Britain’s International Obligations - Fetters or Keys?

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Mar 25, 2015
by Louise Hallman
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Britain’s International Obligations - Fetters or Keys?

Second Annual Lecture in Honor of Sir Michael Palliser Delivered by Former UK Attorney General Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve MP gives the 2015 Palliser Lecture

Are the UK’s international obligations – such as being members of the EU and NATO – restraints which undermine its sovereignty or keys with which it can unlock the opportunity to maintain global influence? 

This was the question at hand for the second annual lecture given in honor of long-serving Salzburg Global board member and Senior Fellow Sir Michael Palliser, who passed away in 2012.

Speaking at the London event, this year’s lecturer former UK Attorney General Dominic Grieve MP said:

“British foreign policy, even during the height of Empire was driven by a desire to engage internationally, both to secure peace and ensure national prosperity. Today, when we are in the midst of inevitable globalization, we seem too often preoccupied by twin political narratives of exceptionalism and decline. Neither is true. 

“In a world in which power is shifting and getting increasingly diffuse, a country such as ours with extensive soft power assets, giving us the ability to be listened to and to provide leadership on international norms of behavior, is important to the maintenance of a complex and increasingly global legal and financial system and also has the capacity to derive great advantage from it.  

“But we need the confidence and determination to grasp the keys which we have and open up our opportunities in the promotion of sound political and financial institutions and the Rule of Law not only within our own country but in Europe using the multiple layers of global partnership that our forebears and our history have given us. 

“We should build on what is on offer and not hanker after some simpler world that does not and has never existed,” he concluded.

Download the full transcript

Grieve’s strong support for the UK’s role in the European Union and meeting it international obligations made him an excellent fit to deliver the second annual Palliser Lecture as Sir Michael Palliser was also a staunch supporter of European unity, forming part of the team that negotiated Britain’s membership of what was to become the European Union; he then helped to ensure that Britain played a constructive role in European institutions. 

Palliser’s extraordinary career in the British Diplomatic included positions as Head of the Policy Planning Staff, a Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, Minister at the British Embassy in Paris, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the European Communities, and Permanent Undersecretary of State and Head of the Diplomatic Service, to name a few. He came out of formal retirement from April to July 1982, during the Falklands War, to act as special adviser in the Cabinet Office to then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

In addition to his esteemed diplomatic career, Sir Michael also served on the board of many other organizations, including Salzburg Global Seminar, where he was Vice Chair of the Board; 21st Century Trust, of which he was a founding trustee and was instrumental in forming the exclusive partnership between the two organizations in 2009; and the London investment bank Samuel Montagu and Co. Ltd, which is now a subsidiary of HSBC – the hosts of the 2015 Palliser Lecture.


The full text of Dominic Grieve's lecture is available online.