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"Whenever I speak to Annalena, I perceive her as circumspect"

Suddenly the Foreign Minister is standing in front of the open door of the "Ambassadors' Waiting Room", the waiting room for diplomats in the Foreign Office.

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"Whenever I speak to Annalena, I perceive her as circumspect"

Suddenly the Foreign Minister is standing in front of the open door of the "Ambassadors' Waiting Room", the waiting room for diplomats in the Foreign Office. "Good day! How are you?” says James Cleverly in German and leads us into his magnificent office overlooking St. James’s Park. The 53-year-old was appointed Secretary of State by ex-Prime Minister Liz Truss in early September. Rishi Sunak left him at the post. Which goes back not only to Cleverly's experience as a former Secretary of State in the Foreign Office, but also to his network in the Conservative Party, of which he served as Secretary General in the meantime.

WORLD: Minister, many in Germany still mourn the loss of the United Kingdom as an EU partner. Do you share this sadness?

James Cleverly: But we Brits are still here! Less than a two-hour flight from the southernmost end of Germany. In a way, I'm happy to hear that the Germans wanted us back. Better than when they said: Couldn't you have left sooner! I certainly would never have wished for the current situation, but Russia's invasion of Ukraine proves the close ties between our two countries. What the past nine months have shown is that we can work very closely together, even without EU structures.

WORLD: Your government wants to host a conference of the European Political Community soon, an initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron. London also participates in an EU military program. Is London gradually returning to Brussels?

Cleverly: We will not come back to the EU. However, our relationship with other European countries will always be pragmatic, guided by mutual interests. Be it helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia, be it cooperating on sanctions against Russian oligarchs, or kicking Russia out of the Swift banking system. Or also with regard to Horizon (the EU research program from which Great Britain has been excluded since Brexit, ed.). We are currently looking at this closely, there is no reason why we should not make progress.

WORLD: The tough dispute between Brussels and London over the Northern Ireland Protocol has no end. The German traffic light coalition has even written its full implementation in its coalition agreement. Why should your German counterpart move away from this?

Cleverly: Because sometimes there's a subtle difference between what people say and what they want. I think Germany wants to secure the peace that has been hard won through the Good Friday Agreement. Just as it wants to ensure the integrity of the EU internal market and a rules-based but above all mutually beneficial trade relationship between the EU and our country. In the German coalition agreement, I believe that the point on the Northern Ireland Protocol serves as a proxy for all of these objectives. But maybe I can show a way how we can protect the Good Friday Agreement and the EU internal market in a practical and less puristic, theoretical way. Does that necessarily have to be through the Northern Ireland Protocol instrument in its current form? The perfect should not be the enemy of the good.

WORLD: April marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Is there an agreement by then?

Cleverly: I hope to reach an agreement as soon as possible. But we also need to protect our own internal market. Northern Ireland is as much a part of the UK as my constituency, North Essex. The Good Friday Agreement not only protects North-South relations between Northern Ireland and Ireland. But also those from east to west across the Irish Sea. Some of our EU friends sometimes forget that.

WORLD: Berlin will soon present its first national security strategy. Partnerships with countries that do not all share our western values ​​should not be ruled out. The strategy should not be directed against Russia either. Do you share this German Realpolitik?

Cleverly: What has received less international attention than I expected is the importance of the turning point. A huge change in German foreign policy since February 24th. I was in Berlin a few weeks before the Russian attack began. What I heard there was: We should be careful not to provoke Russia. I was told that Germany had tried for decades to bring Russia into the Western European frame of reference. That this is challenging but worth the investment. And now we see this change in Germany, which is enormously courageous. It is difficult for a politician to admit that what he did was wrong and that another way must be taken. The British government wants to support this. Whenever I spoke to Annalena (Baerbock, ed.), I perceived her as cautious about the world as it is - not as we would like it to be.

WORLD: What does that mean for you in relation to Russia?

Cleverly: It's important that on the one hand we take a very clear stand against what Vladimir Putin is doing, what his military is doing. But that doesn't mean being anti-Russian in general. We must stand against Moscow's disinformation about the West's alleged Russophobia. It is therefore legitimate to distinguish between the actions of the Kremlin and the military on the one hand and the Russian population at large. Incidentally, I would not have generally expected that a deeply conservative foreign minister like me would so often agree with a Green counterpart!

WORLD: Did the British government think it was right for Chancellor Olaf Scholz to travel to Beijing to see President Xi Jingping immediately after the party congress?

Cleverly: We too are constantly struggling with the question of how to deal with China. A few months ago I met Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the UN in New York. We are always careful that these meetings are not portrayed by Beijing as something they are not. That they will not become a PR event for the Chinese. I spoke to Wang about climate change, where we need to cooperate. China has produced more emissions in a decade than our country has since the Industrial Revolution. At our meeting, I also criticized the treatment of Uyghur Muslims, the breaches of Hong Kong guarantees, China's sanctions on some of my faction colleagues. In Beijing, the German chancellor knew how to navigate a difficult course. We welcome it when Germany becomes more active in foreign policy because we share the same values.

WORLD: The German interior minister wore a “One Love” armband in the stands at the World Cup in Qatar. Why didn't you?

Cleverly: On this visit and on previous visits to Qatar, I made the UK position clear on LGBTQI rights to the Emir and other senior officials. The Qataris know exactly where Britain stands. Minority rights are a pillar of British domestic and foreign policy. I don't need to wear an armband for that.

WORLD: You have always been an important supporter of Boris Johnson. Would you support the ex-prime minister again as party leader in the future?

Cleverly: We have a fantastic Prime Minister. We won't need a new prime minister for a long time now.

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