Making policy on Africa after the Euro divorce
No one can accuse minister Tobias Ellwood of being unambitious. His responsibilities include diplomacy and security in Africa and the Middle East (some 66 countries): counter-terrorism, countering violent extremism, consular policy and the illegal wildlife trade. In case he had too much time on his hands, another responsibility – policy on outer space – was added to the list. Even without his inter-planetary duties, Ellwood is a very busy minister. Soon after his appointment, following the political meltdown in the British government caused by the vote to leave the European Union (EU) last June, Ellwood was despatched on a five-country African tour. Ellwood has inherited Africa policies such as military aid to Somalia and the African Union mission there. He is organising a conference on Somalia in London this year. When asked how Britain’s exit from the EU would affect its ability to raise funding for the Somalia mission, he replies: “That’s why we are holding the conference, to galvanise and confirm commitments […]. Yes, the EU will come with a certain level of funding, but the World Bank comes with money [as do] other agencies that we’re either part of or mutually support.” Although Ellwood campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU, he has quickly adapted to the new order: “It doesn’t matter what club card you have in your back pocket […]. We are a P5 [permanent member of the UN Security Council]. We have an interest in stability and peace across the world. “The fact that we’re not part of the EU does not prevent us from leaning into any challenge,” he continues. “Sierra Leone [where Britain sent a military force to fight rebel militias in 2000] was a great example. We will work with partners […] the African Union, UN, the Commonwealth. It doesn’t matter whether they are inside the EU or not.” Ellwood has a background in security and diplomacy: his parents worked for the UN in Germany and Vienna, and he served in Britain’s Royal Green Jackets in Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Bosnia. He is a sturdy defender
“There are few countries that can [secure UN approval for] military intervention anywhere”
of Britain’s international role: “There are few countries that can do military intervention anywhere in the world and also secure – in the majority of cases – UN legal approval for that.” With or without the EU, Ellwood argues that Britain can play a special diplomatic role, whether on UN peacekeeping missions or infrastructure deals: “Russia, China, even America all come with a different hue when seen by an African country. So we’re able to put a seat there in the middle and work with our allies as a force for good.” Reluctant, like most of his colleagues, to go into detail about Britain’s future trade strategy, Ellwood argues that its policy will be nimbler without the other 27 members of the EU. But he is an emphatic supporter of the law that compels British governments to spend at least 0.7% of the country’s gross national income on development aid. “The reason we can get into the room […] that we have power and influence in the UN Security Council is because we come with that soft power capability that 0.7% provides.” Those critics of aid, whose views get prominence in Britain’s right-wing press, are missing that point, says Ellwood: “They don’t fully appreciate the leverage it [aid] gives us on the international stage. They have no concept of what it does.” M.A. and P.S.