16 May, 2010
Foreign Affairs and the new government: will they be all that much different?
A meeting between the new Foreign Secretary (William Hague) and the United States Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) has reaffirmed the so-called "special relationship" between the UK and the US. See Foreign Office. In recent years, many people have viewed this "special relationship" as placing the UK in a subservient position to the US and would wish to see a much more "equal" and critical partnership. It now appears that Cameron and Hague might be trying to - (at least) - create an impression of independence from Washington - "a solid but not slavish relationship" - see Express 16th May. There are also serious concerns which have not been adequately addressed regarding possible involvement of UK personnel in matters such as extraordinary rendition and torture - see, for example, APPG on Extraordinary Rendition.
Downing Street. Very little detail has been released about their discussions though some reports suggest that Hague has stated that Karzai must "meet his commitments". The UK's involvement in Afghanistan is a matter of huge public concern. It is also a commitment with massive financial costs which weighs heavily at a time of serious financial crisis with the new UK government being faced with an unprecedented deficit. Hague has indicated that Britain's military would stay involved in Afghanistan until "their job is done" but clear definition of what is required for it to "be done" is lacking. To the general public in the UK the exact role remains unclear and the timescale endless.
BBC News. The removal of the Chagossians from their homeland is now seen as an appalling foreign policy decision by the Labour government of Harold Wilson though little has been done since to resolve the issue. The airbase of Diego Garcia is of strategic military importance. Although the British government has indicated that the territory might be ceded to Mauritius, this is unlikely until such time as the base is not required. The cynic might say that amounts to "never". See also Chagos Conservation Trust
It will be essential that a careful watch is maintained as to just how the new government takes foreign policy forwards. So far, in foreign affairs, the outcome of a change of government has been "more of the same" or just a continuation of the Labour government policy in a number of areas of crucial importance for the UK.