it had to increase them to fight ISIS.

Without attention, disorder was allowed to fester, more civilians and troops got killed, and governments were unable to justify the intervention to their publics. Politicians picked up the public dissatisfaction, and rushed to leave as soon as they could.

Direct political control works best when there’s a single locus of accountability and continuous attention on the problem. In these multilateral interventions there’s neither, so public attention wanders, and the pressure on the different components of the alliance causes friction. This should not have been a surprise. These problems affect all complex and long-term international cooperation, which needs a certain amount of structure if it is not to become a sequence of ad-hoc adaptations to circumstance.

Towards the end of the Cold War, the CSCE (later OSCE) was set up to supervise disarmament, and continues to engage in security and democracy related aspects of the European international architecture. On climate change, the “Conference of Parties” has evolved into an organisation with an indefinite timescale (we are now on number 26).

A specific, but permanent organisation has a number of advantages: consensus on strategy is achieved through multilateral diplomacy. Participants allocate budgets that are spent by the organisation as a whole. A permanent secretariat maintains focus even when political attention is lacking. Membership can be limited to countries that agree with the organisation’s aims (to avoid the fate of the UN Human Rights Council).

Perhaps it is time to consider some sort of international stabilisation and counter-terrorist organisation.

Those establishing one will face a number of difficult questions about how it should work, not least over how to get security forces and human rights organisations to tolerate each others’ involvement, and over who should be included. For example, what roles should hostile powers like China, or highly relevant friendly countries with terrible human rights records, have?

But the last twenty years of unstructured unilateralism have hardly been an unqualified success. It’s surely time to give more structured alternatives a go.

Robert Buckland: More prison places, a domestic abuse bill, tougher sentences. How we’re acting on the people’s priorities.

4 May

Robert Buckland is Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Chancellor, and MP for South Swindon.

As I pound the pavements of Swindon, Birmingham and Hartlepool with fellow Conservatives, one of the key messages I hear from people is the burning need for politicians to act on their priorities.  Having been through the worst peacetime crisis in living memory, communities and families up and down our country want to share in the recovery from Covid, get those jabs as part of our world-beating vaccination programme – and get on with their lives.

The people’s priorities are our priorities, which is why, from the day that Boris Johnson became Prime Minister and asked me to be his Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, we have relentlessly focused on delivering on our justice commitments, as we roll out our pledge to put 20,000 more police officers in place. After over 20 years of direct working experience in the system as a lawyer and part-time judge, I know what has to be done in order to help rebuild public confidence.

Immediately after taking office, we took swift action to ramp up investment in prison building, with over £2.5 billion committed to build an additional 10,000 places, now increased to over £4 billion in the latest Spending Review.

We have installed dozens of new scanners in our prisons, to help combat smuggling and crime. I took decisive steps to end automatic half-way release from prison for serious violent and sexual offenders serving sentences of more than seven years, and increased the range of offences that can be referred to the Court of Appeal for being unacceptably low.

Covid brought unprecedented challenges to the justice system, but with hard work and swift decision-making, we controlled the disease in our prisons, supported our dedicated prison staff and ensured that there was no disorder or dysfunction on the estate. We kept the courts running throughout each lockdown, and were the first in the western world to resume jury trials.

We have used remote technology to run tens of thousands of hearings every week, and have created sixty new Nightingale courtrooms to help deal with the caseload. We have made our courts safer, with investment in perspex and other measures. We have recruited over 1600 extra staff to ensure that the courts run as smoothly as possible.

This is yielding results: the caseload in the Magistrates Courts is being steadily reduced, and in the Crown Court we are now seeing more cases dealt with per week than being received. In the coming year, there will be no limit as to the days the Crown Court can sit, making it clear that our priority is to get cases done so that victims and witnesses aren’t kept waiting. The court recovery plans that I approved last year are bearing fruit, and now we plan to make permanent some of the changes brought about Covid, as we build back stronger.

We did not let the Covid crisis get in the way of the work we are doing to reform justice and to carry out our manifesto pledges. We are reforming probation, with a new national probation service being launched in June, 1000 extra probation officers and a new electronic sobriety tagging programme that is being rolled out across the country.

We have plans to revitalise unpaid work schemes, with an emphasis on visibility and real benefit to local communities. Investment in mental health treatment is being increased, so that alternatives to custody are robust and more likely to work.

During the past year, we passed vital pieces of legislation that mark the beginning of our reforms. The new Sentencing Code makes the law clearer and easier to use, reducing the number of errors and appeals. Helen’s Law is part of our reform of the Parole Board, making it mandatory for the Board to take into account when considering an application for release the applicant’s failure to tell the authorities the whereabouts of their murder victim or the identities of sexually abused victims.

We passed emergency anti-terrorism legislation in the wake of the Fishmongers Hall and Streatham atrocities in order to end automatic early release for a range of terror offences and in the new Counter Terrorism Act, we have lengthened maximum sentences for serious terror offences, created longer licence supervision periods for these offenders and reformed the TPIM (Terrorist Prevention and Investigation Measures) regime to ensure that we are doing all we can to prevent these appalling crimes from happening in the first place.

After I introduced the Domestic Abuse Bill into the Commons just after the general election jointly with the Home Secretary, it has now become law. Yet again, it is the Conservatives who are leading on the protection of the victims of abuse in the home. Those who perpetrate this abuse will no longer be able to cross-examine their victims in person in our civil and family courts, and new Domestic Abuse Prevention Orders will be available to help safeguard more families from this harm.

We have also moved to clarify the law on non-fatal strangulation, so-called “rough sex” defences, revenge pornography and coercive control offences. Conservatives have never hesitated to take decisive action on crime, and our action on domestic abuse is another reflection of this determination.

The new Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill, which Labour are opposing at every step, is the next stage in our reforms. We will end automatic halfway release for even more serious violent and sexual offenders, increase the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from fourteen years to life imprisonment, toughen minimum sentences for house burglary, drug trafficking and knife crime and impose whole life orders for those who commit the premeditated murder of a child. We will increase the maximum that can be imposed by way of curfew hours to further strengthen community sentences too.

Victims of crime deserve a voice, which is why I have introduced a new, clearer and simpler Victims Code which enshrines the need for proper communication and support from the police, prosecution and other agencies. We are going to consult this year on a new Victims Law to further strengthen these important rights.

As we go to the polls to elect 43 Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales, the message is clear: elect a Conservative PCC who will work with a Conservative Government that is investing in criminal justice and creating a new framework that will deliver on the people’s priorities.

Austen Morgan: As Gerry Adams awaits compensation for his unlawful detention, a legal conundrum could get in the way

21 Apr

Dr Austen Morgan is a barrister at 33 Bedford Row chambers and was one of the UUP’s lead negotiators for the Belfast Agreement.

Gerry Adams – he of “I was not a member of the IRA” – has done well out of being a terrorist suspect. However, he, and those seeking to augment their IRA pensions, might be stopped in their tracks, if something said recently by Lord Reed of Allermuir, the President of the Supreme Court, leads to an error of law being corrected.

More of that in a moment – but our story begins a long time ago, when Parliament enacted the Detention of Terrorists (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 after direct rule.

Article Four of the Order provided that: “(1) Where it appears to the Secretary of State that a person is suspect of having been concerned in the commission or attempted commission of any act of terrorism…the Secretary of State may make an order…for the temporary detention of that person. (2) An interim custody order of the Secretary of State shall be signed by a Secretary of State, Minister of State or Under Secretary of State.”

Back in 1972, the case of Carltona v Commissioner of Works [1943] 2 All ER 560 was well established. The Carltona principle was that a secretary of state, entrusted with powers, could delegate these to a junior minister or even an official.

In 1973, an interim custody order was made in respect of Adams. It was made by a junior minister in the Northern Ireland Office, acting on the advice of officials. Adams attempted to escape from the Maze prison later that year, and again in 1974. Charged with these criminal offences, he was sentenced eventually to 4.5 years’ imprisonment.

Everyone in the Northern Ireland Office knew who Adams was: William Whitelaw, the Secretary of State, had secretly met a six-strong IRA delegation in 1972 – including one Gerry Adams – in Cheyne Walk in Chelsea for abortive talks.

During the prosecution of Adams, Brian Hutton QC – later a law lord in the time of Tony Blair – advised the (English) attorney general that a court might take the view that the Secretary of State had to personally consider whether to detain a suspect or not. His equivocal legal opinion of 1974 remained private. Adams did not appeal his convictions in 1975 for attempted escape. Then, in 2005, the Hutton opinion and other documents were released under the 30-year-rule by the national archives in Kew.

Adams duly appealed the 1975 convictions, though he took his time in doing so. He lost in the Northern Ireland court of appeal, in February 2018. But – to considerable surprise – he succeeded in the Supreme Court, in May 2020.

The judgment was given by Lord Kerr, a former lord chief justice of Northern Ireland, who had become a law lord in 2009, and retired early from the Supreme Court in October 2020 (dying in December).

Kerr came to judge controversial Northern Ireland cases (see Finucane in February 2019), with the other justices tending to go along with him. His argument in relation to Adams’ appeal was: the Secretary of State had to make the decision personally, but a junior minister could sign the interim custody order without bothering to read it or related papers!

In March this year, Reed, and the Deputy President of the Supreme Court, Lord Hodge (also a Scot), had their annual evidence session remotely with the constitution committee of the House of Lords, chaired by Baroness Taylor of Bolton. No one remarked that it was St. Patrick’s day.

Reed – probably thinking of Baroness Hale in 2019 in Miller Two – had prepared a reform to announce to the committee: “A third step has been to encourage our justices, when writing judgments, to engage fully with what was decided by the courts below and to acknowledge the contribution that the judges made, because previously there had been a tendency on the part of some justices to write as if they were dealing with a blank sheet of paper, ignoring what had been said by the courts below. That had not been a very well-received practice.”

Lord Howell of Guildford, aged 85 years, was one of the twelve members of the committee. Back in 1972, he was a junior minister in the Northern Ireland Office. He (it is not clear) may have signed Adams’ interim custody order.

Having written on the Adams’ case after the judgment, he chose to pursue the matter with Reed. The latter had not been involved, but he volunteered that Kerr wrote the judgment: “From what you say, it sounds like a wayward judgment, in which case it will be put right in another case.”

Adams is due compensation for his unlawful detention, wrongful convictions and false imprisonment. Other IRA members (including one who helped Adams escape), equally aggrieved that the Secretary of State did not personally detain them, will be crawling through the lawfare tunnels on their next operation.

Reed spoke extra-judicially on March 17 2021, but surely even the Northern Ireland Office will get the message. Will government lawyers now set out to deny Adams a penny?

Will they fight any following cases all the way to the Supreme Court, and ask it to overturn Kerr’s decision?

Last word: Lady Black, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Kitchin and Lord Burnett (the Lord Chief Justice) all agreed with Kerr in 2020. Lady Black retired recently. The other three remain in post. Clearly, cleaning up this judicial mess will not be easy.

Reed could have suggested the following reform to the constitution committee: back in the 1960s and 1970s, the senior law lord (Lord Reid, different spelling but another Scot) required each judge to produce his (in those days) own judgment. Perhaps such a practice, burdensome though it would be, would prevent four justices silently giving one of their colleagues a clear run on his/her special interest.

David Lidington: We have left the EU and there is no turning back. Here’s what our new relationship with Europe should look like.

29 Dec

David Lidington is a former Cabinet Minister and Europe Minister. He is Chair of the Royal United Services Institution (RUSI), and of the Conservative Group for Europe (CGE).

Ursula von der Leyen’s tone was elegiac, Boris Johnson’s conciliatory. Their first public statements announcing that a deal had been agreed marked a significant shift in tone. Both leaders looked to a future in which the United Kingdom and the European Union could move beyond the fractious quarrels of the last four years and forge a new partnership in the months and years ahead.

The Commission President quoted T.S Eliot’s line that “…to make an end is to make a beginning”, while the Prime Minister spoke of how the United Kingdom would continue to be “culturally, emotionally, historically, strategically” attached to Europe. The following day, Michael Gove said that the deal would be “the start of a special relationship” between this country and the EU.

This isn’t about rejoining the EU. Even for someone like me – unrepentant at having campaigned to Remain back in 2016 – the prospect of revisiting in reverse all the agonies and divisions of the last four years is profoundly unappealing, as is the prospect of EU membership without the rebates or opt-outs we once enjoyed. The challenge for our country and for our fellow European democracies now is to work out new ways of working together to uphold values and defend interests that we share.

Every European country wants to address the climate emergency, disrupt and defeat terrorism and organised crime and resist efforts by Russia to subvert democratic values and institutions in our continent. We all want to see political stability in the Western Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa – and know from hard experience that civil war, ethnic conflict and corrupt or ineffective governance allow criminal networks and extremist doctrines to thrive.

The incoming US President values alliances and international institutions, but will also expect European allies not only to spend more on defence and security (where the UK is indeed setting an example) but to show political leadership in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and in Africa, and to contribute support in the Indo-Pacific region, which Joe Biden, like his recent predecessors, will see as the chief focus of United States strategic interest.

Our country remains a European power but one which, like France, also has global interests and a global outlook. We should not see a strategic partnership with the Member States of the EU and the EU institutionally as an alternative to “Global Britain” but as an important aspect of it.

It will take time for bruises to heal, but I’ve been struck by how, even during difficult, sometimes acrimonious divorce talks with the EU, the Prime Minister boosted Britain’s military contribution to the French-led counter-terrorist action in the Sahel and how, announcing the merger of the Foreign Office and DfID, he cited the Western Balkans and Ukraine as places where important interests were at stake.

On key global issues – climate change, the Iran nuclear agreement, Israel/Palestine – the Johnson government has chosen a position closer to the European mainstream than to the White House. The E3 of Britain, France and Germany has continued to work in partnership on geo-political challenges.

Over the next ten years, a United Kingdom outside the EU will need to renew and strengthen both its bilateral relationships with other European countries and its partnership with the EU collectively.

With national governments, this partly about finding a substitute for the regular contact between British Ministers and officials and their counterparts that for nearly 50 years, has taken place at and in the margins of Council of Ministers meetings. It wasn’t only the formal Council that mattered, but the breakfast, lunch or coffee with an opposite number from another country – or even just the quiet word in a corner about some issue.

Since we left the EU on 31 January this year, there’ve not been those same regular opportunities to get to know and do business with other European governments. We’ll need alternatives. It is good that the Government has signalled its intention to strengthen our diplomatic presence across Europe – but we should also consider formalising arrangements for annual summits and joint ministerial meetings with different European countries, as we already do with France.

The UK will also need over time to develop a strategic partnership with the EU as an institution. This is partly because we shall want to discuss issues that under the EU treaties fall to the Union collectively to decide and partly too because the reality is that even the big EU members spend a lot of effort trying to shape a common EU policy approach. The UK will need to operate at both national government and EU level just as the Americans, Swiss and Norwegians already do.

This is to a large extent already envisaged in the Free Trade Agreement, through the Partnership Council and its various sub-committees established to manage and monitor how the deal is implemented. As we go forward, UK policymakers will need to understand the debates within Member States and EU institutions on subjects like data transfer and privacy, and try from outside the tent to influence the outcome in a way that protects our interests.

The same is true about climate, a top-level priority for the Johnson government especially with the COP 26 summit scheduled for 2021. Should the UK’s planned emissions trading scheme be more or less the same as the EU’s? Will the UK’s requirements for green finance be accepted in the rest of Europe? Understanding each other’s positions and, where possible, working together on the global stage should work to our mutual advantage.

NATO will remain the cornerstone of Europe’s collective defence. The EU should not try to supplant or duplicate NATO’s work. Equally, NATO cannot do everything. There are both functional and geographical limits to NATO’s mission. In an age of hybrid conflict, not just military power but economic leverage (including sanctions), information, development spending and anti-corruption work – things that are more an EU than a NATO responsibility -also matter. Truth is, we shall need to work both bilaterally with individual governments and with the different international institutions.

Above all, we need to focus on the strategic picture. Throughout the world democracy, human rights and the rule of law are under pressure. Russia and China are increasingly assertive about the merits of their very different systems of government. The idea of a rules-based international order, fundamental to both our freedom and our prosperity, is being challenged. Criminal and extremist networks operate across national borders and are as internet-savvy as any legitimate business. Outside the EU, the United Kingdom’s interests impel us to find a new model of partnership with our closest neighbours and allies in Europe while at the same time reaching out to like-minded countries worldwide. Now is the time for the world’s democracies, in Europe and beyond, to stand together.

Gary Powell: The politicisation of the Metropolitan Police is obvious to many. But the Government is turning a blind eye.

12 Nov

Cllr Gary Powell is a councillor in Buckinghamshire

Last year, I complained to the Met about one “Mark Powell” (no relation), known on Twitter as ‘MarcHayo #FBPE’ (@markhayo). In his Tweet of August 20, Powell had incited terrorist murder, writing:

“I dearly wish a reactivated IRA would successfully blow up that scumbag Johnson and his evil cabinet. At least their useless, morally-empty lives would have served a purpose.”

Any reasonable person would agree that terrorist incitement against politicians should not be taken lightly. In October 1984, the IRA placed a bomb in the Grand Hotel, murdering Sir Anthony Berry, Eric Taylor, Lady Shattock, Lady Maclean and Roberta Wakeham, and injuring many others, including Lord Tebbit and his wife, Margaret.

Now, we will recall that Met officials recently fell over themselves to persecute the conservative journalist Darren Grimes, whose apparent “public order offence” consisted of publishing an interview where his guest made an ill-chosen and disrespectful reference to black people that was probably no more than misfired humour.

Grimes now has a police record: a “hate incident” logged against his name. However, the Met’s enthusiasm to enforce political ideology instead of British law finds a counterpart in cases where people really have committed serious crimes but receive police dispensation, apparently for being on the “correct” side of the political fence.

Back to Powell and his terrorism incitement. My screenshot of his Tweet revealed it had received 47 “likes”, 49 shares, and no fewer than 1,247 replies, the vast majority urging him to delete, or reporting it to the Met’s Twitter account. Perhaps Met officers were too busy kicking down doors for Twitter “misgenderspeak”, or investigating conservative journalists, because, to my surprise, no reports of Powell’s arrest appeared in the media in the following days.

On August 23, I therefore sent a full account to Commissioner Cressida Dick, copied to my MP, providing screenshots and urging police action. My letter was ignored, so I wrote to both again on September 12.

Then Powell helpfully shared on Twitter the letter he had received from the Met:

“I apologise for the unsolicited nature of this letter, and do not wish to cause you any undue alarm. I do need to discuss some sensitive issues that may concern you – I would like to stress that this letter has not been sent as part of any criminal proceedings, nor are you in any trouble whatsoever. If you could, please contact me on the telephone number shown on the letterhead above or my colleague […] in order to arrange a convenient time to meet.”

Note the difference in the Met’s treatment of Powell and Grimes. No interview under caution for anti-Government Powell: he is invited to suggest a “convenient time” for a visit “if you could”, and he even gets an apology for the “unsolicited nature” of the police letter and assured he is not “in any trouble whatsoever”. This is a guy who was inciting terrorists to murder the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.

Powell provided his own commentary when he published the police letter:

“Two local coppers visited me 2 hours’ ago & warned me about my recent intemperate language about our cabinet of vipers, a language from which I refused to recuse myself. To be fair, they were very civil about it, despite the expletives that I threw in their direction.”

Even after the nice officers’ visit, there was clearly no hint of contrition.

On October 3, Cressida Dick’s office informed me the post I had reported was deemed by the National Counter Terrorism Network to be an offence, sharing that, “[b]ased on all of the information available, including the fact that this appeared to be a single criminal post,” their response had been to visit Powell and offer him “words of advice”.


However, this was not a “single criminal post”. On September 30, Powell had Tweeted again, posting his letter sent to the officers following their visit, which contained a clear reiteration:

“I should be happy to meet you to explain why I shouldn’t be sorry to see this cabinet of traitors blown up by a rejuvenated IRA, though I don’t intend to contribute to their coffers.”

My report of this to Dick’s office merely resulted in the following stonewall:

“(I)t has been determined that a proportionate and appropriate policing response has been taken.”

The police were clearly determined that this individual was going to be let off without any consequence. Since then, my MP’s office has written three times about this matter to the Home Secretary, yet there has still been no reply. The Metropolitan Police is turning a blind eye to anti-Conservative terrorism incitement, and our Conservative government is turning a blind eye to the Metropolitan Police’s self-evident politicisation. A miserable milestone in the Conservative Party’s own masochistic colonisation by woke, left-wing ideology, which needs to stop.

“Committing a crime while woke and left-wing” is being revised by the Met into a rational impossibility: an oxymoron and paradox that offends the very logic of post-modernist plod.

This long march through the institutions is making cherry-pickers of our law enforcement agencies, where regulation boot-prints leave their impression on the face of fundamental British values, undermining us as a state based on justice and integrity.

Peter Hitchens wrote about the Met and Powell in his Mail on Sunday column a year ago, yet it was ignored by other news outlets. There is no place in Britain for complacent and fatalistic attitudes towards the plundering of our basic freedoms by a vicious woke mob and their ideologically-captured, taxpayer-funded facilitators. Surrender will mean the end of our free society, and we must not give in so easily.

Alistair Burt: Global Britain can also be European Britain

11 Nov

Alistair Burt is Chair of the Conservative Group for Europe’s Foreign Affairs Policy Group and former Minister of State at both the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development.

Change is happening. Our relationship with Europe is changing, the United States is changing – Joe Biden will be the 46th President – the Foreign & Commonwealth Office has merged with Department for International Development, and the Government is undertaking the ‘Integrated Review’ of security, defence, development and foreign policy.

All of these changes, and others, provide the UK with unique opportunities to make a success of Global Britain. We must now be bold enough – and honest enough – to seize them.

During the summer, the Conservative Group for Europe (CGE) established a Foreign Affairs Policy Group, which includes experts in diplomacy, business and politics. Our first publication – Foreign Affairs and International Relations Post-Brexit – will be launched today at a webinar with William Hague, David Lidington, the Chair of CGE, Tom Tugendhat and Neale Richmond, the Fine Gael TD. We will discuss the paper and the future of UK foreign policy.

The Conservative Group for Europe, formed over 50 years ago, has a long history of promoting constructive European engagement within the Conservative Party. But being a pro-European Conservative today inevitably means something different to being a pro-European Conservative in 1970, or even in 2016. Debates move on and times change – as does the CGE.

As the UK forges a new foreign policy, which both reflects and responds to the constantly evolving world, we should not be driven by ideology or old biases. In the realm of foreign affairs, if continuing cooperation and coordination with Europe is in our best interests, we should say so. Adopting a ‘go it alone’ approach, simply to prove a point, would be both wrong and dangerous, and I hear no serious talk of this in foreign affairs. But being outside of the EU will allow for even greater innovation and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking in how we approach foreign policy in the future.

A common theme running throughout the paper is that multilateral political cooperation with the EU, as well as the bilateral relations with its member states in other international fora like the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe and NATO where we continue as full members, remains in the UK’s best national and independent interest.

In global affairs, UK and EU interests are often aligned. UK values have influenced Europe and vice versa, so in many ways these are intertwined in facing growing challenges, and our foreign policies will rarely be contradictory but more often mutually reinforcing. To make a success of Global Britain, we can also be ‘European Britain. We can achieve far more on the world stage by working collaboratively, as an equal partner, with our European allies. At the same time, we must seize new opportunities, think innovatively and engage in parts of the world previously overlooked.

Foreign Affairs and International Relations Post-Brexit is a Conservative contribution to the ongoing discussions about the UK’s role in an ever changing and challenging world, where resources will be stretched, and priorities must inevitably be chosen. The paper covers the EU; the Middle East and North Africa (MENA); Sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas and East and South Asia. It offers an overview of each region, the UK’s involvement and highlights potential future opportunities and dangers. Crucially, it offers practical and positive suggestions to help ‘Global Britain’ succeed.

It starts with Africa, the world’s fastest growing continent which has all too often been overlooked. The UK should seek more active engagement with Africa by extending its diplomatic outreach and having an Embassy or High Commission in every African state.

These need not be large or grand undertakings; success can be achieved with just a few staff. Likewise, we should consider appointing a dedicated Ambassador to the African Union – as have with the European Union – and further engage with regional groups such as Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS). Over the last 30-40 years British business has overlooked African markets – we have lost export market share to Asia, the Americas and even some European countries. Increasing our diplomatic presence and engagement will help foster growth in UK-African trade.

Moving from Africa to the USA, the paper considers the potential foreign policy implications of Joe Biden’s upcoming presidency, his stated aim to rebuild traditional links with Europe and the future role that the UK can play. As President, Biden is committed and experienced in collective international action. He will want a UK working closely with European partners an essential and vital ally, further enhancing the UK’s opportunity for global influence. However, if we were to turn our back on Europe, the UK risks being marginalised and losing its unique and historic role as a bridge between the US and Europe.

Biden has committed to rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement on the first day of his presidency and with the UK hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) next year, an immediate opportunity exists to strength the UK-US relationship beyond trade and security, as the Prime Minister has noted. A good trade deal is obviously in both our best interests as a good foundation to our new relationship. It may not be without its concessions on both sides, but this might be best for the recovery of our economies post Brexit- some give now on both sides might be politic.

Turning our attention to Europe, the UK cannot be considered as simply ‘another third country’ by the EU, given our security surplus and P5 status. We should seek to establish structured cooperation on Common Foreign and Security Policy and Common Security and Defence Policy matters.

This could be done by developing new structures, or reinventing older ones – like the Western European Union (WEU) – to help formalise foreign policy, defence and security dialogue between the EU and UK. We might also consider including certain non-EU NATO to develop wider European cooperation.

In the Middle East and North Africa, we should welcome the opportunity to use all our diplomatic skills in such a conflicted area: Libya, Yemen and the Middle East Peace Process should be a priority, as should be helping to de-escalate tensions surrounding Iran and the Gulf. The E3 working alliance with Berlin and Paris will remain crucial in the MENA region.

We should continue to work with partners who share our values to promote good governance, human rights, economic reform, ending corruption, and consent in government as the bases of stability. (We should work especially with states promoting religious tolerance, which has a resonance unappreciated in a largely secular UK and Europe. The absence of tolerance, and oppression of minorities, is one of the key recruiters for conflict.)

Defence policy is largely decided in European capitals – and not Brussels – meaning scope exists for future cooperation outside of the EU structures that we are leaving. With constrained resources, we must think carefully about our future defence capabilities. A suggestion in the paper for counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and stabilisation missions, promotes the idea of the UK focusing on high-end capability, including drones. This would allow us to worth collaboratively with Europe, supporting large deployable gendarmerie forces from countries such as France and Italy.

Whatever the future relationship between Britain and its allies – the US, its longstanding Commonwealth friends and, in particular, the EU – the British Government has some very tough choices to make. I hope this paper makes a timely contribution to the on-going discussions about Britain’s future foreign policy, and I wish the Government, and the UK, well as Global Britain.

Garvan Walshe: Macron is against the clock defending French Republican values after the latest terror attack

22 Oct

Garvan Walshe is a former National and International Security Policy Adviser to the Conservative Party.

Last week Samuel Paty was beheaded in another Islamist terror attack in Europe. He was killed after showing his class pictures of the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that had motivated other Islamist terrorists to attack the offices of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine, and in the middle of a campaign by President Macron to reinforce France’s concept of republican secularism.

What we call religious fundamentalists are in French known as integristes, a term that derives from nineteenth century Catholic attempts to insert (or perhaps maintain) Catholic doctrine into civil government. The French term gets to the core of the issue. The problem integrisme poses is not, in itself, that these people hold very tightly to the tenets of their religion, but that they try to integrate it into the country’s politics in a way that weakens or threatens the rights of other citizens.

It is also a different from understanding it as extremism; that is, as a view held with excessive intensity. Islamist ideas create difficult challenges for liberal democracies, just as fascist and communist ideas did. They are all based on dividing people into the elect and the damned based on something other than their own actions. A racially-hierarchical government, or one that prevented private enterprise, would still be objectionable even if it came to office by gradual constitutional means.

Macron understands that the French state, and not just the government of the day, needs to argue for republican principles. Where this needs skill is knowing which battles to pick. Even France should not elevate food to a constitutional principle: the minister who professed to be “shocked” by ethnic food aisles needs a stronger stomach).

Because there is one area in which what we probably should not refer to in this context as the Government’s new bête noire, critical race theory, has a point. The main culture in France or Britain exercises power over minorities, and sets norms they are forced to comply with by social convention as well as legislation. This dominance means it needs to seduce them into the mainstream if it’s not to become overbearing and create resentment for the integristes to exploit.

For all our faults this ought to be something that Britain and France should be able to do. They are far better places to live than — indeed better places for Muslims, the working class, and even blonde blue-eyed Germans to live in — than any Islamist Communist or fascist society has ever been.

Robust counter-terrorism measures are essential, and of course they need to be extended to force social media platforms to take pro-terrorist content as seriously as they take copyright infringement. It is not a violation of freedom of speech to require them to limit even inflammatory content that is not in itself illegal. This is not censorship any more than a bookshop choosing not to stock inflammatory radical texts is. Inflammatory, but legal, content would still be available, but only to the smaller number of people willing to put in extra effort.

These steps however need to be accompanied by a campaign of persuasion and education about liberal democratic values richly expressed in national contexts, that learns from two major mistakes made so far.

The first has been to make the argument that people should believe in certain values because they have come to a certain country. This is first of all unpersuasive to a native British or French Islamist. It also doesn’t provide a reason in itself to accept the principles of liberal democratic society (and in any case in France is not consistent with the universalist ideals of the French Revolution). Rather, the arguments for liberal democracy need to be made on their merits.

The second has been to target this effort at, to use the language of the government’s PREVENT strategy, groups deemed “vulnerable.” Though this appears efficient, it is actually shortsighted. Most obviously because the people singled out feel targeted not helped, but also because long dormant radical ideologies, like right- and left-wing extremism can make a new appearance. The task ought to be to strengthen people’s general resistance to them. A strict analogy to infectious disease, where an “antibody” against Islamism would not work against communism, is wrong. The positive argument for liberal democracy works against them all.

Nowhere is this more necessary in France, where the popularity of Islamist ideas is outmatched by that of both the extreme left and the extreme right, and Macron has less than two years to prevail against all three.

Where is the Conservatives’ Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission?

17 Jul

The Shamima Begum legal proceedings are a culture clash and a timely warning.

The clash lies in the gulf between metropolitan and provincial Britain.  The former’s take is audible, sophisticated and always liable find a sympathetic audience at some point in the courts.

At its core is the conviction that Begum is British – and that she should be tried here for any crimes she is alleged to have committed.

Those who hold it tend also to say that she was a child when she left the country to join ISIS; that she has renounced it, and that she is not a security risk.

The provincial view is less openly expressed, instinctively and reflexively held – and one to which the courts would resist.

It is that Begum betrayed her country when she travelled to support a terrorist group that seeks to destroy our way of life.  She therefore has no human or other right to the citizenship that the Government removed.

That’s not to say that the Supreme Court will necessarily find in her favour when it considers Ministers’ appeal against yesterday’s ruling by the Court of Appeal.

Sajid Javid argued when as Home Secretary he removed Begum’s citizenship that she would not be left stateless because would not be stateless because she could claim Bangladeshi nationality through her parents.

The Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that she should not be sent to Bangladesh or Iraq, where she was involved with ISIS, because she might face ill treatment.  You can imagine how that will go down in the Red Wall and elsewhere.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission took a different view, and we will now have to see what the Supreme Court has to say.

Javid suggested yesterday that Begum is a threat to national security; that she is unlikely to be prosecuted in the courts if she is allowed back into Britain; that she will become a poster girl for Islamist extremism if this happens.

He also said that “the judgements and precedents set in this case could bind the hands of the Government in managing past and future cases”.

That some British citizens and others who also went to join ISIS have already returned here doesn’t mean that Javid is wrong.  It isn’t hard to see how yesterday’s judgement has wider implications.

It’s claimed that appeals are now likely to be lauched on behalf of 30 British women and 60 British children detained by the Kurdish authorities in Syria.

All of which raises the question of what is happening to the former ISIS terrorists who have already re-entered the country.

Some will be subject to Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (Tpims) – one of which may be slapped on Begum if she returns here.

These haven’t been proved to be watertight: readers may remember the case of Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, who while disguised in a burka escaped the police tasked with monitoring him.

It’s tempting to believe that were the Human Rights Act to be recast and Britain’s membership of the ECHR revoked, judgements like yesterday’s wouldn’t be made.

The point can’t be proven one way or the other, but we suspect that any British court would be capable of making it whether we were signed up to the ECHR or not.

None the less, reforms to ensure that there is “a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government” would doubtless have an effect on the courts.

The words in quotes are from the Conservative general election manifesto.  We hope that they are acted upon.  Where is the Constitution, Democracy & Rights Commission it promised “in our first year”?

At any rate, it is far from certain that Begum will actually return, whatever the Supreme Court decides.  So her story has more chapters to come.

The timely warning is bound up with a point we made only two days ago: today’s papers cover not only Begum’s court case, but Russian espionage claims – that it tried to hack into our Coronavirus vaccine research.

The timing is doubtless connected with the impending publication of the report next week into claims that Russia interfered with the 2016 general election and the 2017 EU referendum.

Our argument was that government shouldn’t focus on the threat to our security from China to the exclusion of those from Russia and Islamist extremists – who, as Gerry Adams once said of the IRA, “haven’t gone away, you know”.

Hugo de Burgh: We owe it to future generations of Brits to work with China

6 Jul

Professor Hugo de Burgh is Director of the China Media Centre. He is the author of China’s Media in the Emerging World Order, has held office in three Conservative associations, and stood in unwinnable seats several times.

China is our third largest market and the one with the greatest potential. China is the country with which we must work if we are to have any impact on the resolution of global problems from environment to nuclear proliferation. China can accelerate the development of African and Central Asian economies, mitigating the risks to Europe that come from population explosion there without adequate economic growth. China is the largest economy in the world and already influential in a majority of countries.

For all these reasons, it is patriotic and reasonable for British leaders to find a way to work with China, which they will only do if they understand China as it is. Among other eminent Brits who started with a morbid suspicion of China, I have accompanied Boris Johnson and Jeremy Paxman on extended visits, and watched the scales fall from their eyes as they understood the enormity of the challenges facing Chinese government and the absurdity of imagining that its leaders wasted a moment thinking about conquering the world.

The reverse is the case. They are determined not to be conquered by the world. In the past, China built a Great Wall to keep out foreigners; today China is initiating the Belt and Road initiative to secure their back as they restore their civilisation, threatened from the east.

Fantasising about regime change in China, some US politicians make outlandish accusations. Had they talked to a few Chinese punters, followed social media or watched chat shows on TV, they could not possibly claim that China is a totalitarian country. Had they read Pew’s surveys of public opinion they would realise that the Chinese are, overall, more satisfied with their governance than European citizens, to say nothing of the USA. And are you surprised? While Europe and the USA are beset by economic and political troubles, Chinese people see ahead of them only more wealth, health and social mobility.

We need to recognise that demonisation of China is a weapon with which some US politicians deflect attention from their own failings and reflect their commercial jealousy. Both our National Cyber Security Centre and GCHQ have maintained until now that Huawei’s involvement in the UK poses no security risk that cannot be managed. Otherwise why would the US trade Department last week reauthorize US companies to work with Huawei, even as Donald Trump bullies other countries not to?

Robert Zoellick, a US former Deputy Secretary of State, is among the calmer heads to remind us just how positive a collaborator China is: that it recognises climate change issues, is in the forefront of environment innovation and has worked hard on endangered species; cooperates with the IMF over stimulation; provides more UN peacekeepers than the other members of the Security Council combined.

He points out that between 2000 and 2018 China supported 182 of the 190 Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on nations which violated international rules or norms; China collaborated on the Iran and North Korea proliferation treaties.

Zoellick is not given to dire warnings about how dysfunctional it will be if the West really manages to ‘cut China off’, but they are implied in his general remarks about China, restated at a recent Henry Jackson webinar. China, he reminds us, is the biggest contributor to global growth; the fastest growing market for United States products; no longer manipulates the exchange rate; and, in response to our pleas, has improved its legal system. All in all, Zoellick tells us that cooperation with China “does produce results” but we should not take China’s cooperation for granted, “it could be very different”.

At home in Blighty, those calling for “a reckoning with China”, demanding a COBRA-like committee to mull over retaliation, wanting to “hold China to account” should ask themselves whether our businesses, for many of whom China is their most important market, want matters to become “very different”.

As to Hong Kong, the whole world must be astounded at the descendants of nineteenth century imperialists sending out paper gunboats commanding that China order its affairs according to our desires. A long time ago as a student, I demonstrated against colonial rule and police corruption in Hong Kong, and can still feel the truncheon on my back. In the face of much more vicious violence than anything we democracy activists attempted, Beijing has been restrained. In Northern Ireland, when security deteriorated, the UK imposed direct rule and fiercely rejected US interference on the IRA side. Over Hong Kong, we should try to see how interfering former imperialists look to most Asians, let alone to Chinese.

There are aspects of Chinese policies that we do not like, just as there are aspects of US policies that we abhor. The China Research Group is right to be concerned about cyber security and human rights. The way forward is to deal with China as a partner in the solution of common issues, such as terrorism in Xinjiang and Afghanistan. We have always worked with regimes with different standards when it suits our national interest. And respecting and being respected by China is in our national interest.

In the words of Kevin Rudd, the former Australian Prime Minister: Over 30 years China has pulled off the ‘the English industrial revolution and the global information revolution combusting simultaneously and compressed into not 300 years but 30’. There is a lot to learn and if we are to develop and prosper in the world ahead, we must be part of this. We should also celebrate that China’s rise is bringing better nourishment, greater life expectancy, education and security to hundreds of millions around the world.

Fulminating at China’s internal affairs and rejecting Chinese investment in order to please its commercial rivals will have no effect beyond signalling our impotence and arrogance; they are of no benefit to Britain and have no place in a long-term plan for Britain to prosper in the Asian century. Our government must develop a strategic approach to China. We owe it to future generations of Brits to work with China.