I know that my mum is super proud that I’m an Ambassador. But if you asked her what I actually do, she’d probably say: “I’m not sure”. She’s not alone. Lots of people like the idea of Embassies and Ambassadors, but lots of people ask: “what do you actually do?” So, just to explain a little, here are my top priorities whilst I’m here as Ambassador to Sweden and Director for the Nordic Baltic region.
The EU. The UK Government has a clear plan. It wants to improve the way the EU works. It wants to renegotiate some elements of our relationship with the EU. And when it has done that it wants the British people to vote in a referendum to remain as members of a reformed union. The negotiation comes first; the referendum second. Sweden is one of our closest allies in the EU. My job is to get the Swedish Government to agree with the changes we want to make, and to help secure agreement by all 28 members of the EU.
Prosperity. My Prime Minister is clear on what he wants from me: to help British business in Sweden; to support Swedish investors in the UK so they grow their business there; to help deliver multinational trade agreements, such as between the EU and the US, that will help businesses and consumers; to champion science and innovation collaboration; and to encourage tourism to the UK. So in my Residence in Stockholm we will have about 4,000 visitors in the coming year, most of which will be business related, coming to what I hope will be fun, and useful, events.
Security. When I was at school I visited East Berlin, going through Checkpoint Charlie. By the time I was at university the Berlin Wall had fallen, and I remember visiting the first McDonalds in Moscow in 1991. As a diplomat I’ve seen countries of the Former Soviet Union join the EU, and it’s been amazing to think that my children can grow up thinking of Europe as united. Sadly, Russia’s actions in Ukraine last year have put some fear back in the air. So across this region we will support our EU and NATO allies to give them the reassurance they deserve. Further afield, it is five years since the Arab Spring, and the hopes of many young people in that region are far from being realised. My job here is to work with countries such as Sweden who, like the UK, are large aid donors, to try and help bring peace, prosperity, and democracy to the countries of the Middle East.
And last, but not least,
Serving British citizens. At the end of the day, the most important job an Embassy does is to help British Citizens who get in trouble. More than 60 million Brits travel overseas each year and Embassies help around 20,000 British nationals. Sweden is, I’m happy to say, a safe place. But if there were to be, say, a plane crash, a terrorist attack, or a tsunami (unlikely, I know) then I and the Embassy would do everything we could to help any British people caught up in such an incident.
And then there is lots of other amazing stuff. We hosted an event for designer Efva Attling last week as she launched her new Beatles jewellery collection. The Thursday before were invited to an evening with the Vasa and Mary Rose Museums, who were celebrating 20 years of partnership. The Sunday before that was Remembrance Sunday, so I gave a reading at the English Church, and we held a lunchtime reception for the British community afterwards. And in October I helped open an extension to the fantastic Goteborg English School. It is a great job.