FORMER cabinet minister and TV personality Michael Portillo said Britain’s foreign policy is in a ‘confused position’ while speaking at a Coventry international peace conference.
Portillo was leading a debate on how Brexit will impact on Britain’s foreign affairs, as part of the RISING Global Peace Forum.
Portillo, a long time Conservative and Eurosceptic, was joined by international affairs expert Judy Dempsey of think-tank Carnegie Europe and Professors Mike Hardy and Matt Qvortrup, of Coventry University, at the event which was held at St Mary’s Guildhall in the city centre.
The forum is led by the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, in partnership with the City Council and the cathedral.
Portillo said recent changes to the world order and Brexit had confused the UK’s international position.
He said: “We now find ourselves at loggerheads with the United States on matters of policy – climate change being one, and Iraq being another and this is a strange moment.
“Our default position is to be alongside the United States and, right now, that default position is simply not operative and they are not our natural allies in a number of ways.”
Portillo hit out at foreign policy being driven by the desire for international prestige and maintaining jobs in the defence industry.
He said the UK would be better served by developing niche areas of defence expertise.
He questioned the merit of the UK continuing to invest billions of pounds in a so-called ‘independent nuclear deterrent’.
He said he couldn’t envisage a situation when it would be used independently of the US nor a situation where it was acting as a deterrent to anyone who might oppose Britain.
He also labelled some of the Brexit negotiation tactics as ‘foolish’.
He added: “I think in this negotiation period quite a lot of silly things have been said.
“People are threatening each other with reducing security co-operation as a bargaining tool. That is very foolish talk.
“If we are interested in protecting ourselves against, for example, terrorism we need to pool intelligence resources.
“Leaving the EU ought not to make any impact on these agreements.”
RISING Britain: Foreign Policy after Brexit was organised as a prelude to September’s Rising 18 which will see a host of peacebuilders, policymakers and academics come to the city to explore strategies for resolving violent conflict and sustaining peaceful societies.
For tickets or general enquiries please contact RISING@coventry.ac.uk