Understanding British Foreign Policy Today

  • ORIENTUL EXTINS
  • 0
  • 1346 Views
  • 31 July 2017

Britain’s Foreign Office and diplomatic service have a proud history. Moreover, Britain’s engagement with the outside world goes back a few thousand years. These islands have historically been good at absorbing external influences within and influencing the internal situation of others.

One hundred years ago, I would be writing about the glorious empire on which the sun never sets, and the growing fortunes of our war against Germany. This was a time when Britain was looked to as the center of geopolitics and the map was red.

How times have changed!

In the recent-ish past Britain has re-asked the questions ‘who are we?’ and ‘what are we for?’ Be sure, Iraq has left a sour taste in the mouths of the British people and created a more cautious approach from the state in foreign interventions. Look at Libya and Syria. Yet as we try to figure out what we want from Europe, British foreign policy is at a tremendous standstill by a fork in the road. What we once were cannot be returned to (however much UKIP and the Tory right would like), but at the same time, the road ahead is not obvious or clear-cut.

Of course, the United Kingdom is one of the Big Five on the UN Security Council, but the response to that seems to be so what? It is not enough for many. The loss of empire and growing ties to Europe since created the impression that we are no longer the great and influential power we once were. But this is just a scratch on the bonnet.

In brutal terms, British foreign policy in the twenty first century is short-term in focus and aims. Currently, it centers on Brexit, migration and trade. These are not visions of Britain, rather self-inflicted issues. We have always been a maritime trading hub, but what is never considered is what trade means. Suppose a post-Brexit Britain leaves the European Single Market. What does trade with, for example, the Eurasian Economic Union mean or say about us? The answer is nothing. Trading more with America means nothing but trade.

The Brexit negotiations are not showing global leadership or obvious glories ahead – they are a chaotic shambles. This is not my opinion; it is a clear to anyone paying attention. Moreover, the idea of Europe will not just go away because Britain decides to revoke its club membership. European problems will always seek Britain’s voice. Other long-term problems such as climate change, terror and so on require the involvement and co-operation of the UK. This is the main problem of a short-term approach. What is Britain’s voice for if it cannot think ahead?

Let’s now look at the political context. Parties generally avoid issues like civil atrocities overseas. The reason is actually quite simple. In a democracy, the people set the agenda. The electorate are less likely to hear of civil atrocities or human rights abuses, and therefore, do not care. Domestic issues such as health and housing then become highly politicised as a result.

There is ample proof of this. Firstly, during any election campaign, foreign policy sections are often at the back of manifestos. Even when it comes up in public events, questions tend to be generalised and are satisfied with sound bite answers. Jeremy Corbyn for instance was asked whether or not he would use nuclear weapons by two elderly working class gentlemen. All they wanted to hear was ‘yes’, not an in depth analysis of various scenarios that may arise. However, during the 2017 general election, what lost it for the Conservatives was domestic issues, not Brexit. Likewise, Labour’s stance on immigration alienated some voters, but not enough to swing the election.

This is significant however, because when issues at home become more politicised it detracts from any progress on international matters of common interest. Brexit is struggling because it became politically toxic at home, thus, the parties refuse to work together and disagree too much amongst themselves. The reality is Brexit will not change things back to the way they were nor will remaining in the EU deliver us from evil.

What Britain has lacked for a long time is a wider more rounded discussion of foreign policy and international affairs. The population feels less affected by foreign policy so show little interest. As such, the population is ready to believe the worst lies and a great deal of hypocrisy runs through public opinion. Different countries are held to different and double standards. Then again, one might argue this demonstrates that international relations do not really exist; there are only national interests.

Although, this lack of discussion around foreign policy is a drawback of democracy itself. British governments (usually) serve for five years. A party could be voted out at any time and therefore any changes must be immediately effective. That means long-term planning is not doable and foreign policy suffers the most and changes little from one government to the next. Also, as the population is largely indifferent, parties can avoid discussing it altogether. The Liberal Democrats have in the last three general elections. After all, elections are fought on the economy, not foreign policy or social issues.

Britain is now something of a second tier global leader. The world still looks to us for answers, just not the same as it does the US or even Germany. This reality causes us a headache. Our diplomatic service is massively respected worldwide, yet the population does not see our government as respectable or acting as a global leader. We stand up on certain issues but not others the government would gain a lot of support for. To top it off, the British media rarely challenges foreign policy decisions unless controversial.

The UK could be ‘the shining city on a hill’ in many areas of foreign policy, but unfortunately, we are too consumed with our own nonsense to think ahead.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

AVENUES FOR A WAY-OUT FROM RUSSIA – EU STALEMATE

  • 0
  • 121 Views
  • 2 July 2020

PASHENTSEV, EVGENY (ED.), 2020.  STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION IN EU-RUSSIA RELATIONS.  PALGRAVE MACMILLAN

This book  , edited by Evgeny Pashentsev, brings together a series of chapters written by Russian and non-Russian scholars

citește mai mult

The Past and Contemporary Russia

  • 0
  • 260 Views
  • 18 June 2020

The breakaway region of South Ossetia announced in May that its capital, Tskhinvali, would also be known as Stalinir.  Co-naming the capital after the former Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, its president – Anatolii Bibilov – stated in his decree that the move was to 'preserve historical memory in connection with the 75th anniversary of  Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945'  – until it had

citește mai mult

Review: The Russians – A Journey From Cradle To Grave

  • 0
  • 666 Views
  • 15 April 2020

Most documentaries about Russia tend to fixate around Vladimir Putin, the former KGB spy turned president, who is clamping down on Russian society and chipping away at its democratic institutions. On occasion, we get non-Russian experts like Stacey Dooley covering the controversial, such as far right groups, anti-gay laws and domestic abuse. Every so often, one appears that actually attempts to cover normal everyday life away from the Kremlin and controversy (thou

citește mai mult

Azebaijan, cheia geostrategică a Asiei Centrale

  • 0
  • 1842 Views
  • 13 February 2018

După destrămarea URSS, Azerbaijanul a fost statul ex-sovietic care alături de    republicile Baltice a avut o dezvoltare constantă și durabilă. Desigur, aici pot fi adresate unele critici regimului de la Baku cu privire la democrație, care în opinia multor analiști este doar mimată la Baku. Însă faptul adevărat este că acest stat a reușit să își gestioneze eficient resursele de care dispune pentru a deveni o societate prosperă. I se atribuie Azerbaijanului etichet

citește mai mult

What Can Democrats Learn From Alabama’s Doug Jones?

  • 0
  • 1997 Views
  • 30 November 2017

In ordinary circumstances, Doug Jones would already be preparing to move to Washington DC. The former prosecutor famous for convicting KKK members for a church bombing is up against gay bashing, God and gun lovin’, twice kicked out of elected office, Judge Roy Moore. A man who has eight accusers of sexual assault, all of whom were underage at the time of the allegations.

Yet, if one looks at all the recent polls, they show a ti

citește mai mult

Azerbaidjanul, petrolul și românii

  • 0
  • 2407 Views
  • 7 October 2016

Întotdeauna, statele sunt nevoite să își apere poziția pe marea tablă a geopoliticii, uitându-se cu grijă la vecini, dar și la puterile regionale. Această regulă presupune nu doar poziția ofensivă, ci și valorificare atuurilor, astfel încât să devină piese care contează pe „câmpul de analiză”, iar nu elemente neglijabile, care sunt măturate dintr-o dată de cei ce au suficientă putere să mânuiască piesele.

Caucazul, ca regiune geopolitică, nu face nici ea excepție

citește mai mult

Coronavirus Pandemics, Huawei 5G Technologies, Artificial Intelligence and Psychological Operations

  • 0
  • 441 Views
  • 21 April 2020

Introduction  [1]

The United States is gradually and more clearly losing its first place in scientific and technological progress and innovation to China. One of the latest examples of this: the World Intellectual Property Organization, which oversees a system for countries to share recognition of patents, said 58,990 applications were filed from China last year, overtaking the United States which filed 57,

citește mai mult

Impeached: a detailed look at the ambiguous role of the Chief Justice

  • 0
  • 703 Views
  • 12 January 2020

The House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on two counts; abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. It must now settle on a team of 'impeachment managers' to make the case against President Trump in a trial. The House is set transfer impeachment over to the Senate for said trial in the coming days.

The United States Senate has the power to try all impeachments and must do so under oath or affirmation

citește mai mult

A scandal is brewing between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates

  • 0
  • 1395 Views
  • 24 July 2019

The Al Arabiya news agency, citing the New York Times, has published information about Qatar’s involvement in the terrorist attacks in Somalia on objects belonging to the United Arab Emirates.

In particular, the article deals with secret negotiations between Qatari entrepreneur Khalif Kayed al-Muhanadi and Qatar’s ambassador to Somalia, Hassan bin Hamza Hashem. During this conversation, which took place on May 18, 2019 and whos

citește mai mult