Read my article for the Coalition for Global Prosperity on Britain’s role in the world, and how we must be a force for good.
Read online here or below.
“Since the Brexit referendum in 2016 there has been much discussion of Britain’s global role, with successive Conservative Prime Ministers speaking confidently of “Global Britain” and Britain’s “tilt” to the pacific region, but with comparatively little in way of strategy to back this up.
Indeed, at the very moment the government has attempted to paint a new role for Britain they’ve been considering deep and damaging cuts to our world class diplomatic service and have slashed our overseas development spending, breaking our historic commitment to the world’s poorest. This is a strategically incoherent act of diplomatic self-harm, and it does a huge disservice to our vast potential as a global player.
But there is an alternative approach to our foreign policy and our place in the world.
The UK’s strengths are clear – a world class financial sector in the City of London, a cutting-edge tech economy, unrivalled cultural soft-power, Universities consistently ranking as among the worlds best, and a military with a truly global reach. These are the building blocks which we should use to craft a coherent global strategy with Britain as global force for good, working with our allies and partners to stand up for the rules based global order, humanitarianism, democracy, and the rule of law.
While the UK has chartered a positive course on some issues, with the championing of women and girls rights a particular bright spot, along with the decision to grant a pathway to citizenship for human rights defenders and BNO passport holders in Hong Kong, it is clear to many that our strengths as a nation are not being utilised as part of our strategic foreign policy.
If there is a time for the UK to establish a coherent foreign policy it is now, with Russia massing on Europe’s borders, populism and the far right continuing to erode democratic norms, and the Chinese Government continuing to commit human rights abuses in Xinjiang and undermine the freedoms promised to the people of Hong Kong in legally binding international agreements.
Our strengths make us well placed to work with our partners to challenge this behaviour, but it requires a sea change in our approach. Labour has already laid out our opposition to cutting the ODA and Foreign Office budgets, rightly pointing out that these hamper our ability to work with our partners and undermine our soft power, our security, and our influence. But the UK must go beyond this and demonstrate our intention to be taken seriously on the world stage once again, as a force for good.
We already know that our approach to Russia is hampered by the government’s inaction on the dark money polluting our financial services, and we have committed to tackling this head on to choke off the supply of illicit finance to Russia and other government’s who use our institutions to fuel their corruption and repression. To their credit the Government have instituted a range of global Magnitsky sanctions, and at our urging the Government did finally close off some of the avenues the Belarusian government was using to raise money in London, but this should be the start of a concerted effort rather than a one off.
We also need to pursue a reset in our relations with Europe. The arguments around leave and remain are over, and cooperation and pragmatism need to be in the driving force to ensure we can have the partnerships which allow us to unlock the deeper working relationship on the issues facing us all.
And on China, we need to be clear on what our strategy is. The government too often talks tough while refusing to implement the policies to back this up. Our partners and allies will expect us stick with an approach, and we’ve been clear that while we need to work with and respect China we will act on their influence in our key industries, work to protect the freedoms in Hong Kong expressed by the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and support partners facing the growing threat posed by Chinese influence.
Past Labour government’s have maximised Britain’s influence on the world stage, and the next will be no different.”