It was as if we’d been transported back a week – here was William Hague
talking about ‘hard-headed foreign policy’, the very phrase that David Miliband had used before he
swanned-off into the wilderness in a floral shirt.
The details of the two speeches had much in common – an emphasis on free trade, a promise to garner new strategic and economic partnerships in South America and the Near East, balance in the
Israeli and Palestinian dispute, global solutions to climate change and a promise to export human rights.
Hague differed in not mentioning liberal interventionism and laying historical and partisan claim to free trade, arguing that the European Commission’s protectionist bent was
‘backward-looking and doomed to fail’. The challenges of globalisation, he said, required urgent action and co-operation between EU member states to preserve free trade, a process that
is already underway. This allowed him to segue into the fantasy of repatriating powers from
Brussels – a little meat served ‘bleu’, as the French would say, for the conference hall.