28 Jul

Brexit frees us to build a truly global Britain - Boris Johnson

This article first appeard here.

I came into the Foreign Office yesterday morning after a pretty truncated night’s sleep to find the place in what Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service calls “crisis mode”.

In the bowels of the Italianate palazzo off St James’s Park dozens of people had been up all night, calmly monitoring screens and coolly assessing fresh information.

Some of them had worked consecutive shifts without sleep. They had been liaising with New York and Washington and other European capitals. They had been sifting information, “scrubbing” intelligence and dealing with the needs of UK nationals abroad.

Some of them were still engaged in the aftermath of the horrendous carnage in Nice; some had only just finished organising an evacuation of aid workers from Juba in South Sudan, scene of a singularly nasty conflict.

Most of the officials – as you would expect – were working on the unfolding crisis in Turkey, where the failed coup had myriad implications for this country.

To take one example: at about 3am yesterday morning we realised that there was a party of British passengers who were changing planes at Istanbul’s massive Ataturk airport.

They were stuck airside as the coup attempt began, and their onward flight was grounded. Turkish President Erdogan was apparently planning to land at that airport and restore his authority. What if the rebels decided to attack the airport?

Someone needed to get through to the party and, as so often happens, the UK happened to have a diplomat on the spot. A UK official also transiting through the airport and trapped airside at Istanbul was able to meet up with the party and provide an immediate link to London.

Elsewhere in Turkey – at the resorts and the big transport hubs – UK consular staff were out, many in hi-vis jackets, providing information and travel advice, just as they had been doing in Nice only hours earlier.

 

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