News story: Foreign Secretary speech at the Lord Mayor’s Easter Banquet

Ministry of Defence said:
In his speech this evening Foreign Secretary, William Hague, will pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher’s legacy and highlight her capacity to show leadership in the world. He will talk about the foreign policy challenges that the UK faces today including the future of Europe, the Middle East and the situation in Syria. He will talk about Britain’s place and influence in the world, the work of the armed forces and the UK’s commitment to freedom, human rights and democracy.
Below are extracts of the Foreign Secretary’s speaking notes and these should be checked against delivery.
[h=4]Paying tribute to Margaret Thatcher’s legacy in world affairs the Foreign Secretary is expected to say:[/h]For the last week diplomatic telegrams have flooded into the Foreign Office from our Embassies across the globe reporting reactions to the news of her passing, from countries that found a friend in her, as well as those where some saw her as an adversary.
From friend or former foe, the tributes have been strikingly unanimous. She has been heralded as a “great stateswoman”, “outstanding leader” and “one of the few people who could clearly be seen to be writing history even during her lifetime”. Others have spoken of her as a “fearless champion of liberty, [who] stood up for captive nations and helped the free world win the Cold War”, “an inspiring leader and reformer”, a leader who “made her country stand tall again”, and who “while not always loved, was always respected”.
I believe I know why Margaret Thatcher is held in such respect internationally, and why in many cases regarded with such deep gratitude. It is because of the moral clarity of her passionate belief in the right to freedom in other nations, and her refusal to be deflected from what she thought was in our national interest. The first captured the imagination of many other peoples, while the second won the respect of their governments. Abroad, her name will always be synonymous with firmness, national pride and strength of character, and that is something for us all to be proud of.
By any measure Margaret Thatcher was a leader who fearlessly stood up for our country in the world, and raised it up in the estimation of other nations. Britain’s standing in the world was restored by her, our status as an ally was enhanced by her, and our capacity to show leadership in the world was left beyond doubt by her. As Mikhail Gorbachev said, “Mrs Thatcher took over at a time when the United Kingdom was lagging behind the other nations, and she succeeded in radically changing both the domestic and international situation of Great Britain.” She won her place in history, she holds it still, and will be remembered for generations.
[h=4]The Foreign Secretary will speak about the foreign policy issues the UK faces today:[/h]At a time of profound change in Europe Britain must offer a vision of Europe’s future, as the Prime Minister did in his speech in January: a Europe which is globally competitive, flexible enough to accommodate different levels of integration, put on a sounder democratic footing by allowing powers to flow back to its Member States and with a stronger role for national parliaments, and one which treats Eurozone and non-Eurozone countries equally. That is a European Union which would be a success in the twenty first century and could win fresh democratic consent from British voters, who have become deeply discontented with its direction of travel.
Like Margaret Thatcher, we must always retain our belief in the power of open markets, not only to set people free but to make them more prosperous. No single act would provide more benefit to the peoples of Europe, and of America, than a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement. As Margaret Thatcher knew and proved in our own economy, free trade and enterprise, and the creativity, ingenuity and dynamism of individuals, are the only lasting source of economic growth, and fundamental to human freedom. Securing an ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the world’s two largest markets is one of the crucial objectives for this decade, and would be a milestone in the progress to a more open global trading system.
We should be absolutely clear where we stand on the Arab Spring, and the rights of the people of the region to their own political and economic development, no matter what the challenges. This means not lapsing into arrogant or outdated views that this is a region only suited for autocracy, or that the people of the Middle East cannot fulfil their immense potential and themselves create stronger, freer societies and economies. It also means being resolute in facing up to the bloodshed in Syria. The death toll is mounting, the threats to the region and our own security are growing, and we regard some of the increasing reports of the use of chemical weapons as credible. If no peaceful settlement is possible, the world will have to find other means of confronting Assad’s aggression and be ready to do more to support the opposition and save lives, and we are determined that Britain will not be found wanting.
And we must stand resolved to confront all forms of terrorism whatever their origin, never allowing ourselves to be cowed or intimidated, denying terrorists the space to operate, combating their ideology, and addressing the conditions in which they seek to prosper. I know I speak for all of us in offering our support and sympathy to the people of Boston, and our condemnation of whoever is responsible for this cruel act of terror.
Beyond these immediate crises, we should be optimistic about Britain’s place in the world, and our ability to exert a positive influence. There has been much debate in the past over the size of our power as a nation, and how it stands in relation to others and our history. But it is the nature of our power and influence in the world that matters.
Britain is a diplomatic and cultural power, and one of the few countries that can ‘turn the dial’ in world affairs. We are diplomatically active in most countries on earth, able to project military force, outward-looking and open in our disposition, and skilled at using our democratic institutions, our experiences, and our language and culture to work with other nations to help them overcome their problems.
There are thousands of our Armed Forces personnel deployed overseas at this moment, training Afghan forces to take responsibility for their own security, training Malian forces to stabilise their country, patrolling the drug trafficking routes of the Caribbean and Latin America, and combating pirates in the Horn of Africa. There are thousands of our humanitarian workers supporting the development of scores of other nations, and this year we become one of the first nations in the world to meet the UN target of 0.7% of gross national income on aid assistance. And there are thousands of the men and women of the Foreign Office working in more than 150 countries, on everything from averting conflict to rescuing children from forced marriages and helping British companies win contracts. The impact of our diplomacy is actually expanding today, as we open up to 20 new Embassies and consulates, ramp up our commercial diplomacy and build new alliances. And on top of all this are the many British entrepreneurs, lawyers, scientists, journalists, academics, artists, activists and doctors sharing their knowledge and expertise, collaborating with other nations in countless ways, working outside government but forming an integral part of our international contribution. I pay tribute to the British Council and other organisations who support much of this effort.
Our country is at its best in the world, and it serves its interests best, when we combine this strong international engagement with an equally strong commitment to freedom, human rights and democracy.
We are one of the few countries in the world that can set a lead, whether it is to rally international efforts to turn around Somalia, or to use our experience in Northern Ireland to help conclude other peace processes, such as that in Mindanao in the Philippines.
And we have the power to use our influence to address fundamental injustices. Just as our forebears in the 18th century imagined a world free of slavery and fought to achieve it, so I believe that we must imagine a world free of the use of rape as a weapon of war, finally ending the systematic rape and abuses of thousands of women, children and men in conflicts around the world. And so I am proud that last week Britain secured a historic G8 agreement to work to end sexual violence in conflict, and of the campaign we have launched that is gathering international momentum.
So in our very different world, we must have the breadth of mind to apply the best of the lessons of Margaret Thatcher’s time: that national decline is not inevitable, that global problems can be solved, that democratic values can prevail, and Britain can and should play a leading international role. This is the policy we have been pursuing since 2010, and will promote in the coming years with ever-growing vigour.
For there is no inevitable progress to a better world – every advance in human rights and freedom always has to be fought for, by the people of those nations themselves and governments of the world acting together. We have to have the courage of our convictions, and to persevere even when the goal we aim for is distant and the difficulties great. And we must never lose faith in ourselves, or in the ability of other nations to take control of their destiny, as we are doing again, to defeat any threat of decline and overcome every adversity.
[h=3]Further information[/h]Find out more about the UK’s preventing sexual violence initiative
More information on the preventing sexual violence at our tumblr
Mansion House photo credit: James Stringer on flickr


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