Rishi Sunak says UK must do more to promote its values abroad

British PM set to deliver first major speech on foreign policy in London

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will outline his vision for Britain's foreign policy in a speech in London. PA.
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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says Britain must continue to advocate for "freedom and openness" on the international stage, in what will be his first major speech on foreign policy.

Mr Sunak will warn against “short-termism” and “wishful thinking” when dealing with adversaries including Russia, Iran and China, as he pledges to stand up for British values.

“Freedom and openness have always been the most powerful forces for progress," he is expected to say during the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at Guildhall in London on Monday.

"But they have never been achieved by standing still.

“Under my leadership we won’t choose the status quo. We will do things differently.

“We will evolve, anchored always by our enduring belief in freedom, openness and the rule of law, and confident that, in this moment of challenge and competition, our interests will be protected and our values will prevail.”

Mr Sunak will stress the need to deepen ties in the Indo-Pacific and strengthen bonds that have been frayed by Brexit with Europe.

He will also say Britain must stand up to global competitors with “robust pragmatism” rather than “grand rhetoric”, according to early released excerpts of his speech.

Britain's "adversaries and competitors plan for the long term", Mr Sunak will say, referring to China and Russia.

"In the face of these challenges, short-termism or wishful thinking will not suffice", he will say.

"So we will make an evolutionary leap in our approach. This means being stronger in defending our values and the openness on which our prosperity depends."

Mr Sunak will tell international dignitaries and business leaders of the need to reinvigorate relationships in Europe, taking a sharp turn from his Downing Street predecessors Liz Truss and Boris Johnson.

Rishi Sunak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Saturday. PA.

Mr Johnson and Ms Truss were regarded as taking more combative approaches with allies such as French President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Sunak will stress the need to adapt to new challenges and threats as the government updates the integrated review of defence and foreign policy.

He has been seeking to work more closely with France to tackle migrant crossings of the English Channel in small boats, and with Albania to establish a returns agreement for failed asylum seekers.

But there are concerns that efforts to broker a deal with Albania have been made more difficult by Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama accused her of using “crazy words” and trying to find scapegoats for the crisis by blaming his people.

On Ukraine, Mr Sunak indicated no change with the policy pursued by Mr Johnson and Ms Truss, and says he will stand with Kyiv "as long as it takes".

“Ukrainian flags have flown over almost every town and city on these islands for the last nine months. No one told people to put them there," he will say.

“They felt moved to show solidarity with people they have never met, in a country most have never visited, to show their faith in fairness, freedom and the rule of law.

“Be in no doubt. We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. We will maintain or increase our military aid next year.

"And we will provide new support for air defence, to protect the Ukrainian people and the critical infrastructure that they rely on.

“By protecting Ukraine, we protect ourselves.”

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Updated: November 28, 2022, 1:25 AM
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