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UK-US: Future Relationship

Volume 617: debated on Tuesday 22 November 2016

15. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the result of the US election on the UK’s bilateral relationship with that country. (907416)

Britain and America have an enduring and strong special relationship, and as the Prime Minister said during her call with President-elect Trump on 10 November, we look forward to working with his Administration to ensure the security and the prosperity of both our countries and the world in the years ahead.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, now that a democratic process has taken place, the UK and the US need to focus on working ever more closely together on shared priorities?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the wisdom of his approach to this matter. The relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States was perhaps the single most important geopolitical fact of the last century, and I have no doubt that it will continue to prosper and thrive in the relationship we are building.

Just as he has on Turkey, the Foreign Secretary has U-turned in his opinion of President-elect Trump. Given the openly racist and Islamophobic opinions expressed by some of Trump’s Cabinet nominees, does the Foreign Secretary maintain his belief that there is a lot to be positive about in the new Administration, and how does he intend to work with his new counterpart to uphold universal human rights such as racial and gender equality?

I think that Members on both sides of this House should be as positive as we possibly can be about working with the incoming US Administration. It is of massive importance to our country and, indeed, to the world. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he should judge the new Administration by their actions in office, which we of course hope to shape and to influence.

It is far too early for question 13. If the hon. Gentleman wants to ask a question, it should be about the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States, but that now requires a certain dexterity and fleetness of foot from him.

13. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will ask a question.Does my right hon. Friend agree that virtue signalling, while fashionable, is no basis for a productive international working relationship? (907414)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his characteristic verbal dexterity. I think he speaks for many people—many common-sensical people—in this House and in this country who want a thriving relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

What representations has the Foreign Secretary made to our American counterparts about Aleppo, where bombing this weekend has caused the last children’s hospital there to close?

As the hon. Lady knows—she has campaigned a great deal on this issue—we are working hand in glove with the United States to try to get a ceasefire in Aleppo. I last had a conversation with John Kerry on this matter very recently. Alas, it has proved impossible so far to persuade the Russians to drop their support for their Syrian client, but they have the opportunity to do just that. We need to reach out to the Russians and show that it is now up to them to demonstrate the leadership the world expects, to call for a ceasefire in Aleppo, to deliver a ceasefire in Aleppo, to let the humanitarian aid get through and to prevent a catastrophe for the people of that city over the winter months.

Although there is no vacancy, does not the Foreign Secretary think it is extremely generous of Donald Trump to suggest who should be our ambassador in the United States? In that spirit of fraternity, might he suggest that the best person to fill the vacancy for the ambassador to the United Kingdom next year would be Hillary Rodham Clinton, although I suspect the last thing she would want to do is to be associated with the incoming Administration?

You anticipate what I was about to say, Mr Speaker. Of course, my right hon. Friend would be a very good candidate. On the other hand, as the House knows full well, we have a first-rate ambassador in Washington doing a very good job of relating with the present Administration and the Administration to be. There is no vacancy for that position.

As regards ambassadors for either country, may I make a suggestion? An excellent choice for the unofficial ambassador from the United States to Britain—I emphasise the word unofficial—would be Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who spoke out to the Vice-President-elect about American values and was criticised by the future President. Mr Dixon is the sort of person who is associated with all that is best about the United States.

Of course, Mr Brandon Dixon, of whom, I am afraid, I was hitherto unaware is perfectly at liberty to come to this country, assuming that all visa requirements are met, and to spread his message. We look forward to having a new American ambassador in due course to follow in the footsteps, if I may say so, of one of the most distinguished US ambassadors we have seen in this country in recent years, Matthew Barzun.

I would have called the hon. Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter), who has a very similar question, if he were standing, but he wasn’t, so I won’t.

16. Diplomats require diplomacy. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there should be no place for anyone who expresses inflammatory views and views that could sometimes be considered to be bordering on racist in representing this country in discussions with the United States? (907417)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who catches the mood of the House. We have already settled that question: we have an excellent ambassador in Washington who is doing a first-rate job and there is no vacancy.

12. Will the Foreign Secretary give a clear indication to the new US Administration that we value the Baltic states and their independence highly? As part of our responsibilities in NATO, will he support and encourage the new Administration to say the same things? (907413)

The right hon. Gentleman will know that that is one of our top priorities. As part of our global Britain campaign, we have an enhanced forward presence in the Baltic states and a battalion is being sent there. It is vital that we get over the message that NATO and article 5 of NATO have been the guarantor of peace and stability in our continent for the last 70 years. That is a point that is well understood in Washington, but which we will repeat.

I think we are all relieved that the Foreign Secretary has ruled out Mr Farage. In this post-truth world, we might have assumed that he would have been sympathetic, given that they campaigned together so remarkably on Brexit. Will the Foreign Secretary outline to the House his thinking on what he will say when he visits the United States of America about our future relations, given that we have always been the conduit between Europe and the United States of America?

My right hon. Friend asks a thoughtful and important question because, as I said to the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), it is vital that we get our message across about the vital importance of NATO, of free trade and free enterprise, and of sticking up for the values that unite our two countries. That is the message that I know the Prime Minister will put across when she goes there, and it is certainly the message that will be delivered at all levels from the UK Government.

In a secret telegram, printed in The Sunday Times, our ambassador

“boasted that the UK is the best placed of any nation to steer the new president’s foreign policy and encourage his more extreme ideas to ‘evolve’.”

Is the presidential edict—or tweet—to replace Sir Kim Darroch with Lord Farage a sign of the early success of that policy?

I think the right hon. Gentleman is too early with his verdicts. We will engage with the Administration-to-be at all levels; indeed, we are already doing so, and I had a very good conversation with Vice-President-elect Mike Pence. We see eye to eye on a great many matters. As I have said, there is no ambassadorial vacancy in Washington given our excellent ambassador.

In the space of the past few weeks, the Foreign Secretary has gone from not going to New York in case he is mistaken for Mr Trump to saying that Mr Trump is the opportunity for the western world, a political pirouette of which Ed Balls would be proud. Will the Foreign Secretary realise what we are dealing with in the new President of the United States, and would this country’s policy not be helped by coherence, consistency and a bit of common sense?

I think that what the world needs now is the UK to build on its relations with the United States, which, as most people in the House accept, are of fundamental importance for our security. As I have said very candidly to hon. Members, there are three central points we will be making to our friends: the vital importance of the transatlantic alliance of NATO, the importance of free trade and free enterprise, and the importance of jointly promulgating the values that unite our two countries. That is the message.

As we meet today on the 53rd anniversary of John F Kennedy’s death, we have the prospect of a very different president about to enter the White House in a matter of weeks. Nevertheless, the Secretary of State said last week, and has said again today, that this new president is “a liberal guy” with whom he shares many values. He does not end there; we have, he tells us,

“every reason to be positive”

about a Trump presidency. Will he tell us what reasons there are to be positive about the attitude of the new president to climate change?

It is vital that we are as positive as we can possibly be about the new Administration-elect. As I have said to the House before, I believe that the UK-US relationship is vital, and I think that President-elect Trump is a deal maker. The UK has led on climate change globally, and we have had outstanding success. I will be open with the House that we will be taking to the Administration-to-be the message that we believe that the issue of climate change is important; it is of importance to the United States and the world.

The reality is that we have a new president who says that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, who has repeatedly promised to scrap the Paris treaty and whose top adviser on the environment calls global warming “nothing to worry about”. There is no doubt that that is a hugely dangerous development for the future of our planet, so let me ask the Secretary of State this: when the Prime Minister goes to see the new president in January, will she have the moral backbone to tell him that he is wrong on climate change and must not scrap the Paris treaty, and will she lead the world in condemning him if he does?

I really must say to the hon. Lady that she is being premature in her hostile judgments of the Administration-elect. Any such premature verdict could be damaging to the interests of this country. It is important that we in this country use our influence, which is very considerable, to help the United States to see its responsibilities, as I am sure it will.