Foreign Office orthodoxy

David Cameron, UK foreign secretary
David Cameron, UK foreign secretary
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The former foreign secretary Lord Palmerston once remarked that Britain had no permanent allies and no permanent enemies, but only permanent interests. What happens, however, when the interests of the department he once ran are at odds with those of the Government?

Earlier this year, we learnt that FCO staff were crying and in a state of “mourning” following the 2016 Referendum vote. Now, prompted by remarks by Lord Cameron, backbench MPs are cautioning against a reignition of the Brexit debate. Even under his predecessor the FCO position was to insist that the UK remain a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, despite concerns that such obligations will thwart the Government’s efforts to bring illegal migration under control.

The Foreign Office has shied away from proscribing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation, despite its continuous engagement in such activities since its inception in 1979, and the threat it poses to international peace and security. This would make it a criminal offence in this country to belong to the group, and fund or express support for its activities. It ought to be viewed as a matter of vital public safety at a time of heightening community tensions.

Many of those who take part in the pro-Palestine marches may misunderstand the history and geography of the region, but FCO officials will surely have no such shortcomings. Lord Cameron’s decision to chastise Israel’s leadership, saying Palestinian casualties are “too high”, was unwise. Why did the FCO not advise him as such?

Treasury orthodoxy has facilitated our slide into high-tax, low-growth decline. Should the divide between the Foreign Office and Rishi Sunak’s Government continue to widen, it could be equally damaging, frustrating what must be a robust approach to international affairs in an increasingly dangerous world.

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