My Lord Mayor, My Late Lord Mayor, Your Grace, My Lord High Chancellor, Your Excellencies, My Lords, Aldermen, Sheriffs, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Tonight I want to re-state the basic tenets of this government's foreign policy. These are that the world today is more interdependent than ever before; that engagement not isolation is therefore essential to further British interests; and that this should be on the basis of a broad agenda pursued with our key allies that seeks both to combat the 21st century security threat of terrorism and unstable states and to bring social justice to the world's poor and oppressed. In particular, I want to re-affirm the twin pillars on which rest Britain's place in the world today: our alliance with America; our membership of the EU. Both are necessary. Both complement each other.
Take either away and Britain is weaker for it. At present, I accept, there is a fairly narrow constituency for this view. The Eurosceptics deride the one. Resurgent anti-Americanism corrodes the other. Even objective commentary takes some delight in seeing each pillar becoming detached from the structure it is maintaining, with a Prime Minister caught underneath with rather tired arms. But I am here to tell you, somewhat counter-intuitively, that both are in good shape and with a bit of vision and hard work, will be a more solid foundation than ever before.
Let me begin with Iraq. In eight days time, President Bush makes his State Visit to the United Kingdom. For many, the script of the visit has already been written. There will be demonstrations. His friends wonder at the timing. His enemies rub their hands at what they see as the potential embarrassment.
I believe this is exactly the right time for him to come. Let us be clear what is happening in Iraq. Leave aside the rights and wrongs of the conflict upon which I admit there can be entirely legitimate disagreement.
What is happening now is very simple. It is the battle of seminal importance for the early 21st century. It will define relations between the Muslim world and the West. It will influence profoundly the development of Arab States and the Middle East. It will have far-reaching implications for the future conduct of American and Western diplomacy.
It will do this because, above all, it will test the validity of the view of those whose protest goes far wider than merely condemnation of the war in Iraq and extends to the whole of American and UK foreign policy. For this large body of people, the coalition is an army of occupation; its purpose is to suppress the Muslim population of Iraq: we are out to steal Iraq's oil; and, even if they abhor the methods of those causing terror in Iraq, they will say we've brought it on ourselves. Their view is: you should never have been there, and get out now. That is the view of parts of the Arab and Moslem street and a significant part of western opinion and certainly of the developing world.
More than that, these people say: the whole episode of Iraq is the epitome of the way the US/UK treat the Arab and Moslem world. It is a form of colonialism, that seeks to impose its culture, its rules and its beliefs on its unwilling victims.
What therefore is happening in Iraq? What is happening is that for the first time in forty years, some semblance of broad-based government is being introduced with the aim, as soon as is possible, of moving toward full democracy. Over 40,000 Iraqi police are now on duty. The press is free; over 170 newspapers in circulation; the ban on satellite TV lifted so that Iraqis can hear America abused by Al-Jazeera and others - for having liberated them. Access to the internet is no longer forbidden. Nearly all schools and universities are open, as are hospitals and they are receiving medicine and supplies not on the basis of membership of the Ba'ath Party but on need. The canals are being cleared. The power and water supplies re-built. These supposedly evil Americans have voted $19 billion of their own money in aid: the Madrid Conference under the excellent guidance of Prime Minister Aznar has raised another $13 billion. Not a penny piece of Iraq's oil money has gone anywhere but into an account under the supervision of the IMF and UN.
And what is the barrier to progress? Who is trying to bomb the UN and Red Cross out of Baghdad? Or killing Iraqi civilians in terrorist attacks? Or sabotaging the work on electricity cables or oil installations? Not America. Not Britain. Not the coalition. But Saddam's small rump of supporters aided and abetted by foreign terrorists.
And why are they doing it? Because they agree with me about this battle's importance. They know that if we give Iraq democracy, set it on a path to prosperity, leave it in the sole charge and sovereignty of the Iraqi people, its oil its own, its citizens free to worship in the way they wish, Muslim and non-Muslim, that means not just the re-birth of Iraq, it means the death of the poisonous propaganda monster about America these extremists have created in the minds of much of the world. What these fanatics are doing now in Iraq is not irrational. It is an entirely rational strategy.
Lose the battle in Iraq and they lose their ability to present the Moslem world as victims and they as their champions.
And let us offer our deep sympathies to our Saudi friends who yet again have fallen victim to the same terror from the same sources.
It is precisely for that reason we must succeed. It is precisely for that reason we must not give up or retreat one inch until Iraq is truly free of this menace. And why this is a task for the whole of the international community. I say to those who will protest when President Bush comes. Protest if you will. That is your democratic right. Attack the decision to go to war, though have the integrity to realise that without it, those Iraqis now tasting freedom would still be under the lash of Saddam, his sons and their henchmen. But accept that the task now is not to argue about what has been, but to make what is happening now, work and work for the very Iraqis we all say we want to help.
Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Bosnia and Kosovo, illustrate another lesson. One supremely powerful nation or a small group in concert, can win a war. But it takes many nations to win the peace. And in such an enterprise, there is no sane alternative to America and Europe working together.
Germany leads the international security effort today in Afghanistan together with The Netherlands. The Europeans provide the only international military presence in Macedonia. In Iraq, soldiers from five EU countries and seven EU accession states are now in theatre. Whatever the differences, the UN Resolutions 1483 and 1511 on Iraq were agreed by France and Germany as well as the US and the UK.
This should astonish no-one. Europe and America share the same values; are bound inextricably by history and culture; and now more than ever, are into each others ribs in business, trade and commerce. Since 1989 US/EU trade has doubled. In 2002, the UK had almost $300 billion of foreign direct investment in the US. But here's the surprise. Germany had almost $150 billion and France almost $200 billion. Just to complete the picture, UK investment in the EU is around $500 billion. In 2001, Brits made ten million more trips to Europe than in 1997 and a million more to the US. We are all of us utterly intertwined.
It is at this point my civil service brief said "and you could add that Tottenham even have an American playing in goal". That's the Foreign Office at its best. And actually so do Manchester United and Blackburn. What is it with the US and goalkeeping? But I digress.
The blunt conclusion is that like it or not, and I do, the EU and US must work with each other. Start from that point and a number of other things fall into place. Dismiss the illusion that somehow there is an old and a new Europe, the one opposed to the US and on its way out, the other the bright harbinger of the future to come. Yes, if some try to pull Europe apart from the US, others will resist firmly. But Europe has too much in common, too many shared interests, too many solid reasons for co-operation, to have any intention of letting a temporary divergence of view become a permanent rupture.
It is true also that there is an antipathy in parts of the French political establishment to America. But don't exaggerate it and don't ignore the large numbers who know perfectly well that modern Gaullism must have a strong transatlantic dimension.
And if we in Britain can ask that France overcome its traditional hesitation towards America, they are entitled to ask the same of us towards Europe. I readily confess there is no area of policy in which so many otherwise sensible people urge me to a position so completely self-defeating for the proper interests of Britain. After 6? years in office, let me express to you the British Prime Minister's European dilemma: do you hope that Europe develops of its own accord in Britain's direction before participating; or do you participate at the outset in the hope of moving Europe in Britain's direction?
The risk of the first is that you forfeit influence; of the second, that you are tied to something you don't like. And again on the basis of my experience, my view is clear. You participate. Sometimes, as with the single currency, there may be reasons of economics to hang back. But never do it for the politics of Euro-Scepticism.
Two current examples illustrate the point: Europe's new constitution and European defence. On the first, we are urged to refuse to have anything to do with it. Those who advocate a referendum, at least from a sceptic position are being disingenuous. They want one to get a "no" vote and bring European integration to a halt. Fine, but the consequences will be that in the end the rest of Europe, including the 10 new members, will move on without us.
Instead, we should fight our corner, secure the outcome we want so that rather than splendid (and futile) isolation we have a common treaty for all 25 member that we can agree to.
And, on European defence, I find it odd that some say I am in favour of British participation in order to wreck the NATO alliance. My credentials on the transatlantic alliance, I would hope, after the last 2 years, are reasonably sound.
And I would take the dire predictions more seriously were it not for the fact that the naysayers said exactly the same after the Anglo-French summit at St Malo began the process of European defence 5 years ago; since when we have done Kosovo through NATO, Afghanistan through the UN and NATO, Iraq with the US and Sierra Leone on our own. It has not inhibited us one iota from acting exactly as we would wish. Neither will it. The fact is British participation on the right terms, will ensure that European defence does indeed develop in a way fully consistent with NATO.
I would not contemplate anything else. By contrast, the absence of Britain would not mean European defence didn't happen. Just that it happened and developed without us. That is not sensible for Britain, for Europe or for that matter, for America.
Indeed the irony is that Euroscepticism is vocal just at the very point when it makes least sense in terms of Britain's relations with Europe. The most fundamental change in Europe for decades is taking place: enlargement to a Europe of 25, with Bulgaria and Romania to come in 2007 and Turkey now rightly pressing to enter accession negotiations. Europe is already the largest economic market and political alliance in the world. It will become bigger and the symbolism of Turkey, a Moslem nation and American ally, joining the EU could not be more epochal. But even with the 10 new members joining now, the change is extraordinary, not just in its scope but in its character. For these 10, by and large, share the same outlook, an outlook both familiar and welcome to Britain: in favour of economic reform, wedded, after their history of oppression and struggle, to a Europe of nation states; and for the same reason, unequivocally committed to the transatlantic alliance. They will not just be our political partners but our spiritual allies. The EU itself is for the first time pursuing a robust Security Strategy which recognises the threats we face and advocates the need for European action in partnership with the United States. Now is the very moment for Britain to participate fully in the Europe of the future. Now is the least propitious time for delusions of semi-detachment.
None of this denies, incidentally, the need for Europe to change. Euroscepticism in that sense - Europe has too much bureaucracy, is too little focussed on the economic and social concerns of its citizens, too distant - is neither limited to Britain nor wrong in its strictures. But the answer is to get in and change it, not opt out of it.
So there it is. I remain committed to our two pillars. Of course, it is difficult. The tensions have strained both. But overcoming them is a far more intelligent course of action than giving up in the face of them. For be in no doubt. If Europe were to let Anti-Americanism define its foreign policy it would be disaster. However tough, Britain needs to be constantly in this debate to turn it back to where it should be: as I said in my speech to Congress, Europe as America's partner not its servant or its rival. The agenda for partnership between Europe and America needs our alliance to be full-blooded and whole-hearted. Terrorism and WMD; MEPP; HIV/AIDS; global poverty; climate change and world trade: the issues are too vast, the interdependence between us too ingrained to let arrogance, jealousy, misunderstanding or even disagreement, cloud our better nature and joint path to the future.
The hardest thing in politics is to keep clarity of vision when all around the clatter of political intrigue and day to day policy from the petty to the profound, swirls around you, jostling your footing, confusing your senses and unnerving your courage. Remove it all and the vision is indeed clear and sharp. Europe and America together. Britain in the thick of it. The world, a darn sight safer as a result.