Hague blames Brown for diminished UK voice

By Alex Stevenson

Britain faces a tough fight if it is to retain its prominent role in the international community, William Hague has warned.

In a major speech on the Conservative party’s foreign policy plans the shadow foreign secretary linked Gordon Brown’s handling of the economy with Britain’s diminishing influence overseas.

“Economic success makes a big difference to foreign policy influence and sometimes quite quickly so,” he told an audience at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in central London.

“One of the most damaging effects of Gordon Brown’s catastrophic stewardship of Britain’s finances. is the diminishing of our economic power and by extension the effectiveness of our international role.”

Mr Hague said this short-term problem was likely to be exacerbated in the coming decades by a shift in economic power away from the west and towards China.

He said afterwards the effectiveness of economic weapons like sanctions were diminishing and that “much of the economic weight in the world is passing to countries which do not fully share our concepts of democracy and human rights or for their own reasons are opposed to interventionist approaches to foreign policy”.

Mr Hague warned other factors will diminish Britain’s ability to make its voice heard overseas, including “severe constraints on our military capabilities”.

But he insisted this did not mean further “shrinkage”, as occurred in the withdrawal from east of Suez after 1968, is needed.

“As a nation we will have to accustom ourselves to there being more situations which we dislike but cannot directly change but it is our contention that Britain must seek to retain her influence wherever possible and in some places seek to extend it,” he added.

And he concluded that while it would be more difficult for Britain to exert its usual influence on world affairs, it would not become “impossibly difficult to do so”.