Rishi Sunak praises Iranian women and footballers in foreign policy speech

British Prime Minister outlines stance on Iran, Russia and China

Britain's Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, at the Lord Mayor's banquet at The Guildhall in London, on Monday night. AFP
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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has highlighted the plight of Iranian women, who have protested in the country since Mahsa Amini’s death in "morality police" custody on September 16.

In his speech at the Lord Mayor’s banquet in the City of London, Mr Sunak also praised the Iranian football team, who have shown solidarity with the protesters at their World Cup matches, despite facing an unknown future when they return home.

Iran faces the USA in their final Group B match on Tuesday evening.

“In Iran, women are displaying the most humbling and breathtaking courage, refusing to bow to thuggish, theocratic control,” Mr Sunak said.

“And tomorrow, Iran’s football team will again stand with them in solidarity, facing unknown consequences as a result.

“Freedom and openness have always been the most powerful forces for progress. But they have never been achieved by standing still."

Rishi Sunak through the years - in pictures

Closer to home, Mr Sunak said that he would “never align with EU law”.

“Instead, we’ll foster respectful, mature relationships with our European neighbours on shared issues such as energy and illegal migration to strengthen our resilience against strategic vulnerabilities.”

Mr Sunak said a new Integrated Review would be outlined in 2023, which would include how the UK government plans to work with allies in the Commonwealth, the US, the Gulf states, Israel and other countries.

He also touched on the war in Ukraine and Russia’s attacks on the civilian population..

“After years of pushing at the boundaries, Russia is challenging the fundamental principles of the UN Charter,” Mr Sunak said.

He described the conditions he saw in Ukraine during his recent visit and pledged to “provide new support for air defence, to protect the Ukrainian people and the critical infrastructure they rely on.

“By protecting Ukraine, we protect ourselves.”

Ukraine war latest - in pictures

Mr Sunak said a golden era with China was now over and that the country was “consciously competing for global influence using all the levers of state power".

Noting China’s growing authoritarianism, he said he would work with “the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and many others … to manage this sharpening competition, including with diplomacy and engagement".

He also highlighted the trans-Pacific trade deal, delivering a new free-trade agreement with India and pursuing one with Indonesia.

Mr Sunak is keen to keep key trade lines open.

“That’s why we joined the Five Power Defence Arrangements with Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore half a century ago,” he said.

The UK is also evolving new long-term defence, industrial and technological partnerships, such as Aukus with Australia and the US, and the Future Combat Air System with Italy and Japan.

Mr Sunak said he hoped these ties would help to “protect the arteries and ventricles of the global economy, supporting security and prosperity both at home in our European neighbourhood and in the Indo-Pacific".

He ended by saying that by doing things differently, but remaining true to the UK’s values, its interests would be protected.

Updated: November 29, 2022, 9:14 AM