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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 42, December 1999

Blair On Britain's New Global Role

Speech given at the Lord Mayor of London's Banquet, November 22, 1999.

"In post Cold War politics, the battle between traditional forms of socialism and capitalism is dead. There is still a major battle of ideas between progressive and conservative thinking.But it takes a different shape to fundamental questions about whether the world follows the course of a market economy or not, posed in the earlier part of this century…

One such vital debate is about Britain's role in the world, where I believe we face quite profound choices not just of policy but of attitude.

Nations need to have a sense of their place in the world. They need to know who their allies are; their points of international reference; their place and role in the power structure of the world's nations.

For Britain, the legacy of Empire remains profound. Its echoes are found in this room, in every city in Britain and in every region of the world. For generations it shaped the outlook of our people; the pattern of our trade and the activities of our armed forces. Our parents and grandparents grew up with maps that showed it spreading around the world in vivid crimson. Nearly 40 years ago, Dean Acheson's barb - that Britain had lost an Empire but not yet found a role - struck home. Successive generations of British politicians tried - unsuccessfully - to find a way back, from Churchill's three concentric circles to Mrs Thatcher's call to repel a European federal state.

However, I believe that search can now end. We have got over our Imperial past - and the withdrawal symptoms. No longer do we want to be taken seriously just for our history, but for what we are and what we will become. We have a new role. Not to look back and try to re-create ourselves as the pre-eminent superpower of 1900, nor to pretend to be the Greeks to the Americans' Romans. It is to use the strengths of our history to build our future not as a super power but as a pivotal power, as a power that is at the crux of the alliances and international politics which shape the world and its future. Engaged, open, dynamic, a partner and, where possible, a leader in ideas and in influence, that is where Britain must be. But - and here is the choice - if we want this role, we have to reject creeping isolationism and an outdated view that a nation is only 'independent' if it stands aloof."

Source: British Foreign & Commonwealth Office website at: http://www.fco.gov.uk

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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