On Thursday 10 May, members of the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs travelled to St Andrews to ask members of the community what a ‘Global Britain’ meant to them.
In attendance were, Tom Tugendhat MP (chair of the committee), Priti Patel MP (former Secretary of State for International Development), Stephen Gethins MP (SNP Spokesperson for Europe), and Ian Murray MP for Edinburgh South.
The Saint had the opportunity to catch up with members and discuss what a ‘Global Britain’ meant to them and the recent controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal.
Local MP for North East Fife, Stephen Gethins said, “I’m really pleased that my colleagues in the Foreign Affairs Committee taken up my offer to come to St Andrews because what this is really about isn’t what ‘Global Britain’ means to me or any other member of the committee.
“This is about getting outside the bubble of Westminster and trying to listen to students, business owners, people who work in the public sector about what this means to them.”
Chair of the Committee, Tom Tugendhat explained, “We are doing it because fundamentally if we are going to structure a relationship with the world that we want to see as citizens of this country, we want to see what that relationship is that we are looking for.”
Priti Patel said, “Our universities are effectively part of our soft power armoury, as well in terms of showcasing our great country and the talents of our country.”
The primary role of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee is to scrutinise the policy and work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office over which Boris Johnson presides.
In light of Donald Trump’s recent withdrawal from the Iran deal, The Saint asked members if they believed the Foreign Secretary could have done more to dissuade the President from withdrawing on his recent trip to Washington D.C.
Mr Gethins was quick to criticise Mr Johnson asserting, “I think he could have done a lot more than just appearing on Donald Trump’s favourite TV programme.”
During his trip, Mr Johnson appeared on the show Fox and Friends of which President Trump is an avid watcher.
Mr Tugendhat maintained that he was unsure the Foreign Secretary could have done much more.
Ms Patel seemed to echo the same sentiment as her Conservative counterpart as she stated, “The reality is, I think that President Trump has had a very fixed view on Iran.”
The Saint furthermore inquired of the members if they thought the Iran deal was now “dead in the water”.
Mr Tugendhat challenged the assertion saying, “No, but it is certainly very damaged. It’s a hugely challenging time, because the reality is it was the first step of a deal that was intended to bring the United States and Iran closer together but the reality is that’s what the fundamental purpose of the deal was.”
He continued, “The European support is in order to be a midwife to that relationship and so it is hard to argue that it is anything other than very badly damaged. That said, the principle economic relationship was never between Iran and the US, it was between Iran and Europe and therefore if we can encourage Iran to stick with the other half of the deal that was struck then its economic interests are best served.”
Ms Patel, also agreed arguing that Europe should play a more substantial part in further negotiations, “Iran’s regime you know, it’s got a lot of problems, and their idea of democracy is not our idea of democracy but we are not here to impose views on democracy around the world.
“But I think we have to absolutely look at how we can work through it and I think Britain will very much stick with the deal, with our European counterparts obviously to look at how for example the scale of uranium enriching, the scale of which that takes place.”
She continued, “We have got to ensure that we are active in keeping the deal, refreshed or revised, if not intact, and I think that the fact of the matter is it wasn’t a perfect deal. But we need to play our part basically to try and drive the right kind of outcomes and behaviours.”
Mr Gethins expressed hope that this was not the end of the deal and was vocal in his denunciation of President Trump’s actions.
“I’m still impressed that 28 states of the European Union are also behind it along with other states around the world. I don’t think Donald Trump’s reckless act in pulling the plug on this should be the end of the story. This is thirteen years of hard work and hard labour and this is a much more effective way of trying to get Iran to give up its weapons of mass destruction.”
The US’ withdrawal, as they were a key actor in devising the Iran deal under the Obama administration is a cause of great concern for the UK Government going forward.
The Saint therefore asked if they thought US foreign policy was having a detrimental impact on the interests of the UK.
Mr Tugendhat said, “I think that US foreign policy at the moment is challenging. It’s difficult for allies and partners to predict where it is going to go. Fundamentally and is always fashionable, foreign policy should be boring, predictable we should be able to know what the consequences of actions are.”
Ms Patel said, “The Trump presidency, the president of the United States has been taking a very forward-leaning approach to foreign policy in a different way. The world is changing, there are so many international challenges that we all face and I think that we are, and I know that we are working with the United States on a range of foreign policy challenges.
“I know we are not going to see eye-to-eye on everything but America is a key ally of ours in terms of foreign policy, and I think we will continue to see more of that as the President comes over here in July.”
Mr Tugendhat concurred with Ms Patel by expressing concern over the constantly shifting foreign policy landscape of the US.
“I think that US foreign policy at the moment is challenging. It’s difficult for allies and partners to predict where it is going to go. Fundamentally and is always fashionable, foreign policy should be boring, predictable we should be able to know what the consequences of actions are.”
Mr Gethins however was quick to challenge the question and criticise the Conservative Government saying, “I think that the UK government is inhibiting UK interests on foreign policy at the moment. I think that we have a weak government that is pulling away from our close allies in Europe and our closest partnerships in the European Union.
“That’s critical because we are friends with America, but we should be able to be able to be critical of friends and stand up to them when necessary because that is what true friends do.”