I am delighted to be making my sixth visit to Samoa. I am looking forward to speaking to my good friends in the Government, from across the country and from across Samoan society.
I am particularly looking forward to hearing how the UK’s exit from the European Union is viewed in Samoa and your views on what this means for the UK-Samoan relationship.
Brexit and Article 50
As you may have seen, the Article 50 process - the process which begins the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union - is now underway. In accordance with the wishes of the British people, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.
This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back.
Leaving the European Union presents the UK with a unique opportunity. We are going to take control of the things that matter most to us. We are going to take this opportunity to build a stronger, fairer Britain – a truly Global Britain – the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too. We want to be a country that goes out into the world to build relationships with old friends like Samoa and with new allies alike. That is our ambition and our opportunity. That is what the government is determined to do.
We want the United Kingdom to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than ever before. We want to be a secure, prosperous, tolerant country – a magnet for international talent and a home to the pioneers and innovators who will shape the world ahead.
UK and Samoa
In a time of great change closer to home, our historic and enduring relationship with Samoa and the other Pacific nations become even more important.
The process of negotiating our exit from the EU will take two years to complete and it is too early to say exactly how the UK will emerge from that process. But what is clear from the outset is that our commitment to strengthening our relationship with Samoa will continue.
We continue to work with Samoa on a wide range of issues, including an exciting new area of work around enhancing social enterprise expertise. A social enterprise seeks to solve a social issue while operating as a sustainable business.
We also continue to work extensively through multilateral institutions like the Commonwealth, the UN and , with our partners in the EU. Our contribution to the European Development Fund will continue at the same level for the foreseeable future. We also support Pacific-owned schemes.
We are, for example, the largest donor to the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative to which the UK contributes £15 million and whose Council of Members met at the British High Commission in Suva at the end of March, where Samoa was represented by the Secretary of Finance.
As the UK leaves the European Union, our relationships with our other international partners and institutions become ever more significant.
That is why, ahead of the UK hosting the Commonwealth Summit in 2018, I am keen to hear how the Commonwealth is viewed in Samoa and how the future priorities of the organisation might be adjusted to best serve the interests of its members. As one of the 52 members of the Commonwealth, Samoa has an important and equal voice in how the Commonwealth is run and how it develops, particularly in the Pacific.
The Commonwealth is special. The shared values of 2.8 billion people and the mutual respect between its member states was wonderfully stated by Her Majesty the Queen’s recent message to the Commonwealth on Commonwealth Day when she said: “The cornerstones on which peace is founded are, quite simply, respect and understanding for one another. Working together, we build peace by defending the dignity of every individual and community.”
For the third consecutive year we have the opportunity to offer scholarships for Samoan graduates to live and study for a year at the UK’s world leading universities. I am delighted to say that once again we received the highest number of Samoan applications for the Chevening scholarships. And the quality of the applications from ambitious, dynamic, young Samoans was fantastic.
If you are interested in applying for a Chevening scholarship in 2018, please see www.chevening.org for more details and why not sign up for the newsletter? The next application window will open in August 2017.
As the UK embarks on a new chapter its history I want reassure you that we remain as committed as ever to working with our great friends in Samoa on our shared values, common goals and ensuring our relationship goes from strength to strength.