On Thursday 18 January, former Foreign Secretary Lord Owen will speak at the University of Bath on the topic of British foreign policy after Brexit. Drawing on his recent book of the same title, co-authored with former diplomat David Ludlow, Lord Owen will explore how Britain’s global role can be enhanced after it leaves the European Union.
Abstract: Former Foreign Secretary Lord Owen, who backed leaving the EU, argues that Britain’s global role and influence can be enhanced, rather than diminished, post-Brexit. He will examine what lies ahead, encompassing a diplomatic, security, development and trade agenda based on hard-headed realism.
Lord Owen sees Britain’s continuing commitment to global security as key, and will recommend that the Government should announce as soon as possible that they will increase the defence budget to 2.5% of GDP by 2022. This is not an impossible target, given the Government’s commitment to inflation-proof defence over the next five years and the National Security Council’s new decision-making over the budgets of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development. It would send a hugely positive signal that Obama and Trump's charge that European countries are ‘freeloading’ will not apply to the UK.
Money talks and the UK's deployment to Estonia reinforces that message, Lord Owen maintains. He will argue that the UK should not be distracted by European Union defence initiatives. It should concentrate geographically and in equipment on hard defence in Europe, and contribute its two aircraft carriers as the basis for a rapid reaction force worldwide at the disposal of NATO or the UN. But the UK should accept its limitations and focus its diplomatic activity on issues where it has specific experience, he will conclude, such as the Law of the Sea, and in defining a global presence that it can afford and sustain.
Lord David Owen was MP for Plymouth between 1966 and 1992, serving in successive Labour Governments as Navy Minister, Health Minister and Foreign Secretary. He was co-founder of the Social Democratic Party, and its Leader from 1983 to 1990. He currently sits in the House of Lords as an independent Social Democrat.
From 1992 to 1995 Lord Owen served as EU peace negotiator in the former Yugoslavia. From 1999 to 2005 he was Chairman of New Europe, an organisation that successfully campaigned for the UK to stay outside the Eurozone while remaining a member of the EU. In 2012 he published Europe Restructured: The Eurozone Crisis and Its Aftermath.
In the wake of David Cameron’s failed negotiations, Lord Owen campaigned in the 2016 referendum for the UK to leave the EU, recognising that ‘Europe has moved away from us. Its elite chose a different path long ago and it is not a path the UK ever wished to follow.’