In a digital session organised by Big Tent Ideas yesterday afternoon (22nd July) Jeremy Hunt MP, former Foreign Secretary and Conservative Party leadership candidate, put forward his view on UK foreign policy in the post-COVID and post-Brexit world, and why he thinks the country has to remain a leader in international development.

“Immigration, globalisation and international allyships are just some of the areas that will have to be addressed. As Britain finds its footing, and learns what kind of nation we want to be in the future, we must ensure we continue to be a force for good in the world.”

Commenting on the Government’s controversial decision to merge the Department for International Development with the Foreign Office, Hunt admitted to having wrestled with the topic during his time as Foreign Secretary:

“The reason I hesitated is that DFID is the premier international development organisation of any country and does Britain proud in many parts of the world.”

With the merger already being underway, Hunt is asking for there to be a Chief Secretary for Development with a permanent Cabinet seat in order to qualm any fears that the area is being deprioritised:

“I think it’s important that the junior foreign office minister has a seat round the table in the cabinet. This would send a very important signal to the rest of the world that we’re not reducing our commitment to development.”

Hunt also touched on the UK and its allies’ relationship with China, which is becoming increasingly strained: 

“Important though it is to raise the standard of living, we do not share China’s values when it comes to the freedom of the individual and human rights.”

“We want to continue to trade with them but need to find a way of doing that without compromising our own values.”

When asked about the upcoming Presidential election in the US, Hunt highlighted the importance for the UK to maintain its strong ties to the country no matter the result:

“It’s obviously a very important aspect of our diplomacy. We need to find a way to work with whoever is the next President of the US – they are our most important ally.”

“The democracies of the world are going to have to work much more closely to defend our shared values. The role of Britain is going to be to stand next to the US and help it rebuild the international alliance needed at this time.”

Hunt, who came runner-up in last year’s Conservative Party leadership race behind Boris Johnson, defended the Prime Minister and argued that he is more centrist in his policy approach than some might fear:

“I think people who are opponents of Boris have sometimes wrongly interpreted his strong belief in Brexit as being part of a wider illiberal agenda. I don’t believe it is. If I look on what he’s says on the NHS, about social care, there is definitely a pledge to spend more on our public serves than a traditional conservative would. I think when we’ve got Brexit behind us we’ll see someone who’s more centrist in his approach.”

“However, that doesn’t mean he won’t crack some eggs to make an omelette.”

As to the country’s overall stature on the international stage, the former Foreign Secretary seemed optimistic:

“It’s become very clear in the last year that we need the democracies of the world to come together, and Britain has a unique role in doing this due to its history of championing democratic values.”

“I think people are completely wrong when they say we are a spent force on the world stage.”

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