Britain: The return of the Foreign Office

William Hague brings panache and purpose to a neglected ministry.

Once one of the great offices of state, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office declined in stature in recent times. No more. Foreign Secretary William Hague has worked hard to re-instate the ministry's central position in government policy and employed it to advance the UK's diplomatic, economic and cultural influence abroad. His vision involves re-establishing ties with long-lost Latins, developing relationships with other significant emerging powers and re-instating Britain's international influence.

As Europe's ability to hamper Britain's development wanes, so Hague appears to relish the challenge presented by his ambitious goals. The EU's troubles must be frustrating to Brussels and Berlin, keen as they are to centralise power on the Continent. Wayward island Britain with its well-regulated, boisterous and capital-attracting financial markets, globally recognised and influential media (the BBC), and historic trade connections maintained through membership of the Commonwealth, must irk the Europeans as they attempt to stamp their authority on all popularly elected sovereign governments.

William Hague's tenure of office might not match in notoriety those of George Canning or his predecessor Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, but it may yet be relatively more successful. "Against all odds and for the first time in decades, British diplomacy is advancing not retreating” said Hague in an FCO speech in September. How far and how fast it advances will determine his place in history.

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