Blair defends interventionist foreign policy

Britain must maintain an interventionist foreign policy if it is to sustain its position in the world, the prime minister insisted today.

Launching his third policy review paper, Tony Blair said the UK must adopt a “values driven, activist and multilateralist” foreign policy.

Building on Progress: Britain in the World, is the latest in a series of review papers looking at long-term policy direction as Mr Blair prepares to leave Downing Street. The third paper explores the UK’s role in the world.

Introducing the paper, Mr Blair warned against allowing Britain to take a back seat in world affairs, but to keeps its “minds and borders” open.

“In our interdependent world, the key divide is no longer left or right but whether we are open or closed,” he said.

Mr Blair returned to this theme during his monthly press conference, where he told reporters the UK is too small to weaken its alliance with the US or Europe, or avoid forging links with the emerging powers of China and India.

“I believe in an interventionist foreign policy,” Mr Blair said.

UK foreign policy must recognise the growing interdependency of countries across the world and the “reality” of this world is that the UK cannot “opt out” of emerging conflicts.

Similarly, a strong alliance with the US will remain essential for any future prime minister, but this will require the UK to remain alongside its allies “when the going is tough, not just when it is easy,” Mr Blair said.

This does not mean the UK should act when it does not believe it is right to do so, he added.

The prime minister insisted that the historic links between the US and UK, including his much criticised relationship with George Bush, had served the country well “for many decades, and will continue to do so.”

Mr Blair also hinted the UK could be a moderating force on an increasingly unilateral America, commenting he hopes American politics does not bow to the forces pushing it towards a more disengaged world

Building on Progress: Britain in the World recommends UK foreign policy focus on a number of areas:

  • Britain must continue with international engagement to promote its values, described as the best way of ensuring security at home.
  • The UK must work with its allies and partners to promote democracy, justice, freedom and human rights.
  • Fostering more effective international institutions, including a representative UN security council, reforming the IMF and World Bank and improving the African Union.
  • Maintaining efforts against weapons proliferation and international terrorism, while also working for peace in the Middle East.
  • Winning the battle of ideas and values. Al-Qaeda’s weapons are ideological and media-orientated and to counter this the UK must become “more effective at telling our side of the story.”
  • Champion an effective and outward looking EU. The UK must help the EU face up to the challenges posed by economic changes, environment, security and migration.
  • Maximising its military capability to remain a first class military power, including a willingness to deploy military forces where necessary.
  • Building new strategic alliances, based on our relationship with the US and EU. But the UK also needs to reach emerging powers and work with faith groups, the business community and NGOs.
  • Adopting a strategic approach to conflict prevention and nation-building. Whitehall must take a long-term approach to security.
  • Continuing to lead international efforts to fight global poverty, tackle climate change and promote free and fair trade.