Formerly a university teacher, I am now a freelance writer specialising in the theory and practice of diplomacy from the earliest times until the present. As well as hoping to encourage the study of diplomacy, this site provides periodic updating of my textbook (see immediately below). This page contains some news and views. The contents of the rest of the site can be navigated via the column on the left-hand side.

Diplomacy: Theory and Practice

5th edition
(Palgrave-Macmillan: Basingstoke and New York, 2015)

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From the back cover: ‘Probably the most prolific contemporary writer on diplomacy is Professor Geoff R. Berridge … Each of his many books is impeccably written and full of insights into the fascinating formation of modern diplomacy” (Robert William Dry, New York University, USA, and Chairman of AFSA’s Committee on the Foreign Service Profession and Ethics); “I discovered Geoff Berridge’s book on diplomacy after serving as a diplomat for over 30 years. It is well-researched, sophisticated, inspiring and, where the subject invites it, suitably ironic” (Dr Max Schweizer, Head of Foreign Affairs and Applied Diplomacy, ZHAW School of Management and Law, Switzerland); “Berridge’s Diplomacy is an enlightening journey that takes the student, the practitioner and the general reader from the forefront to the backstage of current diplomatic practice. The thoroughly updated text – also enriched with a stimulating new treatment of embassies – is an invaluable guide to the stratagems and outcomes, continuities and innovations, of a centuries’ long process” (Arianna Arisi Rota, Professor of History of Diplomacy, University of Pavia, Italy).

Brexit open to legal challenge

The distinguished Cambridge international and constitutional lawyer, Philip Allott, has here added his authority to the growing pressure on the British government and Parliament to feel less cornered by the Brexit vote. Reminding his readers that the exercise of legal powers by all public authorities has limits because they affect the legal situation of anyone to whom they apply, and that the rule of law is a fundamental principle of a liberal-democracy, he argues that a government decision to leave the EU could well be judged illegal and any attempt to activate this by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty therefore invalid. This is because ‘UK withdrawal from the EU would affect the legal situation of every person in the UK, and the legal situation of many other people elsewhere.’ And these consequences – for many highly damaging, he implies – would follow a decision based on (1) a referendum designed not to promote the public interest but only ‘the particular interest of a political party’ (a reference to David Cameron’s desire chiefly to use it to resolve the long and bitter division in the Tory Party over Europe); and on (2) only ‘a bare majority’ of those taking part in it, despite the vast importance of the issue at stake – hence a decision that was ‘arbitrary and unreasonable and disproportionate, in the legal sense of those words.’ The last point is reinforced by the denial of a vote in the referendum both to the millions of Britons living abroad for more than 15 years and to foreign nationals permanently resident in the UK, some for decades. (One of the best liked and community-minded members of my own neighbourhood is the Danish widow of an Englishman who was unable to vote in the referendum because for personal reasons she had not taken out British citizenship, and yet has been permanently resident in the UK for 55 years.) The possibility of a successful judicial review of the Brexit decision is another reason for the EU to ease its pressure on the British government quickly to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Hurray for Professor Allott, I say.

For other legal views, see BBC News, ‘Can the Law stop Brexit?’ 30 June 2016

July 1st, 2016|

Boris Johnson ‘negotiate’ with the EU? The idea is laughable

In what is probably still the best known short work on diplomacy, Diplomacy, first published on the eve of the Second World War, revised twice afterwards, reprinted many times, and translated into numerous languages, the sagacious scholar-diplomat Harold Nicolson wrote that ‘The basis of good negotiation is moral influence and that influence is founded on seven specific diplomatic virtues’; these, he continued, notably omitting clowning ability, are:

Truthfulness
Precision
Calm
Good temper
Patience
Modesty
Loyalty

Nicolson deliberately placed truthfulness and precision first and second in importance, but in effect suggested the rest were third equal. Which – if any – of these boxes does Boris Johnson tick? In light of the answers, would he be fit to lead Britain’s negotiations with the EU in the event of becoming prime minister? The answer has to be such a deafening ‘NO’ that I wouldn’t be bothering to write this piece were it not for the fact that it’s pouring with rain here in Leicester and I can’t get into my garden.
However many of the third-order attributes Johnson might possess (and queries about modesty and loyalty would probably produce gales of laughter in private as well as public quarters), he falls flat on his face on the essential first two. No-one with half a brain will negotiate with an individual with a reputation for having no respect for the truth, and I’m afraid that this was Mr Johnson’s reputation well before the recent referendum campaign; see the article in the New York Times as well as in the predictably more hostile Guardian. As for precision in the use of language, his name is so often linked with the word ‘bluster’ (45,100 hits when googled) that one need explore the point no further. In short, the idea that Boris Johnson could lead a successful British negotiation with the EU is laughable. The Tory Party would, therefore, be quite mad to elect him in place of David Cameron.

BREAKING NEWS 30 June: Sanity has prevailed! Mr Johnson – the leader of the Leave campaign and hot favourite to be Britain’s next prime minister –  has withdrawn from the leadership race. It can safely be assumed that he will not be taking a holiday anywhere in Europe.

June 29th, 2016|

Brexit? Not a foregone conclusion

Legally, the sovereign British Parliament – which is overwhelmingly Europhile – can ignore the EU referendum result because it is only advisory, not mandatory. This was spelled out authoritatively in the middle of June by the Financial Times legal columnist David Allen Green here; picked up and publicised by the Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, soon after the result was declared; and shortly afterwards fleshed out in trenchant fashion by Geoffrey Robertson QC. The conventional wisdom, of course, is that for Parliament to exercise its constitutional right to this end is not practical politics: members of parliament as a class are held in contempt, the prime minister is a lame duck, ‘the people’ have spoken, and there would be ‘uproar’ if they were to be ignored; that is, there would be howls of rage from the unscrupulous right-wing press and much brolly-brandishing in the shires and Union Jack-waving in UKIP enclaves. However, some lost causes are worth fighting for, especially when the stakes are high – and occasionally they have a surprising outcome, particularly when politics are as fluid as they are now. Here are some reasons for urging Parliament to act courageously – although not immediately.

  1. The Leave leaders – the discredited journalist and entertainer, Boris Johnson, and failed Education Minister, Michael Gove – are evidently clueless as to what to do next, among the many reasons for which is presumably their well-advertised contempt for expert advice
  2. Their campaign platform was demonstrably mendacious
  3. Young people were much more for Remain than the old, and their futures have been put in jeopardy; the young are also quite good at creating uproar themselves
  4. The break-up of the United Kingdom is once more a real threat, as Scotland – which voted overwhelmingly Remain – refuses to be dragged out of the EU by those south of the border, and trouble looms in Northern Ireland again
  5. The barons of the EU have no choice but to make BREXIT as painful for the British as possible in order to discourage ‘Leavers’ in other member states
  6. The UK economy is already showing predictable signs of stress
  7. Net immigration into the UK will not drop significantly
  8. The enormous publicity given to the hideous murder of Jo Cox has highlighted the fact that the great majority of Members of Parliament are decent, hard-working, and relatively poorly-rewarded public servants – and should therefore be taken seriously
  9. Above all, the Referendum vote was extremely close (51.9 to leave, 48.1 to remain).

As all of this begins to sink in over the next month or so, it is likely that a significant proportion of Leave voters will begin to realise that they have made a mistake, and turn their wrath on those who misled them rather than on a Parliament acting to save us all via the hallowed principle of representative – rather than direct, aka media-manipulable  – democracy. In short, there is a reasonable chance that throwing out the Referendum result will not, after all, be tantamount to political suicide for those MPs responsible for it. This is the more likely to be true if by, say, October, both  Conservative and Labour parties have got leaders who command more respect outside as well as inside Parliament than can be said of their present chiefs; and if, as Brian Barder argues with predictable cogency, the new prime minister has been able to secure a  mandate in a general election for remaining in the EU in the light of adverse terms for withdrawal coming to light only during ‘informal consultations’ with Brussels and therefore unavailable at the time of  the 23 June Referendum (see also the statement by Cabinet Minister Jeremy Hunt on 28 June). Meanwhile, the important thing, of course, is for the lame-duck Cameron government not to allow itself to be prematurely muscled into invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – not forgetting the additional need to ensure that Mr B. Johnson (aka ‘Bojo the Clown’) never becomes prime minister. It’s good to know that celebrity chef  Jamie Oliver has got his number. (In response to this, Johnson has probably already got his circus crew working on a video showing the putative leader emerging triumphantly through the crust of an enormous pie, the crust consisting of a fractured EU flag.)

June 26th, 2016|

Special offer for Paul Behrens’s new book, Diplomatic Interference and the Law

Hart Publishing

is offering a 20 per cent discount on this title to visitors to this site.
It’s still pricey, I know, but that’s law books for you. If you would like to investigate its offer, please click here. I shall shortly be reviewing the book but, even without seeing it, I am confident that it will be a good investment.

The author, Paul Behrens

is a well-published Lecturer in Law at the University of Edinburgh and has found a real gap in the market. A great deal has been written about the general problem of intervention by states and international organizations in the ‘domestic’ affairs of other states; I had a long section on it in my own textbook International Politics: States, power and conflict since 1945, 3rd ed (Pearson, 1997), pp. 157-61. But, as far as I am aware, no scholar has given sustained attention to the more narrowly focused subject of the law and intervention by diplomats, as opposed to intervention by propagandists, spies and armies. Since this was categorically forbidden by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961) but now seems commonplace, examination of the implications for diplomacy of this development is clearly of the first importance. My guess is that a clue to Paul’s position is provided by the use in his title of the word ‘interference’, which is more pejorative than the usual term ‘intervention’. If he’d used the term ‘meddling’, which is even more pejorative, the reader would have been left in no suspense at all!

May 13th, 2016|

London Court of Appeal (rightly) upholds immunity of ‘sham’ diplomat

The judgment of Mr Justice Hayden on 8 February 2016 in Estrada v. Jufalli, denying diplomatic immunity to Walid Juffali – the Saudi billionaire nominally serving as Perm Rep of St. Lucia at the International Maritime Organisation in London – partly because he had failed to discharge the functions of his office, would have established a dangerous precedent if upheld. This is because it threatened the possibility that any diplomatic officer accepted by a receiving state might – following a politically influenced or simply incompetent ‘functional review’ of the role of the individual in question by one of its courts – later  be similarly denied immunity on the grounds of being a ‘sham’ diplomat. Fortunately, on 22 March, the Court of Appeal, assisted by arguments presented by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, comprehensively refuted this part of Mr Justice Hayden’s judgment.  His controversial decision has, nevertheless, served to highlight the need for more strenuous efforts to be made to block the appointment of truly dodgy diplomats in the first place, a possibility lawfully available to foreign ministries.  By way of footnote, I should add that Walid Juffali’s appeal against the original High Court judgment did actually fail overall because the Court of Appeal upheld Mr Justice Hayden’s other opinion; namely, that he was permanently resident in the UK and therefore, in diplomatic law, not immune from a claim unrelated to his official duties. I am grateful to Professor Craig Barker, Dean of the School of Law and Social Sciences at London South Bank University, for drawing my attention to this and related cases.

March 25th, 2016|