A brave new Britain? The future of the UK’s international policy Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

The challenge

1.The Integrated Review is a timely and necessary response to a world characterised by ever-strengthening interconnection and rapid technological change. (Paragraph 2)

2.The world is increasingly riven by global competition rather than cooperation. (Paragraph 3)

3.In part, this global competition is driven by geo–political change. But this global competition is also a battle between competing visions and mindsets. And the global competition is increasingly one between different technical systems. (Paragraph 4)

4.Such competition has stalled, and to some degree reversed, cooperation through multilateral organisations. The drive towards international arbitration is increasingly challenged by great power rivalry and influence projection. The world lacks consensus-building leadership. Global divides are widening, and there is a risk of the world’s challenges becoming more abundant, more severe, and more difficult to resolve. (Paragraph 5)

5.An increasingly assertive and revisionist China has created geo-political friction with a more introspective United States. China and Russia, as leading authoritarian and revisionist powers, have also been more adept than their ideological rivals at realising where their capacity for international influence lies and harnessing the full spectrum of such capabilities. (Paragraph 6)

6.The UK’s own international policy has been adrift. It has lacked clarity. (Paragraph 7)

7.It has also lacked confidence. Our contributors the world over were clear that the UK has recently appeared less ambitious and more absent in its global role (Paragraph 8)

8.None of our contributors wanted the UK to stand back or keep quiet. All of them urged the UK to step up, do more, and play a more impactful role in the world. They highlighted the positive contribution that the UK could make to international relations, and the negative implications if it declined. (Paragraph 9)

9.The UK has good reason to be confident in the capabilities of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), which were praised by contributors from around the world. (Paragraph 10)

10.The UK has a strong capacity to use its memberships and influence to bring countries together in dialogue. Contributors also admired the UK as a pragmatic country whose thought leadership, and the legal drafting capabilities of the FCDO’s lawyers, can bring the world together through agreed, stable and predictable frameworks. The UK’s own adherence to such frameworks is of paramount importance to its international reputation. (Paragraph 11)

11.But the UK will have the greatest impact abroad if it uses its range of assets and capabilities coherently. It is unlikely that the merger of the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) will resolve the persistent problem that Britain abroad is less than the sum of its parts. (Paragraph 12)

12.The Integrated Review must address a lack of clear strategic vision, a lack of confidence, and lack of coherent implementation that has undermined recent international policy by the UK. The Review should respond, and be seen to respond, to the consultation that it has undertaken and the challenge that a robust review requires. It should publish its evidence base transparently, showing that future policy has a broad and strong foundation. And, for Global Britain to be more than just a slogan, the Review must provide:

i)a clear articulation of the UK’s interests and values, and of their roles in a coherent strategy for the UK’s international policy

ii)clear and limited priorities within designated timeframes

iii)meaningful and targeted resources with which to deliver

iv)greater coherence and alignment among UK levers of influence, and therefore greater impact abroad

v)an unambiguous leadership role for the diplomatic service. The Government has committed to spend 0.7% of GNI on Official Development Assistance (ODA), and we agree with the Government that UK diplomats must play the leading role in coordinating how this money is spent. But we recommend that the resourcing of the UK’s diplomatic service itself be directed by the UK’s strategic needs and must not be skewed by the requirements of ODA eligibility. (Paragraph 13)

The UK’s response

i)The UK, like all countries, has limits to its resources and reach. Those pressures will be even greater during the challenging economic circumstances created by Covid-19. To avoid overstretch, and remain credible, its international policy must be based on limited and adequately resourced priorities.

ii)Given the challenges that that the world will face, we agree with the Government that the UK has a contribution to make as a ‘problem-solving and burden-sharing nation.’

iii)The UK should also be an inclusive nation that opens opportunities for others. The Government should use the UK’s convening power, its thought leadership, and its legal drafting skills, to establish a baseline for cooperation and exchange between nations and individuals that helps realise the benefits from technological innovation and global interconnection.

iv)The UK should be a resilient state which recognises the changing nature of the threats we face at home and abroad and is able to match and counter them through the efforts of governmental and non-governmental actors. This will involve a co-ordinated, cross-Government approach with expanded investment in offensive and defensive capabilities, based on our national security assessment.

v)The Government must do more to align the full spectrum of the UK’s instruments for influence. A hybrid approach by the UK will achieve greater impact for serving the British people, countering our adversaries, and contributing to the world. Just as ambassadors lead in coordinating the UK’s activity abroad, so should the FCDO lead in coordinating the UK’s international policy within Whitehall. (Paragraph 14)

i)We recommend that the Government publishes clear priorities and resources for the ‘tilt to the Indo-Pacific’, explaining what additional resources will be committed to the region, what regions or budgets they will be drawn from, and for what specific gain.

ii)The UK cannot ‘tilt’ to the Indo-Pacific without a strong base in Europe: both are important to UK prosperity and security and reinforce each other. In particular, considering the clout that several European nations exercise in many international bodies, including the UN, the UK will need to find new ways of maintaining its strong ties with European capitals. We recommend that both Europe and the Indo-Pacific be priorities for the UK’s international policy. (Paragraph 15)

13.The UK intends to prioritise its promotion of trade, and trade policy has the capacity to become a significant aspect of the UK’s international influence. But, if it is not coordinated with other UK priorities abroad, then the elevation of trade risks introducing further incoherence into the UK’s international policy. We recommend that the Government delivers even deeper strategic coordination between the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the FCDO to ensure greater policy coherence and impact. (Paragraph 16)

14.We recommend that, as part of its problem-solving and burden sharing role, the FCDO prioritises mediation, conflict resolution, and atrocity prevention. And we recommend that the Government equips the FCDO with an enhanced and institutionalised capability to coordinate with the Ministry of Defence in this space, to maximise the coherence and impact of the UK’s contribution. (Paragraph 17)

15.Soft power is key to the UK’s international influence. It is about much more than culture: the way it is used by some nations suggests it is the entire capability of the state short of war, for others it is the power of attraction. The Government must not become complacent about the UK’s advantages in this space, and the risk of their erosion. It should respond to the desire abroad for the UK to lead, and set a positive example, in new and innovative ways. We recommend that the Government publishes a coherent and credibly resourced soft power strategy. Given the range of contributors to UK soft power and the numbers of HMG Departments involved, we recommend that the Government gives an enhanced coordinating role to FCDO so that this strategy can be implemented in a cohesive and impactful way. (Paragraph 18)

16.We recommend that the UK convene and catalyse negotiations to reform multinational organisations: seeking to maintain their relevance and their benefit for all rather than a few. Our Committee will examine this subject, and make more detailed recommendations, through its inquiry into ‘The UK’s role in strengthening multilateral organisations’. (Paragraph 19)

17.The UK should use its convening power and thought leadership to bring together nimble networks of like-minded nations by agreeing a baseline for cooperation between them. These coalitions would be open, issue-based, fleet-footed, overlapping, and even temporary: a ‘vari-lateral’ system. (Paragraph 20)

18.We welcome the Government’s commitment to make global health security and working to counter climate change priorities within the UK’s international policy. Our Committee will examine these subject areas through its inquiries into ‘Environmental diplomacy’ and ‘Global health security’. (Paragraph 21)

19.We recommend that:

i)The UK use its convening power and thought leadership to seek agreement for regulations relating to frontier sectors such as emerging technologies, the cyber and space domains: mitigating threats by agreeing standards and allowing states instead to access opportunities for exchange, innovation, and mutual benefit.

ii)The Government should establish diplomatic missions to the leading technology companies: achieving their cooperation in setting the rules and standards for the development of new technology and outer space, and using the UK’s values as well as its reputation for fair regulation to enhance international cooperation within these frontier spaces. (Paragraph 22)

Published: 22 October 2020