The Tab talks to Dr Alan Mendoza and Sir Malcolm Rifkind
Interviews with the speakers from the Cambridge Union’s debate on Western military intervention
Dr Alan Mendoza
Dr Alan Mendoza is executive director of the Henry Jackson Society which is a foreign and domestic security think tank
How do you see British Foreign policy evolving in the post-Brexit climate?
Well, we have Brexit to finish off certainly. Still, after that, I think we are looking at Britain reasserting its independent role in the world. What that essentially means is to take the best of our relationship with the Europeans which we have had for what—forty-five years now? Maintaining that and also looking farther afield to allies that we have maybe neglected in the past like Canada, Australia, obviously the United States and seeing where British influence can be best extended such as in the Asian Pacific. We will be looking at returning to places where Britain has perhaps not been in recent times in order to make our diplomatic and military weight felt going forward, and that is the message of what we might term global Britain, which is what I think the story of Brexit is really about.
By arguing that we should return to close relations with commonwealth nations such as Canada and Australia, do you think that to an extent this can be seen as a form of neo-colonialism?
No not at all, none of those countries are colonialist in their approach in today's international relations world, and no one is seeking to subjugate. I mentioned the Asian Pacific, what is very interesting to foreign ministers and defence ministers of many countries such and India and Sri Lanka is that they would like a British return to the Asian Pacific in a way that we haven't seen since well before 1970. So it's not about neo-colonialism it's about working with partners, some of whom may be old allies from the Commonwealth some of whom may be new allies, in order to best aid the security, defence and foreign policy needs of the twenty-first century
Do you think that we have a moral responsibility to avoid alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia which have questionable human rights records?
Well, certainly I think human rights are an important part of what a post-Brexit British foreign policy should be about, but of course, complex issues balancing issues going on all the time and I think it is quite right that we should bring up human rights abuses in the relationship with countries like Saudi Arabia and China; here we have a case that for many years the argument for China has been made on purely economic terms without looking at the strategic and moral issues of an expansionist China and we see now people in the Xinjiang province people being persecuted for simply the crime of being different, so yes, something does need to be brought up in discussion. I do feel there is a case for human rights arguments in negotiations and British people certainly want that.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind
Sir Malcolm Rifkind previously served under the Thatcher and Major Governments in a number of roles including that of Secretary of State for Defence and Foreign Secretary. He is currently a visiting fellow for King's College Department of War Studies.
How do you see British defence policy evolving once we leave the European Union?
The departure from the European Union does not directly affect our defence policy, so there is not an immediate consequence, but it is still a very important one. Because like all countries, defence has become very expensive. But we need to provide it and protect our country – and we need to get the balance right. Do we put it in the army, the navy the airforce? These are pretty big decisions, and I served as Secretary of defence, so I understand the decisions that need to be made.
Do you think that the fact that our relationship with other European nations is going to be fundamentally different will affect our vulnerability on the world stage?
It could do if we don't get it right because the crucial challenge is can we continue to have similar foreign policy cooperation between three major European western powers which are France, Britain and Germany? And on these issues, even when we were in the EU, we were not the awkward customer – we were very cooperative. There was a lot of common agreement that was reached on policy towards Russia or Iran nuclear issues and so forth, so I think there is a will to see how we can continue that cooperation, but it will be in a different form. We will no longer be in the EU so will not have a veto to stop people doing things that we do not want them to do, but they equally won't be able to stop us. So a lot of the time, it will sort of sort itself out in my judgement.