On a beautiful balmy sunny evening CFCC hosted over twenty Ambassadors and welcomed Rt Hon Greg Hands MP as speaker.
The Summer Reception of the Conservative Foreign & Commonwealth Council (CFCC) took place on June 8th at the home of Mr & Mrs Gordon Toland in Royal Avenue, Chelsea. The guest speaker, Greg Hands, was welcomed by Lord Taylor of Holbeach and Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne, patrons of the CFCC, and he was introduced by Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, CFCC’s Chair, who painted the scene for the address to follow flagging that it would not be covering domestic politics.
Greg Hands MP began his talk by describing that as the local constituency MP he had often attended the CFCC’s Summer Reception at theToland’s home but never as the guest speaker, which would be a first.
Despite his day job as Chairman of the Conservative Party, he confirmed he would not be covering domestic politics. Instead, he would discuss his thoughts on the position of the U.K. in a changing world which he had developed from his experience and involvement as a minister in government over 11 years covering energy, trade policy, trade, the Brexit discussions , the Whip’s Office and a spell in the Treasury.
The question to be asked is what does ‘global Britain’ mean in the context of being outside the EU.
The answer is that the U.K. has always been global in outlook.
The U.K. is committed to the World Order always supporting strongly the world global bodies established post 1945: the UN, GATT, the IMF, World Bank, and the OECD for example requiring close cooperation with like -minded democracies and the values they share. He recalled spending time in 1965 in Czechoslovakia, then under communist rule, leaving him with a deeply ingrained disgust of autocracies. While these structures established so long ago cannot last in their present form forever and are likely to evolve naturally they have served well the free world . He quoted a few statistics to note arising from them. Since 1945, conflicts are down by 95% and global trade has grown by a factor of 40%. Surprisingly, the use and spread of nuclear weapons so feared as a possibility after World War 2 has not happened. The U.K. as a globally orientated nation is committed to the maintenance of world peace, standing up to aggression, securing agreement on climate change policies and their coordination - COP 26 being an example - but there is always the need for a balance to be weighed by policy makers and he quoted a view put forward by a green activist who had acknowledged that the adoption of green policies inevitably would lead to slower economic growth (sic).
In summary, Global Britain is about technology advancement, artificial intelligence, international trade and in this context he referred to the U.K. signing up to join the CPTPP, trans Pacific trade partnership (some of whose members were represented at the event - Japan and Vietnam), defence and counter terrorism.
Overall Greg Hands was optimistic about the future and the importance of building international partnerships being critically important overall. He had been encouraged by the considerable majority of nations that had supported the UN resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
With time for Q& A, he was questioned on visas for students, arms control, relations with China, the timing of an FTA with India and reciprocity on e- gates to facilitate EU entry for U.K. citizens.
In answer to this latter question, the EU Ambassador to the U.K. responded that discussions on this were at an advanced stage and on the basis of reciprocity.
Greg Hands pointed out the importance of at all times regular and close dialogue between U.K. and EU policy makers and ministers.
With questions over, the Tolands were profusely thanked for making available once again their house for the event and the CFCC team for their hard work in making the evening such a success. A particular thanks was given to Greg Hands for bringing his wealth of experience on global trade and other matters to the interest of Members. The evening was blessed by the attendance of an impressive turnout of representatives from African , Asian, European and South American nations.