The official visit of the Secretary of State for Foreign & International Affairs to Davishire
The plane was descending through the cloud base towards its destination of Sandford International Airport. The Secretary of State for Foreign and International Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republics of Framptonia, Miss Lucy Rigby, had never enjoyed air travel, but she found this journey even more nerve wrecking than normal. It was her first official visit as Secretary of State since her appointment a few months earlier. Her reluctance to venture outside the borders of Framptonia had several valid reasons. Firstly, in order to board an international airline, she had been required to travel by car for several hours into the neighbouring country of Belarum, before boarding a train to reach the nearest airport. Secondly, there was her fear of flying. And thirdly, she had only just returned to work following the maternity leave she had taken after the birth of her daughter, Davina. Davina was only two years old and it had been a wrench to leave her with her nanny.
Lucy closed the file of papers that she had been reading and closed her eyes momentarily. The trip had a series of tightly scheduled meetings and she knew that it would be both arduous and tricky. Her visit was both one to show gratitude for the actions that Davishirian forces had taken in releasing Lucinda Bareham from captivity, but also to warn them against precipitous action against the Teutonic States. She knew that there would be a fine line between delivering well received advice and causing offence.
The plane lurched in its descent and Lucy gripped the arm rest tightly. The light indicating that the safety belts should be fastened came on and she immediately concluded that there was something drastically wrong. A stewardess passing down the aisle asked her to stow her paperwork as the plane was about to land and Lucy realised that the fastening of seatbelts was entirely routine.
She closed her eyes and considered what she would say to Lucinda Bareham when she met her. She had never thought very highly of Lucinda and had advised Ric Metcalfe against appointing her as European Councillor. But Lucinda always seemed to get her own way whenever a man was involved. She hadn't spoken to Linda since the funeral of David Bareham. Lucy had been a close friend of David Bareham and had resented the way his wife used her sexuality to get her own way. Lucy and David had been close friends and had shared secrets of which Lucy was sure that Lucinda was unaware.
The plane bumped as its wheels touched the tarmac of the runway and Lucy gripped the arm rest even more tightly.
As she stepped out of the plane and onto the steps, Lucy Rigby was pleased for the coolness of the fresh air. It was late in the evening and night had settled. At the foot of the steps, Lucy could see a group of people in a pool of light looking up at her expectantly. Behind her Lucy could hear her PA Jane behind her talking to her Political Advisor Christopher Freer. She descended the stairs slowly, her head was buzzing slightly from the change in air pressure.
At the foot of the stairs a slender man who she recognised as David Lidington, the Davishirian Foreign Secretary stepped forward and proffered his hand.
"Welcome to London, Miss Rigby. I hope you've had a good journey."
Alongside him stood a couple of shorter men in suits and a tall slim woman with long chestnut hair who Lucy knew from photographs to be the Framptonian Ambassador to Davishire, Joanne Middleton.
After the introductions were over the group moved into the terminal building and were waved through the security barriers. The party made its way through to the Diplomatic parking area where the Framptonian Diplomatic car was waiting. The two groups gave their farewells and Lucy and her colleagues climbed into the back of the Mercedes and were whisked off to the Embassy. At the Ambassador's residence, Lucy ate a simple salad and used her mobile to phone home to talk to her daughter. The difference in time zones though meant that she was only able to speak to the nanny.
Lucy tried to read through her files again, but found herself falling asleep, so she prepared herself for bed and climbed into the bed and immediately drifted off to sleep.
Lucy was up early the following and showered and dressed considerably before she was due down for breakfast with the Ambassador and this gave her time to phone Davina.
Over breakfast Joanne Middleton and Chris Freer went through the itinerary for the coming day. Lucy would meet with David Lidington at the Foreign Office, followed by a visit to see Lucinda Bareham and then she was to deliver a speech covering a number of areas, but specifically Framptonia's view of the future of the European Union. She felt sure that there were going to be areas of the discussions that the Davishirian representatives would not find comfortable and she was eager not to offend them.
After breakfast and having cleaned her teeth she went with the Ambassador by diplomatic car to the Foreign Office. She left Jane Metcalfe her PA at the Ambassadorial Residence to pack her belongs.
The car drew up outside the Foreign Office and the party dismounted and entered through the plate glass doors. David Lidington was waiting to greet them at the front desk with his hand extended.
"Good Morning Ms Rigby, I hope that your journey and last nights rest was most comfortable, please follow me" The Foreign Secretary took his Framptonian counter part to his office, it was on the top floor and overlooked the Prime Ministers residence. The could partially see the Prime Ministers private office through the window opposite, but it appeared that he was not at home. "So, Ms Rigby, your first overseas trip in an official capacity, it is an honour that it is to Davishire. Now, please sit, would you like a drink before we move on?"
The Foreign Sec pointed towards a coffee table, around which was sat 3 comfortable looking leather sofas. He walked over and sat down picked up the tea pot and poured some for Ms Rigby who by this point had sat down. "So, shall we get down to business"
Lucy took the cup from David Lidington and thanked him.
"Please," she said. "Let's not stand on formality in private. Call me Lucy."
"The first thing, I have to do is to offer the formal and heartfelt thanks of the people and Government of Framptonia to the King, the people and Government of Davishire for the action of your forces in the liberation of the Dowager Duchess of Eloe, Mrs Lucinda Bareham. We are acutely aware that Davishire put its forces in harm's way and Davishirian blood was spilt and lives lost in the mission. The loss of life is extremely upsetting to the people of Framptonia. As a sign of our eternal gratitude, the Government of Framptonia is setting a fund for the welfare and education of the dependants of the Davishirian men who made the ultimate sacrifice. The fund will be financed from the proceeds of the estate of the late Duke of Eloe that in the main has been passed to the Framptonian State. The Government of Framptonia asks that the fund be administered by the Government of Davishire, but that the source of the funding should never become public."
"On a another subject entirely, I need to let you know that the procurement exercise to select a company to construct our international travel hub at Scudness has been concluded and a preferred supplier has been selected. The Secretary of State for Transport is due to inform the preferred supplier of their selection this morning. I intend to announce this afternoon at the seminar at Sandford International Airport that the preferred supplier is the Davishire company Sandford McAlpine Construction. There are other development opportunities within Framptonia and I'm sure that the use of SMC will help to foster even stronger ties between our two Countries."
"I shall be seeing Mrs Bareham after this audience, and assuming that she is well enough, the Government of Framptonia will begin to make arrangements for her return to Framptonia. However, the Government is concerned about the news it is receiving that the Government of Davishire is considering the further use of force in the Teutonic States. I have to warn you in the strongest possible terms that the Government of Framptonia opposes the use of force for any reason except self-defence. If the Government of Davishire uses aggression in the Teutonic States for punitive or retaliatory reasons, then the Government of Framptonia will be vociferous in its criticism of your Government. There are clear issues in the Teutonic State that require resolution and with the return of Mrs Bareham, the Government of Framptonia has been freed of the shackles preventing it from taking appropriate action against the leaders of the Teutonic States through the European Court of Justice. We will also be seeking other collaborative sanctions against the States and request that Davishire enjoins us in those endeavours. I must make it clear though, that the fund for the dependants of the Davishirian casualties is not dependent upon on Davishire adopting a peaceful approach to the problem of the Teutonic States. The creation of the welfare fund has no Framptonian strings attached to it."
"Framptonia has a clear vision about how it wishes its involvement to the European Union to progress. We foresee a Union driven by the roles of Human Rights and adherence to the law, leading to a region that is free, entrepreneurial and wealth producing. I hope that the Government of Davishire supports our vision."
"I can assure you that the source of any money will of course be kept a secret, I am sure the families of those who were killed will be most appreciative of all the support that this will be able to provide them. I am also pleased to hear that this is not dependant upon what action our government takes because I am sure you will not be pleased to hear what is coming next. As you are probably aware parliament has met and debated and the final decision is that action should be taken in the form of the obvious sanctions enforced with a blockade or no fly zone. The Ministry of Defence is examining the options as we speak and I have little say in what is chosen to happen. I personally am lobbying the Prime Minister to get a different approach using legal measures first but I cannot promise anything.
On the matter of the airport contract I am glad that you have chosen a Davishirian company to assist you in doing the work. I hope that they are able to provide the service they offered. Should you need any further assistance then I am sure that the Government of Davishire would be prepared to help you"
"Thank you for your frankness David," Lucy replied. "It's refreshing to be able to talk face to face and without the need for either party to dissemble."
"I feel that perhaps I need to make Framptonia's response to the crisis in the Teutonic States clearer. We accept that Davishire may make whatever decisions it sees fit. Framptonia will only pass comment if Davishire's response is to use retaliatory or punitive force against the Teutonic States. Framptonia would actively support the imposition of economic and diplomatic sanctions against the States. The imposition of a no fly zone would require some form of co-operation between other European States."
"The only other issue which I wish to discuss, is whether there will be any representation from Davishire at the celebrations to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of our nation. The celebrations will take place over the first weekend of December."
"Well, the Secretary of State for Defence has assured the cabinet that our air force would be able to conduct the operations on a unilateral basis, although I am not sure of the sustainability of such an operation. I really do hope that another solution is sought"
Also I am sure that the United Kingdom will be represented at the event later on this year although exact participation depends upon the political situation at that time. It is also likely that the UK will be represented by a member of the Royal Family."
With the meeting concluded, Lucy thanked the Foreign Secretary for his time and both parted cordially.
They would meet again later in the afternoon when Lucy was due to issue a key note speech to the Davishirian Institute of Commerce at Sandford International Airport. But now she had to undertake the part of the official visit that she was least likely to enjoy - the visit to Lucinda Bareham.
Once in the back of the diplomatic limousine, Chris her political advisor handed her a sheaf of documents. They were the proposals that Davishire and the United Kingdom had put together regarding a no fly zone and a naval blockade surrounding the Teutonic States. It included a verbatim report of Councillor Johnson's report to the EU Council. It looked to Lucy as if the preparations for war had preceded her audience with David Lidington. She thought about how best to respond to this in her speech to the Institute later that afternoon.
The limousine drove though the gates of the large private hospital and Lucy dismounted at the entrance, where she was greeted by a bespectacled and sharply suited man, who identified himself as the Managing Director of the hospital. He guide through what appeared more akin to a hotel than a hospital to a suite of rooms on the first floor, where Lucinda was staying. There was a Davishirian armed police officer standing outside the door. Whether he was there for Mrs Bareham's protection or to ensure she did not leave, Lucy was not sure.
Lucy and the hospital MD entered the suite. Lucinda was standing at a window looking out over what could only be described as a breathtaking view of a mountain lake. She was wearing what could best be described as a baggy grey sweater and black leggings. She was barefoot and her hair was still much shorter and darker than before her ordeal began. She stood with her back to the room.
"Mrs Bareham, you have a visitor," the hospital administrator said, before turning and leaving the room.
Lucinda remained motionless, staring out of the window. Lucy fished in her bag and found an envelope.
"Lucinda, I have a message for you from our President," she said, moving across the room and placing the envelope on the window sill by Lucinda's hand. She then returned to the centre of the room and sat on the sofa.
Lucinda said nothing, but picked up the envelope and opened it. In it was a message from Lucy and not the President. It said simply, "ONLY ANSWER THE QUESTIONS WHICH I ASK YOU. WE ARE DOUBTLESS BEING BUGGED". Lucinda turned and walked towards the sofa. Lucy was astonished, firstly by how much Lucinda appeared to have aged in the four months since she had seen her last and secondly because she was most definitely and very heavily pregnant.
"You're ... " Lucy's words dried up. "You're ... you're expecting a baby?" she stammered, completely wrong footed by the unexpected.
"Well done Lucy," Lucinda drawled dryly. "You always were so very observant. No wonder you got to where you are now."
Lucy was uncertain where she should lead the conversation. She wanted to ask who was the father, but realised that this would appear rude and pointed, so instead she plumped for, "How far gone are you?". Lucinda replied that she was six months into her pregnancy and Lucy simply floundering for words said how nice a Christmas baby would be. Lucinda looked at her coldly.
"What you really want to ask is who the father is, isn't it Lucy Lamb". Lucy Lamb had been David Bareham's pet name for Lucy, one she thought only she knew and she was unprepared for his widow to be addressing her with it.
"Please remember the words of our President," Lucy reminded Lucinda. If Lucinda was telling the truth and she was six month's into her pregnancy, then she had conceived the child before her husband's death. Lucy knew enough to know that David Bareham could not have been the father, but she wasn't willing to say that to Lucinda in this environment.
"Don't worry Lucy. If the child is a boy, he will be the next Duke of Eloe. The line that once we thought had expired is reborn."
Lucy blushed, but determined that she had to get the conversation back onto her planned track. She asked Lucinda whether she was well. Whether she was being treated well by the Davishirian authorities. Whether there was any reason why she needed to remain in hospital. And finally whether she wished to return to Framptonia. The answers she received were unsurprising and monosyllabic. Of course she wanted to return to Framptonia as soon as possible as she wanted to see her two teenage boys.
Lucy asked her how long it would take her to pack her things and Lucinda simply laughed. "When they rescued me, I had nothing, no clothes, no cosmetics, no personal effects - none of this is mine. I would never provide a guest with such trash". Lucy winced. If as she suspected the room was bugged she wouldn't want the Davishirians to hear Lucinda's ingratitude.
"Come on then," she said. "Put some shoes on and we'll get you back to the Embassy and home before you know it".
Lucy opened the front door to the suite and peered out. The guard was nowhere to be seen. She quickly signalled for Lucinda to follow her, which she had to do barefoot as she had no shoes and they scampered down the corridors and out to the waiting limousine.
It was 3 pm Davishirian time and Lucy Rigby had returned to Sandford International Airport. With her were her Personal Assistant, Jane Metcalfe, her Political Advisor, Christopher Freer, the Framptonian Ambassador, Her Excellency Joanne Middleton and Lucinda Bareham, who was now wearing an outfit that was more in line with her usual wear, though the skirt was somewhat longer than that to which she was used and the shoes had much lower heels.
After the formalities were completed, David Lidington ushered her into the Conference Room at the Airport, where the assembled delegates of the Davishirian Institute of Commerce, known colloquially as DIC, had just sat through and an interminable presentation by a health and safety specialist concerning the risks of food poisoning from the eating of uncooked Os Corelian squid, which was considered a delicacy in Davishire. David Lidington stood at the podium and addressed the room.
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the DIC, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the keynote speaker to this conference, Miss Lucy Rigby. Miss Rigby is the recently appointed Secretary of State for Foreign and International Affairs for the Federal Democratic Republics of Framptonia. This visit to Davishire is her first visit to a nation outside Framptonia in her official capacity and we are pleased that she has seen fit to visit us. Her speech will be on the future of the European Union and the opportunities that it presents. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Miss Rigby."
Lucy approached the podium and fiddled uncomfortably with the microphone that was at an inopportune height and so blocked her view of the delegates and their view of her.
"Ladies and Gentleman, it has indeed been a great honour for me to come to the United Kingdom of Davishire and Bucks on my first official visit. You may not be aware, but my appointment coincided with my return to work following maternity leave and the dread with which I left my young daughter Davina behind has been far offset by the hospitality and welcome shown to me by your Government and by Mr Lidington. The Government of my country extends the hand of friendship to all Davishirians and we hope to say representatives of your Government as our guests in our capital city, Limpdom, very soon."
"The events of recent days and hours regarding the Teutonic States have doubtless overshadowed my visit, and I will allude to those later.
"Firstly it is with great pleasure that I am able to announce that the procurement exercise to identify a preferred partner to assist in the construction of the proposed international travel hub at Boris Island, just to south of the Framptonian coastal town of Scudness has been completed. The chosen supplier is the renowned Davishirian company Sandford McAlpine Construction. The contracts on this multi billion florin project have been signed and the work will begin shortly. We are sure that Davishirian expertise will lead to Framptonia having an international airport to match this fine edifice in which we stand."
"The use of a Davishirian company to construct a major piece of Framptonian infrastructure is exactly the type of project that the European Union fosters. Until Framptonia's accession to the European Union, just six months ago, such a project would have been unthinkable if not both impossible and illegal within Framptonian commercial law. The Government of Framptonia hopes that the signing of this contract is a sign of the direction of travel that our two great countries are taking within the EU and that it can be the catalyst for further international agreements."
"The European Union finds itself at a crisis point. I use the word crisis very deliberately and carefully in its strictest meaning to signify that the Union has a choice. It does not indicate that one choice is bad and the other good, or that either choice is inherently riskier than the other. But the fact remains that the Union has a choice. It can continue on its past path, with a few major players taking the lead in seeking to promote intra regional collaboration, whilst at the same time effectively dictating to the less assertive countries how their states should be run. Or it can fully embrace its constitution and democratic requirements with a view to opening up the boundaries of its component states to produce a trans European economy and people that can collectively be a super power within the world. Such a super power though needs to acknowledge that it is a regional power and not a national power, we are endeavouring to build a powerful and effective region and not a superstate."
"The region will only be powerful though if all the states acknowledge the key principles involved in its creation. These are the universal acceptance and adherence to the stated Constitution and specifically the primary concern of the protection of human rights across the region. And secondly the advancement of democracy in its truest forms, to ensure that decisions are made at the most appropriate level which reflect the will of people. This does not require that all decisions have to have force throughout the region, no in fact it means the opposite. The decisions have to have a democratic accountability to the people who are affected by them. So for example, the speed limits at which vehicles are permitted to travel on national highways should be determined by the nations themselves through the national democratic channel. If the European Union takes upon itself to invoke decisions such as a national speed limit, then it will have commenced upon the journey to make itself a super state. Such a journey is doomed not to reach its intended destination. But if we allow the nation states to make those decisions which it is incumbent upon them to make to follow their democratic mandate and the European Union makes those decisions which it is empowered to make in order to foster its constitution, then there is no reason why the two cannot be equally achieved."
"For this to succeed thought, the nation states must seek to act within the European Constitution in all aspects of their Government. For too long there has been a cosy club of half a dozen states that make the running. They appear willing to tolerate constitutional failures in their colleague nations, so long as the group maintains a common facade of progress. This is not progress though, it is simply a facade behind which the ills of the Union are hidden."
"To succeed the Union must have a functional system of enforcing its constitution. The European Court of Justice can provide such a mechanism, but not in the manner in which it is currently constituted. The Court is slow to make decisions and as a result its reputation is tarnished which makes it even more difficult for it to function. It has disappeared into a spiral of inactivity and this is hindering the entirety of the Union. We need a Court that is swifter and delivers Justice when and where it is needed. For this to operate it needs reform."
"A reformed Court would allow the Union to achieve its collaborative goals, making the Union a more powerful region and allowing the nation states to flourish. This in turn would attract new members and ease the burden on the core states."
"Finally, I cannot pass this moment by, without talking about the crisis in the Teutonic States. This is a crisis close to the hearts of the Framptonian people following the kidnap and subsequent release of Mrs Lucinda Bareham, the Dowager Duchess of Eloe. Her release was only achieved through the sacrifice of Davishirian Armed Forces personnel and the people of Framptonia will be forever grateful for your nation's resolve in this matter. However, the situation has progressed rapidly, even while I have been a guest in London. There is currently a no fly zone and maritime embargo in place administered by the forces of Davishire and the United Kingdom. There is discussion of a further and more aggressive military intervention to secure the future of the peoples of the Teutonic States. The Government of Framptonia urges caution on the states involved. Very rarely does belligerent action generate a successful or long term solution. More often it simply sows the seeds of further conflict. My Government urges the Governments of Davishire and the United Kingdom to take all possible legal steps to enforce the Constitution of the European Union before unleashing a storm from which the Union may never recover."
"I thank you for taking the time to listen to me."
With that she left the podium and made her way to the departure lounge.
On her arrival back at her office in Limpdom, despite the lateness of the hour, Lucy Rigby immediately set to work and sent a communique to David Lidington. It read:
[font=Georgia][size=2]"David, it was really good to finally meet you and have the chance to discuss matters. I must once again thank you for your hospitality, both to me and to Mrs Bareham who has now been returned to her family. Out of courtesy, I must inform you that in the morning, the Government of Framptonia will be recalling its Ambassador to Davishire, Her Excellency Miss Joanne Middleton. This is for reasons of discipline. Framptonia will send a new diplomat to be our Ambassador as soon as we have one lined up. In the meantime, our Deputy Head of Mission, Mrs Victoria Clements will take temporary charge of our embassy.
I trust that at some point in the not so distant future a representative of the Davishirian Government will find the time to make an official visit to Framptonia.