When I was chancellor of Bournemouth University, I had the pleasure of conferring on the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, an honorary doctorate, and I still remember the inspiring way he spoke that day.
I declare my interests, in that I am married to an American, and my children are British and American. I am also an honorary colonel in the United States army, am honoured to have been given the freedom of a number of American cities, and have enjoyed lecturing at various American universities.
The “special relationship” between the United Kingdom and America was first coined by Sir Winston Churchill in a speech in 1946. Our two nations share a strong common heritage. My wife’s ancestors John and Priscilla Alden were pilgrims on board that famous ship the “Mayflower”, which made the voyage from Plymouth to the new world of America in 1620, nearly 400 years ago.
Although we share the English language, cultural differences between America and Britain manifest themselves from time to time. To my wife Laura, cricket means an insect she used to hear during the night in her hometown of Dallas, Texas, whereas to me cricket is a fine summer game, played occasionally in between frequent showers of rain. These are but small differences between our two cultures.
More importantly, when we travel to America it is clear that the British brand—for example, British royalty, our literature and our history—remains very strong there. These bonds are stronger than whoever happens to be President in the White House, and they will endure even beyond temporary differences in foreign policy. I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Fox News TV about Brexit, and it was clear to me from the questions that America is listening to and watching what is going on in Britain. I am delighted, too, to have been invited to President Trump’s forthcoming prayer breakfast in Washington DC. It will be just me and the President of the United States of America—oh, and 3,000 other guests.
When it comes to foreign policy, historically the actions of the United States have had a profound effect on the rest of the world. When Donald Trump became President, he made it clear that he was going to focus more on greatness at home. We could criticise him for that, but in essence that is what Brexit is about—giving Britain the opportunity to become not just Great Britain but greater Great Britain. Let us not forget that one of Mr. Trump’s earliest actions on entering the White House was to restore the bust of Sir Winston Churchill to the Oval Office. That was an important signal of the US President’s bond with, and respect for, Great Britain.
Concerning foreign policy, let us consider briefly the situation in the Middle East, particularly in Israel. American Presidents have endeavoured to broker peace between Israel and Palestine, but that has led to a stalemate situation, where the peace process has become stagnant for some years. On 6 December last year, Mr. Trump recognised Jerusalem as the Jewish capital of Israel and announced the intention to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This decision also affirmed the biblical foundation for that city being the capital of Israel, and Israel being the true home of the Jewish people. This was of course confirmed by the British Government 100 years ago, with the Balfour Declaration in 1917. Mr. Trump has declared his support for Israel, and it is important for the United Kingdom to continue supporting Israel and world peace, as Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East.
The Holy Bible says, in Matthew chapter 5 verse 9:
“Blessed are the peacemakers”— not peacekeepers but peacemakers; it is very much an active thing. To achieve peace, it is important to recognise that there are agents of peace which world leaders can by their policies halt, misuse or use to not only benefit their own people but help to create peace. In Israel, a distinct agent of peace is innovation. Israel has a small population yet ranks third in the World Economic Forum’s rankings of the most innovative economies. The world has benefited from Israeli inventions too numerous to mention here. Israeli intelligence services have helped stop a wide number of terrorist attacks around the world. Many Arab nations now look to Israel as a strong ally in their common battle for peace against militant Islam. These Arab nations now seek Israeli technology to help grow their own economies, so trade can be an agent of peace.
The UK has 28 trade envoys but only five Trade Ministers. Trade is an agent of peace. Will the Minister say when the Government intend to appoint more trade envoys? There are 282 foreign embassies. Is it not time for the UK to host a peace conference inviting ambassadors to talk about making peace?
In conclusion, the first duty of any Government is to protect their people, but we live in a world where geographical boundaries will mean less and less. Perhaps one should remember that there is only one race—the human race. This is why President Thomas Jefferson was right when he said simply:
“Enemies in War, in Peace Friends”.