Coming hot on the heels of the publication of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) annual President’s Trade Policy agenda and the EU’s new trade strategy priorities outlined last month, today the United Kingdom (UK) government released its own post-Brexit vision of ‘Global Britain’. The over 100-page report entitled ‘Global Britain in a Competitive Age: The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy‘ comes after a year-long integrated policy review in which several post-Brexit threats and opportunities were identified.
While there is not much that has changed fundamentally with regard to the UK’s foreign and foreign trade policy, there are some interesting nuggets both from the report and the speech Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered before the House of Commons today outlining this new policy. Calling it the most comprehensive review of the country’s foreign policy since the Cold War, he emphasised that the aim was to make the UK ‘stronger, safer and more prosperous’ while standing up for its values.
According to the Prime Minister, the UK’s international policy was a vital instrument for reinforcing the Union and securing the UK’s place as a science superpower and a hub of innovation and research. The UK will be more ‘dynamic abroad’ and more focused on delivering for its citizens. The new independent trade policy will ensure that the rules and standards in trade agreements will reflect its values. He also mentioned the new International Sanctions Policy. In all its endeavours, the US will be the UK’s ‘greatest ally’, a sentiment also found in the EU’s recently released trade priorities as well.
Prime Minister Johnson highlighted the ways in which the UK has already sought to craft a path of global leadership. He noted the country’s chairmanship of the G7 and its exploration of a Global Treaty on Pandemic Preparedeness working through the World Health Organisation (WHO) to prevent another pandemic. He also pointed to the UK’s hosting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Twenty-Sixth Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC COP 26) in Glasgow later this year. The UK is also the first major economy to make a net-zero commitment. The UK, he said, will remain ‘unswervedly’ commited to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and to preserving peace and security in Europe. The UK’s approach will be to place diplomacy first.
Notable on the trade front is the UK’s pivot towards the Indo-Pacific region. This includes a reaffirmation of its intention to work more closely with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) by becoming a ‘dialogue partner’ and to accede to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Given Britain’s status as a maritime nation, the Prime Minister said, it means that any crisis in the Indo-Pacific region or in those trade routes would affect it. The Prime Minister indicated that as part of the UK’s Indo-Pacific push he will pay a state visit to India next month and had also invited the leaders of India, South Korea and Australia to attend the next G7 summit.
On the issue of China, a familiar theme emerges. Similar to the US and EU, the UK has identified China’s ‘increasing international assertiveness’ as both a ‘great challenge’ but also sees Beijing as a potential collaborator on areas of mutual interest, such as economic relations and climate change.
On the homefront, the UK will seek to become a ‘Science and Technology Power’. Moreover, to counter what it sees as growing threats to its national security, the UK will remain a nuclear-armed power, increase funding for its defence and security and establish a Counter Terrorism Operations Centre. The National Cyber Force will be put in a new Cyber Corridor in the north. There will be a Cross-Government Situation Centre to improve the UK’s ability to respond to future crises.
A major point raised during the debate was what appeared to be a cut in the UK’s spending on development aid.
Prime Minister Johnson’s speech, the response by the leader of the Opposition and the ensuing House of Commons debate may be watched below:
The report itself can be accessed here.
Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B is an international trade and development specialist. Read more of her commentaries here or follow her on Twitter @licylaw. All views expressed herein are her personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any institution or entity with which she may from time to time be affiliated.