(1)This memorandum explains the Government’s (HMG) vision of Global Britain and the role of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in supporting and enabling government departments to deliver this vision. It covers the UK’s overseas presence, influence and capability.
(2)The evidence does not cover the broader spectrum of national security risks and opportunities and UK capacity to deal with them, including mechanisms for co-ordinating activity across Departments, agencies and Posts. These were the subject of scrutiny in the recent National Security Capability Review (NSCR), the findings of which will be published later this spring, and in which the FCO was fully involved. The NSCR had a specific component that reviewed HMG capabilities to deliver Global Britain, which was carried out by a cross-Government team of officials based in the FCO.
(3)The memorandum does not include comprehensive detail on the resources and finances of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). We refer the Committee to the FCO’s Annual Report and Accounts and stand ready to provide further evidence as required.
(4)We draw the Committee’s attention to the evidence memorandum we have submitted this week to the House of Lords International Relations Committee in response to their inquiry into UK foreign policy in changed world conditions.
(5)Britain has always taken a leading role in responding to global challenges and in making the most of opportunities for this country. However, the pace of change in an ever more challenging global environment, where information and influence are dispersed and contested amongst many more actors, both state and non-state, inevitably has a significant impact on how the UK projects influence and protects its national interests.
(6)Some elements of our interaction with the rest of the world will change once we leave the European Union (EU). Although we will lose some elements of the force multiplier advantages of EU membership, we will gain more flexibility and agility to react, and our foreign policy capability broadly drawn will ensure we are one of the major global players as now.
(7)The concept of “Global Britain” is shorthand for our determination to adjust to these changes, to continue to be a successful global foreign policy player, and to resist any sense that Britain will be less engaged in the world in the next few years. It is intended to signal that the UK will, as Ministers have put it, continue to be open, inclusive and outward facing; free trading; assertive in standing up for British interests and values; and resolute in boosting our international standing and influence. It is a Britain with global presence, active in every region; global interests, working with our allies and partners to deliver the global security and prosperity that ensures our own; and global perspectives, engaging with the world in every area, influencing and being influenced.
(8)Our strategic foreign policy objectives have not changed: to protect our people, project our influence and promote our prosperity. Nor have our commitments to being a steadfast partner to our allies, ensuring our adversaries are aware of our capacity for protecting our national interest, remaining an activist global player in projecting our values, supporting the rules-based international order, and leading efforts to ensure global peace and security. But the shifting global context, a new relationship with Europe, and the need to deliver more with finite resources, requires us to evolve and enhance how we achieve our goals, using HMG assets more cohesively and efficiently to maintain our global standing.
(9)The scale and range of complexity means the UK cannot always rely on tried and tested methods. HMG will need to understand the local and international context sufficiently to take and manage risks, and experiment with new approaches. This includes working not just across departmental boundaries and with other governments but also building stronger partnerships with other sectors.
(10)Our ability to do this depends on whether we can analyse, act and influence, across the world and across the breadth of the Government’s international priorities. In turn it depends on the range and depth of our bilateral and regional relationships and our influence in global and regional institutions. We have a wide range of assets to deploy in this context through our diplomatic, defence, development and trade activity.
(11)As regards bilateral and regional relationships, our alliance with the United States remains our top priority and cornerstone of what we wish to achieve in the world. We maintain relationships as equals with the other P5 members of the UN Security Council. We aim to remain key players in the Middle East, in collaboration with the EU in Wider Europe, and to put new emphasis on the Indo-Pacific region, the centre of the world’s growth. We have the huge advantage of being part of the Commonwealth, allowing us to engage with a wide network of countries across the world with a similar history, legal heritage, and institutions.
(12)Our relationship with the EU will of course always be a major priority, and we aim to establish a new, deep and special partnership with the EU and European states to ensure that our work together continues in defending the international order and our shared values. In this way we aim it to become obvious to all that our departure from the EU does not signal a lessening of our international ambition and commitment.
(13)Our support for the rules-based international system; for free markets; our values and the rule of law; and our meeting of the 2% NATO target and the 0.7% ODA target give us tremendous influence within international institutions. Our leadership and collaboration on issues such as modern slavery; countering terrorism; and migration make a real impact, as do our efforts in multilateral fora to shift the dial on climate change, to emphasise gender equality—with a particular focus on girls’ education, to reform multilateral institutions, and to clamp down on the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT).
(14)Finally, Britain has constitutional and legal responsibility for the 14 UK Overseas Territories (OTs). The overarching objective is for more effective cross-government support to improve security, good governance and climate resilience, and in the short run to protect their interests as we leave the EU.
(15)To make a success of Global Britain, our international posture must reflect all these interests and all our policy ambitions: ie, strategic alignment of our external policies in the national interest.
(16)In doing so, we have broader assets available to few other countries and which hugely reinforce our soft power: our high ranking in most international indices of power or attractiveness; our highly competitive business environment; the City of London financial centre; and our renowned legal system. Our institutions such as the BBC World Service and British Council, our cultural heritage, our language, our universities and our record of achievement in science and innovation all hugely reinforce our international strength.
(17)The three centres of the global economy and political influence are in North America, overwhelmingly the United States, in Europe and its neighbourhood; and in the Indo-Pacific region. Maintaining influence in these areas is essential to making Global Britain a success. At the same time, to realise fully the vision of Global Britain means being active and influential in all regions, the institutions of the rules-based international order and key global issues.
(18)The UK-US relationship represents our most vital bilateral partnership. It has been, for over a century, the most significant and history-defining international partnership. It is a relationship that transcends personalities and party politics —a relationship that matters hugely to both our countries, and which has been a driver of peace and prosperity and provided security to both our countries and beyond. In an age of geopolitical turbulence and uncertainty, the UK-US relationship continues to be of the highest importance to UK interests. In future, after we leave the EU, we can further deepen our already close UK-US ties in the area of trade.
(19)As with previous administrations, the Government is working closely with the US on areas of key mutual concern and interest. The UK and United States continue to work as leaders within, and proponents of, the rules-based international system. This system, albeit imperfect, has been the driving force behind an unparalleled period of relative stability and prosperity.
(20)The UK stands together with the United States in facing a resurgent Russia and new forms of threat across the world, as well as the implications of an increasingly assertive China. We have shared great successes in the last year, for example in the fight against Daesh, and we continue our incomparable co-operation on intelligence issues and our shared commitment to NATO and the collective defence of our allies.
(21)The current Administration has set new directions for US policy in several areas, some of which differ from our own. That is not unusual and there have always been some differences of perspective in this strong relationship. These do not prevent us working together to maximise our joint work for common goals and global interests.
(22)Many of our closest and most like-minded partners are members of the European Union, and our national interests will align in many areas with the interests of our European friends. We will remain unconditionally committed to Europe’s security. Investment in all our relationships across Europe will therefore continue. We will need to maintain a significant presence in Brussels in order to engage effectively with the EU institutions and member state representations, and we are developing bilateral strategies aimed at securing our long-term partnerships with our European neighbours. With France, Germany and Ireland, in particular, we must build comprehensive relationships, recognising that our partnership will be important on a vast range of issues and we must have the relationships, structures and network to support this. The recent UK-France summit set the tone for the kind of relationships we wish to achieve beyond EU Exit.
(23)NATO is vital to Britain’s and Europe’s security at a time of increasing threats, including from cyber, hybrid and information warfare, across the globe. Behind the US, the UK is the most influential member of the Alliance and among the small group that meets the 2% target for defence spending. In September 2017, Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, was elected as the next Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee. The UK has stood by allies by leading an Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Estonia and contributing troops in Poland, contributing to NATO Maritime Groups, committing Typhoons to Air Policing Missions in Romania, and training thousands of Armed Forces in Ukraine.
(24)Our readiness to work with partners in Europe and Wider Europe is shown by our commitment to promote democracy and economic growth in the Western Balkans. The UK will host the Western Balkans Summit in July 2018. This is a firm demonstration of our support for much-needed reform to improve the region’s security, boost the economy, and to combat challenges such as illegal drugs and human trafficking.
(25)Russia has become more aggressive, authoritarian and nationalist, increasingly defining itself in opposition to the West. Russia uses a range of overt and covert powers to pursue its policies—including propaganda, espionage, cyber interference and subversion. In the cyber sector, Russia has targeted the UK media, telecommunication and energy sectors. The Foreign Secretary’s recent visit to Moscow—together with our joint attribution of the NotPetya cyber-attack, in concert with allies and partners—underscored the UK’s firm position on malign cyber activity. Working with European partners, the UK supports the Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats in Helsinki, convening allies for diplomatic engagement on resisting malign interference.
(26)We remain severely concerned by the evolving spectrum of threats emanating from Russia. We are resolved to meet these challenges while remaining open to appropriate dialogue; we want to reduce risk, talk about our differences, and make clear that interference with sovereign states is not acceptable. As P5 members, we want to engage constructively with Russia in the interests of security and stability, including on pressing issues such as DPRK and Iran. We are also working with Russia to ensure a safe and secure World Cup for visiting fans, with UK-Russia police cooperation underway ahead of the tournament.
(27)Many of the most intractable problems on the current world scene are in the Middle East—notably Yemen, Syria, Libya, the set of interlinked issues in the Gulf, Iran’s intentions to boost its interests, and the long-running Middle East Peace Process (MEPP). Our long-term objective is to see the Middle East return to stability, addressing conflict and failures in governance, which have led to political and regional turbulence and humanitarian catastrophe. Our policy in the Middle East must be credible and consistent. Central to this approach will be maintaining strong relationships with stable countries in the region, particularly in the Gulf where we have both security and prosperity interests.
(28)Our core short-term interests are tackling security threats from the region, including: the extant terrorist threats from Daesh and Al-Qaida; migration, from Syria and through Libya; and prosperity—the Gulf collectively is a larger market for the UK than either China or India. We are supporting the Saudi Vision 2030 and other Gulf reform programmes.
(29)We are increasing our effort across North Africa to help their governments stay ahead of their demographic and security challenges—manifested in different ways in migration through Libya and the Sousse terrorist attack. In 2016, we established an FCO/DFID North Africa Joint Unit, which oversees the new North Africa Good Governance Fund (£40 million this year).
(30)The UK has an All of Asia policy, working with our many different partners in the region on areas of mutual interest. We are continually looking for opportunities to expand our engagement.
(31)With China we have a strong economic and global partnership. Central to our approach is the Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, established in 2015. It includes engagement through Prime Ministerial summits—most recently the Prime Minister’s January 2018 visit—three annual Cabinet-level dialogues; and a wide range of other Ministerial and senior official exchanges.
(32)We aim to encourage and support China’s greater cooperation in helping resolve global challenges. Both bilaterally and as fellow permanent members of the UN Security Council, we engage extensively with China on a range of threats to international security, for example from North Korea, and on challenges such as global health security and climate change. At the same time, we are robust in defending our position on areas of difference, including on issues of human rights and values, on the South China Sea, and on the importance of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and freedoms.
(33)China is a hugely important partner for UK trade as the UK’s third largest trading partner, after the EU and the USA. In 2016, UK-China bilateral trade in goods and services reached £59.3bn, up 9.4% on 2015. Recent bilateral visits have delivered major economic benefits, generating billions of pounds of commercial deals. Through the UK-China Infrastructure Alliance, we are aiming to deepen UK-China infrastructure project and finance collaboration. We welcome the opportunities provided by China’s Belt and Road Initiative to further prosperity and sustainable development across Asia and the wider world.
(34)The UK’s enduring relationship with India is also central to our aspirations. India is an economic powerhouse, with a growing role in Asian and international geopolitics. A shared past and strong people-to-people links give us influence and access, helping us to tackle security threats, encourage stability, and exploit prosperity opportunities.
(35)The UK-India relationship has grown closer in recent years, with Prime Minister Modi’s November 2015 UK visit and the Prime Minister’s India visit a year later, key milestones. In 2016, UK-India bilateral trade was £15.6bn. India is the fourth largest investor in the UK. UK investment contributes around 8% of India’s FDI. Financial services and a Defence and International Security Partnership are central to the relationship, buttressed by cooperation across government and beyond. The next important moment in the relationship will be the Commonwealth summit in April, which we expect PM Modi to attend.
(36)South East Asia is a dynamic region where there are opportunities for greater UK engagement across a variety of sectors, e.g. education, prosperity and regional resilience. More broadly, we have a strong and long-term commitment to the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) between the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. The FPDA is an important part of our commitment to peace and security in the Asia Pacific region. We will contribute further, in particular through exercises, including with our new aircraft carriers, and joint training, alongside investing in our strong bilateral defence relationships.
(37)Finally, the UK is a partner country in the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), an intergovernmental process to foster dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe with biennial summits of the 53 partners. The UK has Dialogue Partner (DP) status with ASEAN, via the EU, and we are committed to strengthening our relationship with it as an institution after EU Exit.
(38)It is clear that our focus on Africa will need to change and grow. We need to be better equipped both to deal with threats that can have a direct impact on the UK: population growth, poverty, climate volatility and significant security issues; and to grasp opportunity in the growing markets, as Africa urbanises at pace. We have boosted our network in Africa, including a new High Commission building in Abuja, opened by the Foreign Secretary in July, and a new office in Chad.
(39)An immediate task is how to use our significant development spend to best effect to achieve our prosperity and security objectives and deliver influence in Africa. It is firmly in our national interest to support Africa to unlock its enormous human and economic development potential. Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s youngest and fastest-growing population, set to double to two billion and to represent a quarter of the world’s population by 2050. By 2025, Africa’s household consumer and business markets could represent commercial opportunities worth US$5.6 trillion. But it also faces significant development and security challenges, with an estimated 400 million people in the region vulnerable to conflict, extremism and the impacts of climate change. We are committed to helping our African partners tackle shared security threats, improve stability, reduce extreme poverty, in keeping with our values, and in pursuit of a more stable, secure and prosperous world.
(40)Africa’s emerging powers have a central role to play in shaping a more secure and prosperous future for all Africans, including through their membership of the African Union and Africa’s regional economic communities. Building and maintaining strong partnerships with regional powers such as Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa will therefore be an important element of our long-term approach in Africa.
(41)Latin America is likely to be increasingly important for British interests post-EU Exit: Presidents in Argentina, Peru and Brazil have strengthened the group of countries, which share the UK’s liberal free trade outlook. The Pacific Alliance (Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Chile) is an important regional champion for free trade. The UK is engaging closely as an Observer State and has good bilateral relations with all Member States.
(42)Since 2010, the UK has stepped up engagement with Latin America: new posts have opened; trade has increased; we have built stronger ties with Brazil and Mexico, both increasingly important global influencers, and cooperated closely with the like-minded Peru, Chile, and Colombia on climate change, open markets and transparency.
(43)Global Britain involves thinking and acting globally. Our support for the rules-based international system; for free markets; our values and the rule of law; and our meeting of the 2% NATO target and the 0.7% ODA target give us tremendous influence.
(44)The UK also enjoys an influential position, including as a Permanent Member of the UNSC and an active member of other key bodies, for example the Commonwealth, NATO, G7, G20, counter-proliferation regimes and international financial institutions. The UN and other multilateral bodies often provide the UK and our allies with the legal and moral basis for action, and the UN in particular has unique global convening power. The UK is committed to the reform and modernisation of global institutions to ensure they can meet 21st century challenges and will step up its efforts to secure the appointment of senior UK experts to key international positions, building on lessons learned from the loss of our seat on the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
(45)Our commitment to the UN will remain core to our foreign policy. As a P5 member, we have a key role in all aspects of the Council’s work. We play an important part in efforts to reform the Security Council, improve the UN’s finances and strengthen the UN’s capacity to deal with economic and social issues, peacekeeping and conflict prevention. We will compete more effectively for senior international appointments where our expertise and capacity for innovation is widely acknowledged and appreciated.
(46)The Commonwealth is a unique global network: home to one third of the world’s population, some of its fastest growing economies and accounting for one-fifth of global trade. It has a diverse membership committed to a set of values founded on democracy and rule of law, embodied in the Commonwealth Charter. It stimulates a wide range of political, non-governmental and people-to-people engagement across different regional and cultural environments. The enduring nature of these relationships, combined with its global and diverse character, offers the UK and its members potential, long term, to reinforce the international rules-based order, and to complement and enhance UK engagement in other multilateral fora. It has a particular strength in addressing shared global challenges across a wide geographical basis - for example, new cross-border security threats, the effects of climate change on small and other vulnerable states, barriers to trade and threats to democracy, good governance and inclusivity.
(47)The Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit Meeting (CHOGM) in April 2018 will be the biggest international meeting in London for many years. It will be a huge opportunity for member states to commit to further sustained effort to ensure the Commonwealth is using its full potential in addressing these challenges: that is why its overarching theme is “towards a common future” with a particular focus on youth. As Commonwealth Chair-in-Office for the two years following the Summit, the UK will work with fellow member states, including the Commonwealth Secretariat and other Commonwealth institutions, to ensure that progress made in London is sustained and commitments followed up.
(48)Our leadership and collaboration on issues such as modern slavery; countering terrorism; and migration make a real impact, as do our efforts multilateral fora to shift the dial on climate change; to emphasise gender equality—with a particular focus on girls’ education; to reform multilateral institutions and clamp down on the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT).
(49)The UK is rightly proud of its leadership on international development. We were one of only 6 countries to meet the UN’s 0.7% GNI ODA target in 2016, the third largest contributor of global ODA overall. We are, as the manifesto commitment makes clear, committed to ensuring that ODA remains fit for purpose and fully supports and helps deliver the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in which we played a full part in securing. Our development budget not only helps us to champion the poor but—alongside the diplomatic network—gives us access and insight on key global issues that matter to partners and are important to UK national interests.
(50)To deliver the vision of Global Britain, the UK has the major advantage of global reach through our diplomatic network of 274 posts in 169 countries and territories. It consists of more than 15,000 staff from 31 UK government departments and public bodies, with the FCO, Department for International Trade (DIT), Department for International Development (DFID), the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the British Council forming the largest contingents. Locally engaged staff operate alongside UK-based colleagues in front-line positions across the network.
(51)Our overseas presence is a powerful combination of HMG and local staff skills, knowledge and expertise in a wide range of fields including foreign and security policy; economic diplomacy; financial regulation; trade policy and negotiation; visas; export and investment; science and innovation; migration; development and humanitarian assistance; press and public diplomacy; cultural relations; defence diplomacy; law enforcement; counter-terrorism; consular and crisis management.
(52)The FCO is at the heart of the One HMG effort, providing the “platform”—both the physical presence of our Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates from where we conduct Government business and relationships day to day in countries, provide consular and commercial services to support our citizens, showcase what the UK can offer—and our staff who provide the expertise, build those relationships, and deliver important services and partnerships. This is a whole of government operation, essential to achieving our international objectives, under the leadership of the FCO Head of Mission. Management of this shared services “platform” is covered by a “Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on One HMG Overseas”, which has been signed by all government departments with an overseas presence.
(53)The Future FCO Review and Diplomacy 20:20 initiative have examined the role and execution of effective diplomacy in the digital age, making recommendations for changes in working culture and practice, the development and implementation of policy. Better coordination of our effort and more investment in skills and expertise has led to more efficient outputs and greater impact.
(54)The objective of the FCO’s Diplomacy 20:20 change programme is a more expert and agile organisation, supported by a world-class shared services “platform.” Under the agility pillar of the programme, the FCO has started to resource our Europe network and multilateral missions. We have upgraded seven Heads of Mission roles and created another 50 jobs for diplomats across our European and multilateral posts. We have secured additional funding from the Treasury to support EU Exit work and are now in the process of creating an additional 150 new roles in London and the overseas network to support EU Exit. In recognition of the increasingly challenging global context, planning is now underway to balance the wider size, structure and shape of the overseas network, to ensure it is best equipped to meet our national security objectives.
Published: 12 March 2018