26/01/2017 House of Lords


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26/01/2017

Live coverage of the debate in the House of Lords on the UK's international relations in the light of Brexit, including engagement with the United Nations and the United States.


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That's the end of the day in the House of Commons. We'll now be going

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to the House of Lords. Remember you can watch recorded coverage of all

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of today's business in the Lords after the Daily Politics later

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tonight. Should be on acquiring skills in preparation for return to

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their own countries. We will however need solutions in third countries

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for those who won't go home. A report rightly calls for a global

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plan. Large and developed states will have a vital part to play. For

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example, the United States, Canada, Brazil, with Australia and New

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Zealand. Some cities have been so destroyed that a huge input will be

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needed to make them habitable. I saw this in homes and Aleppo. I welcome

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the new Secretary General said he has served as High Commissioner for

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refugees. I hope Mr Gutierrez agrees with the report on the point of

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redefining who is a refugee. We should perhaps distinguish those

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with individual fears of persecution. There will be other

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people who have fled because of genuine fears. Group violence, war

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or natural disaster. Their plight is real, but different from the more

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personal kind. The report shows that UN peacekeeping cost over $8 billion

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a year employing 86,000 troops and a total personnel of almost 120,000.

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We can all agree it must be possible to get better results from such

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massive resources. Sexual abuse and exploitation by so-called

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peacekeepers has been a long-running scandal. This cries out for

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reflective reform. Given that protecting women and children should

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be top priority for peacekeepers. I have two questions for the

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government. Will they make the case for enhancing the use of the UN

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Secretary General's good offices, which have been mentioned already?

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In particular in order to prevent conflicts. Will they insist on

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Article 99 powers for preventing wars, genocide and refugee flows.

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I ask, what relations does the Secretary General have with groups

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like The Hammers, and the free Canton is of northern Syria. They

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are all, I believe, too important to be ignored. My Lords, I trust that

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leaving the EU will not absorb all our energies. We must, surely, try

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to help the UN to perform more effectively than ever before.

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My lords, like others I wish Lord Hall well and I congratulate Lord

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Jopling on his introduction to this debate. I want to talk about

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relations with the US and with the European Union of 27, of course,

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after our departure. Relationship with the US will be tested tomorrow,

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when the Prime Minister and others have said meat President Trump. She

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will no doubt talk to him about a possible US-UK trade deal. On which

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we can expect the Americans, like the Indians, like the Australians

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and like others, to negotiate as toughly in their own interests as we

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shall I hope in hours. The Prime Minister will also be able to say

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that we share the US's view on the need to counter international

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terrorism, and will want to continue to work together with them to do

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that. Including by sharing intelligence. But I hope she will

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also say that we do not countenance torture, which includes water

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boarding, that we are not in favour of closing our borders to those who

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are fleeing conflict and repression in the Middle East and elsewhere.

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And I agree with my Noble Friend. And that we believe that the UN will

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continue to have a key role to play in an uncertain world. I hope the

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Prime Minister will also seek to convince President Trump that the

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continued coherence and indeed strengthening of Nato is in Western

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interests, and that as she has promised, the promotion and

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protection of Western values needs a strong European Union, albeit

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without Britain, and that the break-up of the European Union and a

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retreat into a world of protectionist nation states is not

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in any one's interest. And it follows from that that Britain's own

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interest lies, it seems to me, in a continuing close relationship with

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the European Union, even after we have left. We shall not be members

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of the European Union. We shall not be members of the Common foreign and

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security policy. And we will not be present when EU heads of state and

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government meet to discuss the crisis of the day. But it is surely

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in our interest, as much as in the interest of the EU themselves, that

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we continue to work closely with them. And in particular,

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bilaterally, with France, on, for example, the approach to and

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sanctions on Russia on the Middle East and North Africa. My lords,

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none of that will be easy. The conduct of foreign policy seldom is.

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But I hope the BRIAN NOBLE:, the minister, will be

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able to confirm that it will be in a clear sense of our own national

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interest that will determine how a relation with others, including the

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US and the European Union. My lords, I welcome this report and I welcome

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the work of the new committee. I welcome the UK's commitment to the

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preservation and strengthening of the liberal global order, to the UN

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and the international suggestions of the UN family and the extensive

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framework of international law included in the global human rights

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regime. International law, international courts and

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institutions, of course, constrain national sovereignty. Successive UK

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governments accepted that trade-off, that treaties and international

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norms share sovereignty and build an open international order. Now it

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appears we have a US administration that rejects many of these

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constraints on global order, global institutions and international law.

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That puts Britain in opposition to the current thrust of US foreign

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policy, and I very much hope he is we all do, that the Prime Minister

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will be robust in warning President Trump of the dangers of his

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approach. But while British unselect support a global institutions, they

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reject the constraints of the strongest and most effective

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regional order. They are in favour of global human rights but

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passionately reject the invasion of British sovereignty by the European

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gym and rights regime. There are uncomfortable parallels with what

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drives the trump regime and the British antagonism towards the EU.

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The potentially negative impact of Brexit on Britain's impact in the

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UN, and the Commonwealth as a potential alternative framework. It

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has been a valuable asset to British local influence. We are now

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abandoning that dramatic framework. Since we are also debating the UK's

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international relations in the light of Brexit, I have looked for a

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declaration of British foreign policy by senior ministers in recent

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months. There has been remarkably little, beyond empty repetitions,

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that by becoming a much less European Britain, we will somehow

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become more global. It's a bit like saying that Brexit means Brexit.

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Boris Johnson's Chatham House speech on the 2nd of December, however,

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promised that this was, I quote, the first in a series of speeches

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setting out our foreign policy strategy. It wasn't very strategic.

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He spent more time discussing the fate of the African elephant down

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the future pattern of corporation on international issues with our

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European neighbours. And more time on the residence of Harry Potter

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novels on children in South Asia. There was much discussion of British

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involvement in Afghanistan over the past 200 years but no reference to

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the central to you of British foreign policy, since, before the

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English estate became the United Kingdom, on relations with France,

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the Netherlands, Spain and Scandinavia. The most he would say

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was that Britain would be a flying buttress to the European church,

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whatever that may mean, and I suspect he does not know himself.

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But he did repeat the old Tony Blair line, that Britain, and I quote, is

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a breach between Europe and America, and that we are at the centre of a

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network of relationships and alliances that span the world, in

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which, I quote, people in the world are looking for a lead from Britain.

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Well, he wrote a book on Winston Churchill. It got mixed reviews, and

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he should know that Churchill's concept of the UK at the centre of a

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network of relationships depended on our retaining a key role in the

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European circle, as well as on a transatlantic relationship and in

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what Churchill called the British Commonwealth and Empire. Cut the

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European dimension out of Churchill's three cycles concept,

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and our position in the world is sharply diminished. The only

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substantial speech by Mr Johnson that I can find since then was given

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at a conference in Delhi on the 21st of January. He made no mention in it

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of the Commonwealth, in the capital of what has been the jewel in the

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crown of the British Empire, probably because he had been told by

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his staff that the Indian government is not enthusiastic about returning

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to a subordinate role in a British-led network. There was much

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in the speech on Scotch whisky exports, about the pesky terrorists,

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he said, that India imposes to limit whiskey exports, and how

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nevertheless, Britain and the UK stand together in their commitment

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to free trade. Pesky is a term that I last came across when I was a boy

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in comics. It is interesting the language of Foreign Secretary still

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uses. He went on to say, we have just decided to restore our military

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presence east of Suez with a ?3 billion commitment over ten years

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for a naval support facility in Bahrain. We have a commitment to the

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whole world, and as our naval strength increases in the next ten

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years, the Noble Lord Lord West will be very glad, including two new

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aircraft carriers, we will be able to make a bigger contribution. In

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the Indian Ocean, we have a joint UK-US facility on Diego Garcia which

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is vital for our operations in the region. It is exactly 50 years since

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Harold Wilson PHIL JONES: Governance announced the

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withdrawal from Cillilers on the grounds that it no longer made any

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sense to continue to defend and Empire now that it had been given

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its freedom. Boris Johnson is too young to remember that. He was only

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three at the time. We mean tamed athlete at that time which included

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between 35-40 frigates against the 16 we have now, as well as bases in

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Aden and Singapore. The Foreign Secretary claimed that Diego Garcia

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is a vital UK, as well as US facility. Perhaps the minister can

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remind us how much we have in the way of UK military personnel there.

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The last time I was told, I think it was two, perhaps it is now four, and

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whether or not there are any British military assets based in Diego

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Garcia. This image of the world is not about taking back control, it's

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about taking Britain back to the 1960s, boys' comics included. And

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now we have thepm going to the USA to tell President Trump, according

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to the media this morning, that together we can leave the world,

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phrase straight out of Daniel Hannan's book on how the

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Anglo-Saxons invented freedom and the modern world. Is Theresa May

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going to attempt the same subordinate relationship with Donald

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Trump that Tony Blair pursued with George W Bush? Does she share the

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same illusion that Anglo-Saxon Americans love Britain above all

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others, and that clinging to American coat-tails gives us global

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status superior to the international roles of Germany and France?

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Independent from Europe, pendant on the United States? Commitment to a

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liberal international order but dependent on a Republican

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administration which is against many of the assumptions of that

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international order? That's not a coherent strategy for a post-Brexit

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foreign policy. My Lords, I want to thank all Noble Lords who are

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members of the committee for an excellent report. And I want to

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thank Lord Howe for initiating this debate, and also to pass on my own

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best wishes for a speedy recovery. In one of our earlier debates on

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this subject, my Lords, the noble lady the Baroness Goldie, in

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acknowledging that we face significant challenges to peace and

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stability ahead, asserted that they are not ones brought about by the

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UK's decision to leave the EU, and that they will not be exacerbated by

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our leaving. Well, my Lords, I think that is the crux of today's debate.

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And it has been highlighted by all Noble Lords. The question is, how

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will a call deliver on that assertion? Man-made and natural

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humanitarian crises, poverty and climate change, can only be met by

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international co-operation. And the report highlights the year 2015, the

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international community, facing up to its responsibilities by reaching

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agreements like the disaster risk reduction, the financing for

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development, the Agenda 2030 and of course, the Paris climate change

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record. The report acknowledged that the watchword for the UN and the new

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Secretary-General will be implementation of these agreements.

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And Paul Williams from the finance, wealth office said they would be key

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to maintaining credibility in the UN itself among other places. Of

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course, the challenge to in fermentation, as we have heard in

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the debate, are both political and economic, and not least, as all

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noble Lords have said, is our future relationship with the US and its new

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president. The Prime Minister will remind President Trump tomorrow that

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the United Kingdom is by instinct and history a great global nation

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that recognises its responsibilities to the world. Downing Street sources

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say Theresa May prefers a grown-up relationship with the new president,

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rather than by remaining aloof. The benefits of a close, effective

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relationship is, we will be able to raise differences directly and

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frankly with the president. Well, my Lords, clearly, this week, we have

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seen in a little more detail what those differences may look like.

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