British Foreign Office: Institutionally Defeatist about Britain

There have been outstanding Foreign Ministers in our past – Palmerston probably the most memorable. Now Palmerston in the 1830s, ‘40s and ‘50s had a very strong hand to play, but it is doubtful to say the least that he would in any circumstances have ever countenanced the craven “agreement-at-any-price” approach to other countries, adopted by the Foreign Office over the last 50 or so years.

The reaction of the Foreign Office functionary to Cameron’s comment about refugee camps (see post of 11th February 2016) encapsulates exactly the special character of Foreign Office defeatism: it never considers what Britain could do to thwart or nullify the actions of a foreign country.  Not for nothing is the Foreign Office referred to by many expats as the “Ministry for Foreigners”.

The gravest result of the Cameron “negotiations” is something not commented on (yet) by the mainstream British media and politicians, and that is the contempt in which Cameron and his team are held among the EU official classes. Two stray comments:

Senior French Official: “We will give Cameron anything he wants, so long as it’s not important.”

President of the European Parliament (Martin Shultz): “Unless it’s in a Treaty, anything that is agreed with Cameron can be voted down by the European Parliament”

(in which Britain has just 9.6% of the 752 seats).

In 1982 Sir Anthony Parsons, a career diplomat of liberal inclinations, fought like a tiger to uphold Britain’s actions in the recovery of the Falklands, specifically getting the UN Security Council resolution 502 passed instructing Argentina to withdraw its forces.  This also legitimised Britain’s subsequent use of force to expel them.

This was a very un-foreign office thing to do as the late Alan Clark memorably commented at the time. In fact as Clark said, the whole of establishment club-land – Whites (Cameron’s old club), the Carlton (Tory toffs), St James’s generally, expected the British government to accept the Falklands occupation and make some shabby face-saving deal with the Argentines.  But, as history tells, that did not allow for Margaret Thatcher and Admiral Sir Henry Leach, the First Sea Lord.

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