Truss: Britain must embrace ‘warts and all’ history of Empire

The Foreign Secretary gave the speech on Wednesday.

Geraldine Scott
Wednesday 08 December 2021 13:00
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (Aaron Chown/PA)
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Foreign Secretary has said the history of the British Empire cannot be ignored and the UK must embrace it “warts and all” if we are to compete with hostile states.

Liz Truss proclaimed that “Britain is the greatest country on earth” in a speech on Wednesday where she set out the country’s foreign policy aims.

And she suggested Britain’s adversaries were gaining advantages as they were not focussed on their past.

So it’s time to be proud of who we are and what we stand for. It’s time to dump the baggage holding us back. Our history – warts and all – makes us what we are today

Liz Truss

In the speech at the Chatham House policy institute, Ms Truss said: “Hostile forces are using disinformation to undermine truth. Extremists are perpetuating malign ideologies through social media. Autocratic regimes are using this maelstrom of militancy, mistrust and misinformation to gain the upper hand.

“Now is the time for the free world to fight back, and to use the power of economics and technology to promote freedom not fear.”

She said the free world had “taken its eye off the ball” and how “in fashionable circles, people talked about how we should be ashamed of our history and doubtful about our future”.

And she added: “So it’s time to be proud of who we are and what we stand for. It’s time to dump the baggage holding us back. Our history – warts and all – makes us what we are today.

“Britain is the greatest country on earth. Whoever you are, wherever you come from, you can achieve your dreams.”

Ms Truss, who became Foreign Secretary in September and was speaking ahead of a summit of G7 counterparts in Liverpool said the UK would use economics and technology as “tools of liberation”.

Liz Truss said Britain is the greatest country on earth (Leon Neal/PA)

And she called for like-minded countries to help “build the network of liberty and advance the frontiers of freedom”.

Ms Truss said to do this, the UK needed to “stop fighting about the past”.

She said the British Empire was “a fact of our history” and although “egregious things have happened in Britain” there was not “a country in the world you can point to that’s had a perfect history of modern liberalism”.

She added: “So let’s stop fighting about the past, let’s start fighting for the future, because that’s what our adversaries are thinking about.

“They’re not thinking about what happened in the past in their countries, they’re busy out there with malign information on the internet, or threatening aggression, or using economic coercion to affect their goals.”

She said: “We have to move away from the intervention of introspection.”

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