On the 18th December 2017 the Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, responded to a Government Statement on the recent European Council Meeting: He asked about the UK approach to Russian foreign policy and the progress made with the Brexit negotiations:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, the Leader seems disappointed that the Statement has not been welcomed as it might have been. I do welcome it but I do not think it is as it has been portrayed; that is, the progress that has been made thus far is simply the opening gambit and the real hard work is going to come in the next phase. It seems to me that so far not a great deal has been achieved, except that we can go on to talk about the next phase. I will make a quick observation and then put a question.
I have some knowledge of Russia. It seems that Russia does not need to defeat the West because it gets the West to defeat itself; the Russian policy seems to be to destabilise, and Brexit and the way it is being conducted actually feeds that agenda. We do not talk about that enough. If you look at the rise of the far right, such as what has gone on in Austria, the very strong links with Russia are there. This is not simply about Ukraine.
I would be much happier if I heard the word “might” rather than “will”. We talk about how we “will” get the best deal. By definition, we will get the best deal because it will be the only one that we come up with so it will be the best, but that is not the same as saying that it will be the best deal that we could have got or the best for this nation. Would it not be better for the Government to get away from thinking that if you make assertions, that creates reality, and to be more honest with the British people by saying we “might” get, rather than we “will”, when it might not be in our power to achieve the “will”?
“The European Council reconfirms its desire to establish a close partnership between the Union and the United Kingdom … The European Council reconfirms its readiness to establish partnerships in areas unrelated to trade, in particular the fight against terrorism and international crime, as well as security, defence and foreign policy”.
These things are the basis for a good deal.