Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Can the noble Lord give us a clear assurance that there will be any British embassies left in 10 years' time? If he can give that assurance, will he tell us where they will be? If he does not have the answer at his fingertips, would he be good enough to put a letter in the Library?And in October last year Peter Oborne of the Telegraph received an email regarding the implications of the Spending Review for the future of British diplomacy, a key part of which was this:
This will reflect a fundamental shift in UK diplomatic influence and activity.
Fast forward to today and we have the shambles that is the Libyian evacuation of British citizens:
Civil servants and diplomats follow the money. It is one of the reasons why historically in Brussels the best quality civil servants and diplomats tend to come from Ireland and other smaller states – because the EU budgets far exceed their own home country’s ministry budgets. That was never the case for the larger countries in the EU, until now.
A young diplomat from the UK joining up in 2015 will be faced with option of joining the UK diplomatic corps or an EU corps with twice the funding. Which will the most ambitious opt for?
This revolution in UK diplomacy is taking place against a backdrop of a Foreign Office already thrown into internal confusion by David Cameron.
A coincidence? Shurley sum mistake.
Like the Treasury, the Foreign Office is supposed to contain the brightest and best of Britain’s civil servants. But just as the Treasury failed to anticipate the banking crisis, so Carlton-Browne of the FO seems to have been caught on the hop by the collapse of regimes across the Middle East.
This is, of course, a department of state which is said to pride itself on an intimate knowledge of Arab affairs. Yet the uprisings in Egypt, Bahrain and Libya appear to have come as a complete surprise to our diplomatic elite.