John Major on Afghanistan, ‘Global Britain’, and the Tory party | FT

The former prime minister tells the FT Weekend Festival it was ‘wrong to leave Afghanistan’, discusses Britain’s place in the world, and says nationalism in Boris Johnson’s Conservative party needs ‘rooting out’. Read more at

Hello ellie how nice to meet you very very nice to meet you thank you thank you for coming it’s a pleasure here we are at the ft weekend festival i have just had a fascinating interview with sir john major he was incredibly outspoken on a host of issues in particular afghanistan america’s place in the world britain’s place in the world post-brexit the state of the

Conservative party and the future of the union so let’s hear what he had to say so i think everyone would agree we have to start with afghanistan i think we were wrong to leave afghanistan i think we were wrong morally but we were also wrong practically 50 percent a little more of the afghan population are under 21. they have lived the whole of their lives in

An improving situation under local governments but effectively sponsored by nato with growing freedoms without those 21 years and the probability is nothing is certain but the probability is that will now be reversed and they will go back to a much more difficult situation i find that morally incomprehensible but then if i may take the wider point it’s also i

Think strategically very stupid what does america and her allies leaving afghanistan actually mean for their prestige and their own security do we think that ukraine feels a little safer from russia as a result of our scuttle from afghanistan i don’t think ukraine feels safer does hong kong feel safer from china or does taiwan or to south korea or does japan

Or does the philippines i think the answer to all those questions is no and in my considered view leaving afghanistan when we did how we did with so little consultation even between the closest of allies so much for global britain the fact that it was left in that fashion will leave a stain on the reputation of the west that will last for a very long time and

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Certainly through the whole of the lifetime of those people in afghanistan whom we have returned to taliban rule over the years america’s role until some recent disasters but has been overwhelmingly benevolent now it does seem from what the president has said that they are retreating from external responsibilities it isn’t just afghanistan i seem to recall reading

I’m not sure they’ve actually done this yet but they are proposing to move aircraft carriers away from the middle east and into the pacific if you leave a vacuum who is going to move in instead of america and the answer to that in the middle east is going to be probably primarily russia but also to an extent china that is a trend in international politics and

Diplomacy that i don’t like and that i don’t think is good for our future security british prestige for generations was built up by the fact that we were a sconce centrally between the united states and the european union and then we chose to leave the european union and the united states it appears are moving away from us and towards the east which leaves us

In a much less satisfactory and powerful position in terms of diplomacy around the world we are not a superpower let us brush that away there are three superpowers china america and the european union we are not among them but we are still a very significant nation partly because of our history and partly because of our economic uh and to some extent moral

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Authority and we should use that we should use that to convene people for good purposes the need to look again at the post-war settlement a large part of which is no longer working as once we hoped it would the united nations is not working as we hoped it would because of the blockage in the security council of china and russia on so many areas the world health

Organization has been disregarded to a large extent self-evidently after this pandemic there ought to be an international effort to improve its funding and its activities now i think britain can act as a coordinator in many ways we can be a voice for the voiceless in many parts of the world i think we should do that and i think we should strike out with more

Homegrown initiatives rather than just hanging on the back of initiatives that were either european inspired or american inspired which tended to be the case when we were inside the european union so there are some things we can do outside and i think we have to pursue them i do think we are at risk of the union breaking up far from being global britain if we

Lose scotland or northern ireland we’ll be seen as broken britain i don’t think it’s imminent i don’t think we’re going to lose it this year next year or the year after but i think over the time scale of a decade unless we work at making the relationship a good deal better unless we look again at the devolution settlement unless we stop doing things that actually

Take powers back we’ve just taken powers back from europe but we haven’t given them to the devolved assemblies we’ve kept them at westminster and that has caused a great deal of resentment and i’m sorry this is lengthy but there’s one final point scottish nationalism is dangerous northern ireland nationalism is dangerous welsh nationalism is dangerous none of them


Not even collectively are as dangerous as english nationalism if english nationalism begins to take root and seriously interfe interfere with what would have been the traditional british policies of the united kingdom government then i think that will be a death knell for the union there is a nationalist cuckoo in the nest of the conservative party as a whole

And it needs rooting out uh it’s always been there to a degree but it used to be a tiny minority stuck on one wing of the party and the sooner it’s uh it retreats to that the better it will be for the conservative party now when some of the most miserable people in the world facing repression perhaps death perhaps famine perhaps war up sticks with their wife

And their children because they have no future there and they seek elsewhere i’m afraid europe and the united kingdom are closing their doors in a way that is quite difficult to actually comprehend there is legislation proposed not yet passed i hope it isn’t that criminalizes their activities now when you consider you will remember 1763 very well i’m sure um

The then lord high chancellors he was called lord henley said i think i quote accurately he said if a man steps foot in england he is a free man that was in 1763 in 2021 if a refugee steps foot in england and not having come through the official route they are not a free man they’re a criminal and liable to be sent to jail i don’t think that’s an advance but

That’s populism thank you very much for coming to talk to us

Transcribed from video
John Major on Afghanistan, 'Global Britain', and the Tory party | FT By Financial Times

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