Monday, 10 March 2014

William Hague in Northumberland sets out his foreign policy vision

Kiev, Westminster, Paris, Newcastle, Northumberland and Yorkshire was the diary for the Foreign Secretary last week, who kindly drove north from Yorkshire on Thursday night to honour a long standing engagement to meet and talk through some of the decisions he faces. Dozens of locals came to listen to William, and our local North East MEP, Martin Callanan, as they discussed everything from the Ukraine to the Scottish Referendum, with side journeys to discuss the problems of the EU, Syria, North Korea, and much more. The Foreign Secretary talked and took questions for over 2 hours, without a pause or a note.

On Ukraine he was very clear that diplomacy is key to a de-escalation of the situation, and he has clearly been leading the way on this issue - having met with the Russian Foreign Minister last Wednesday. The UK supports the powerful case for the deployment of UN and OSCE monitors to Crimea and other areas of concern in Ukraine, given the grave risk of clashes and escalation on the ground. There is a desire to get the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to use the UN’s authority to bring about direct contact between Russia and Ukraine, and to facilitate the peaceful resolution of this issue.

But it was not just Ukraine the great man spoke of. He made the point that as Foreign Secretary he has visited 80 countries on the UK's behalf over the last 3 3/4 years, and opened a large number of new embassies and consulates. On the Euroland problems the Foreign Secretary was very robust. He repeated his assertion that not only would the UK never join the Euro but that entering the single currency was "like going into a burning with no exits."

In addition, the FS explained the work done with Iran and Iraq as both these countries begin to engage more constructively with the west, and the attempts to assist Lebanon and Jordan with the refugee crisis they face. He also described travelling to South Korea's border with North Korea, and the difficulties of keeping the peace on both sides of the most militarised border in the world. I could tell the tales of his encounters with everyone from Screaming Lord Sutch to Angelina Jolie, and going to the London Olympic Judo finals with President Putin, but the reality is that that 95% of the debate on thursday evening was serious, and rightly so.

We kept coming back to the Ukraine situation and I, for one, am very glad that William Hague is batting for Britain as we try and find a diplomatic solution to what is a very serious problem for all of us in western Europe and in the UK. 

If you want more detail on this conflict and how the UK is trying to resolve this please read William's statement to the House of Commons from last week: