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'Brexit will hit UK's influence on world stage' - Lord Hague.

Byline: Andrew Woodcock

BREXIT will "undoubtedly" damage the UK's ability to exert influence in foreign affairs and international security, former foreign secretary Lord Hague has warned.

Lord Hague said he would like to see a new "enhanced framework participation agreement" allowing the UK to co-operate closely with its former partners on security and military operations. But he told a House of Lords committee that this would only "mitigate" the impact of Brexit and would not save the UK from losing influence over European foreign policy.

"Brexit will be damaging to our ability to work with other EU countries, obviously, on foreign affairs and to influence their outlook overall," said the former Conservative leader, who served as foreign secretary from 2010 until 2014.

Former defence secretary and Nato secretary general Lord Robertson told the committee that the reduction in UK influence came at a moment when Europe was having to take a bigger security role as the US downgraded the importance of the trans-Atlantic partnership.

Giving evidence to the Lords EU External Affairs Committee in Westminster, Lord Hague said that participation in the EU's common foreign and security policy (CFSP) was "very important to the UK".

The CFSP "amplifies the UK's weight in the world" by enabling it to lead a united response on issues like sanctions on Iran, and safeguards British interests in areas such as the Falklands, where Argentina recognises the "solidarity among 28 countries" that will be shown in response to any hostile actions, he said.

And he said that participation in the CFSP was a "crucial part of the hinge" joining the US and Europe in their trans-Atlantic alliance.

"We are at a time of danger of fragmentation of the Western world," warned Lord Hague. "UK participation and influence in the foreign affairs of the other EU nations is a crucial aspect of averting such a fragmentation." Lord Hague - who campaigned to Remain in last year's EU referendum, but said he accepted its result - said he favoured a plan set out by the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt, for the UK to retain close security ties with the remaining member states after Brexit. This could include an automatic right to participate in foreign and security initiatives, guaranteed inclusion in force generation conferences, the possibility of hosting HQs, intelligence-sharing and permanent observer status in the EU's Political and Security Committee (PSC), he said.

An arrangement of this kind would "mitigate the damage that will undoubtedly be caused", Lord Hague told peers.

"This is a good idea, and I think it is something other EU countries would welcome. It would maximise our opportunities, not to influence as much as we do now, but to participate when it is in our common interest to do so."

Lord Robertson told the committee that Brexit would change the UK's relationship with its EU partners, but not the shared threat they face from cyber-attacks and terrorism. It came at a time when American foreign policy was "veering slightly away from the old relationship", he said.

"Europe is going to have to do more in terms of capability, in terms of exercises and in terms of political priority," said Lord Robertson, who was defence secretary from 1997 until 1999 and led Nato from 1999 until 2004. "We need to be part of that."

Britain's military prowess and permanent membership of the UN Security Council made it crucial to Europe's security, in or out of the EU, he said.

Britain's former EU commissioner Baroness Ashton told the committee: "The big issue is that in the process of working out the way in which policy is developed and determining what Europe's policy will be, we won't be in the room.

"That will be a loss to the EU and potentially a loss to our capacity to develop policy. I don't believe Europe will do anything other than consult Britain, but it won't be the same."


<B Lord William Hague
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 7, 2017
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