Brexit will “undoubtedly” harm the UK’s ability to work with other EU countries on foreign issues and its influence in the world, warns former Conservative foreign affairs minister William Hague, including protection of the Falkland Islands, and ensuring solidarity among 28 countries.
The ex-party leader told the House of Lord’s EU external affairs sub-committee said London might be advocating EU membership for countries in the Balkans while negotiating to leave the union.
“Brexit will be damaging to our ability to work with other EU countries, obviously on foreign affairs and influence their outlook overall,” he told fellow peers.
“There is no doubt we are a big player in the foreign affairs council, bigger than we are in the financial and economic affairs of the EU. It is also true that they will want to consult us, to temper the gloom a little bit.”
He argued that the UK should seek permanent membership of the EU’s Common Political Security Committee (CFSP), explaining that it was “very important to the UK” and might “mitigate the damage that will undoubtedly be caused”.
An important test would be whether London could lead action in trouble spots like Somalia, where he said the UK had coordinated military, diplomatic, aid and economic responses to Islamist extremism and piracy.
The CFSP “amplifies the UK’s weight in the world”, Hague said, by enabling it to lead a united response on a variety of challenges, like sanctions on Iran and taking measures to protect the Falkland Islands, making Argentina respect the “solidarity among 28 countries” in response to possible hostile action.
On a more positive note, the newly appointed justice secretary, David Lidington, has insisted that the challenges of Brexit would demonstrate that Britain’s top judges prove they were the best in the world.
He said the country’s departure would allow the legal profession to demonstrate why businesses should “choose the UK” for its legal services.
In a Mansion House speech Lidington said: “I want to seize the opportunity to project our English law, our courts, our judges, our legal services to the world and to new markets.”
Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate legal systems from England and Wales.
“I want to see the government, our justice system and our legal services unite behind a common effort to harness and project to the world a strong and clear message about just how exceptional this country is when it comes to its justice system and legal services.
“The message will be choose the UK and you will get a global guarantee of judicial excellence and integrity.”