A Labour government would “reconnect” Britain with its international partners and be “a good neighbour ... [and] a leader in Europe once again,” according to a landmark foreign policy speech by David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary.
Mr Lammy told an audience at the Chatham House think tank in London on Tuesday that if Labour wins power it will rebuild bilateral relations with countries such as Ireland, France and Germany. He also promised to forge a new security pact with the European Union, with regular summits to discuss shared priorities such as imposing sanctions and maintaining energy security.
“Reconnecting Britain to Europe, while remaining outside the EU, will be a top priority,” said Mr Lammy. He also reiterated Labour’s three promises on Brexit – that it will not rejoin the Single Market, the Customs Union or the EU itself.
Mr Lammy suggested that in the years following Brexit, Britain has “lost” its place in the international order. “Britain feels lost and disconnected in a world that is more divided than at any other time since the fall of the Berlin Wall ... We have left the EU but not yet found a new, settled and confident place in Europe.”
He deliberately echoed the language of Brexiteers by declaring a pillar of a Labour government’s approach to foreign policy would be to “take back control”.
“The Brexiters were right about that, but fundamentally wrong to think it means going alone.”
He identified three big trends shaping the foreign policy landscape. A new age of geopolitical competition with the world economy splitting into blocs as rivalry between US and China “shapes our century”. The second is the “weaponised interdependence” of global economies and supply chains, with the risk that new technologies such as artificial intelligence could be “tools of authoritarian power”. He also echoed US worries about “blurring the distinction between domestic and foreign policy”.
In reconnecting Britain with its traditional partners, he promised Labour would put “pragmatism before ideology” and fix “institutional dysfunction” at the heart of the government department that runs UK foreign policy, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
The FCDO would be overhauled to focus more on creating policies to help Britain reach climate goals, grow its economy, improve security and retune international development policy and diplomacy.
Mr Lammy promised that under Labour Britain would “stand with Ukraine for the long haul”. He also lamented that Britain had been “locked out” of the EU’s diplomatic process, and promised to bring his nation’s “heft” to fresh co-operation with the EU on security.
FCDO, he said, would link up with the Home Office to bring together the intelligence and security communities, creating a new “state threats cell” to give an early warning system for threats.
He said Labour would use a planned 2025 review of its Brexit withdrawal deal to “reduce barriers to trade”. He said he also hoped to improve relations with the US, highlighting how they flourished under Tony Blair’s New Labour project.
He said that whenever he is in the US he detects that “the chaos of the UK is not seen as a joke, it is seen as a problem”.
“It will fall to us to rebuild the foundation of our influence in the world.”