‘Why I believe Britain is still a world power’
Mayor of London, a contender for the future leadership of the Conservative Party, former editor of The Spectator magazine and author.
Having resigned as foreign secretary in protest at the government’s Brexit plan, Boris Johnson argues that Britain has a bright future outside of the EU — but only if it regains self-belief.
It was almost exactly two years ago that I went into the Durbar Court in the Foreign Office. It was my first day as foreign secretary, and I stood within that vast marble atrium adorned with the busts of explorers, and I announced a vision.
It wasn’t a policy. It wasn’t much more than a slogan. It was the way we needed to think of ourselves in the wake of the referendum. It was time for Global Britain.
It did not mean that we would have to turn our backs on our friends and partners across the Channel; of course not. With the right free trade deal, we would be able to do more business with the EU than ever. Global Britain meant doing something extra. It meant rekindling old friendships in the Commonwealth, 52 of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
“People around the world believe passionately in Britain. It’s time we shared their confidence.”
Global Britain was about intensifying links with the US, already our biggest single export market. If we were to be truly global, we should do more with the Gulf countries, with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with China.
This was a great moment for the Foreign Office, I told them, a chance for the Union Flag to go up again around the world. And two years later, as I step down, I am immensely proud of the Global Britain project.
British embassies are the vital beach-heads for the promotion of British trade, culture and interests. It is with the help of these Foreign Office missions that the UK is the world’s biggest exporter of services, and the biggest overseas investor in Europe. Connected with the embassy in greater or lesser degree is the wider British expat community — about six million people around the world.
But if you want to find the people who really believe in Global Britain, talk to our friends around the world. In the Middle East, in Africa, in the Far East, I meet governments who want nothing so much as to cooperate with our intelligence services.
Above all, elites of the world pay this country the highest compliment of all in that they want to come here, to shop here, to send their kids to this country’s universities. I find that they are amazed at the media nonsense and the lack of self-confidence, in the current debate on the EU, about whether we can do things for ourselves.
They see a first rate military power, one of the few capable of projecting force 8,000 miles. They see by far the most innovative economy in Europe; the tech capital of the hemisphere; the greatest financial centre; a place where one Oxbridge college boasts more Nobel Prizes than France; that exports six times more television shows than any other European country and produces most of the world’s top-selling musical artists.
They see a country whose royal weddings transfix the globe; a country with 0.7% of the world population whose sportsmen and women in the past five years have come second in the Olympics, won Wimbledon, and whose unfancied side has just come fourth in the football World Cup under the leadership of a man whose very waistcoat incarnates — in the eyes of our friends — the charm and eccentricity of the UK. This is the soft power superpower.
That is why it is time for all of us — at this critical moment in our constitutional development — to believe in ourselves, to believe in the British people and what they can do, and in our democracy. People around the world believe passionately in Britain. It’s time we shared their confidence.
This is an extract from an article published in The Telegraph. Find the full version in Become An Expert.
- Should British people be proud of their country?
- You have one minute to write down all the words that you associate with “Britain”. Compare your list with your classmates. Are most of the words positive or negative? Do you agree with Johnson that most people have a positive view of the country? Why/why not?
- Foreign Office
- The government department responsible for promoting and protecting British interests around the world.
- A group of nations primarily drawn from former territories of the British Empire. The combined territory of the Commonwealth covers 20% of the world’s land area, and spans all six inhabited continents.
- Gulf countries
- A group of nations which all border the Persian Gulf, namely: Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
- Association of Southeast Asian Nations
- Commonly abbreviated to ASEAN. The countries in this group are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
- The collective term for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
- At the 2016 Olympic Games, Great Britain won 27 gold medals. This meant that in the medal table they finished above China and second only to the US.