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What are the challenges facing foreign policy?: A discussion

Updated Wednesday 31st October 2018

What are the aims of UK foreign policy and how is Britain hoping to respond to rapidly changing global politics? These are just two of the questions asked by Dr William Brown to Tom Cargill and Dr Victoria Honeyman. 

 

Dr Victoria Honeyman, Tom Cargill and Dr William Brown in the audio booth Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Dr Victoria Honeyman, Tom Cargill and Dr William Brown

Tom is the Executive Director of the British Foreign Policy Group, a think tank that aims to promote informed discussion of Britain’s foreign policy. Victoria is a lecturer in politics at the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds, and writes extensively on UK foreign policy. Victoria is also the Chair of the Foreign Policy Working Group of the British International Studies Association.

Transcript

 

WILLIAM BROWN
Hello and welcome. In this discussion, we’re going to be exploring British foreign policy, what are the aims of foreign policy, how is Britain hoping to respond to the rapidly changing politics, the international system, and what are the key challenges that need to be overcome. Helping to answer these questions, we have with us today Tom Cargill and Dr Victoria Honeyman. Tom is the Executive Director of the British Foreign Policy Group, a think tank that aims to promote informed discussion of Britain’s foreign policy. Victoria is a lecturer in politics at the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds, and writes extensively on UK foreign policy. Victoria is also the Chair of the Foreign Policy Working Group of the British International Studies Association. 

Now I want to begin by asking what may seem a very basic or fundamental question, or obvious question in some ways, but what do we mean by foreign policy? Tom, do you want to start us off? 

TOM CARGILL
Yes, and that’s often, it’s a big question. So for me, and different people have different answers for this, but for me foreign policy is everything that happens internationally that has some relevance to the UK. So, when I’m talking with audiences across, who aren’t from within the foreign policy world, I tend to refer to foreign policies about our trade, about our diplomacy, but also about our security, our soft power cultural issues, human rights, a whole broad range of issues, anything really that touches on our lives here in the UK. 

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
It is essentially the most fundamental question, but also the trickiest question about what should foreign policy be, what is foreign policy? I’d largely agree with Tom that is anything that happens outside of our borders, but I think that over time it has been cut away at and salami sliced in that way. So, different elements are dealt with by different organisations: the Department for Trade and Industry take certain elements; the Department for International Development take certain elements. And I tend to think of foreign policy as being the umbrella under which all of that sits, and the Foreign Office, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been the bit that kind of sits where nobody else does. So it picks up those things that are not covered by the DTI or DFID or the Department for Environment, for example, and it fills those gaps sometimes in a very practical way, sometimes in a more policy leading way. But, as Tom said, it depends on who you talk to as to what foreign policy actually looks like: is it a very inclusive view or is it a far more reduced view of foreign policy? 

WILLIAM BROWN
So we could think about foreign policy as all the policies relating to the international environment across all those issue areas, or we could think of it as the more narrow strategic focus of what provides the direction across those different policy areas.

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
I think so. And if you think about something like foreign policy as a general sweep, that isn’t necessarily just being led by the Foreign Office. It’s being led by different departments picking up on their different specialisms, and having to work with each other in order to make sure that the messages that come out from different government departments to our overseas partners are not completely contradictory, because different departments want different things. 

WILLIAM BROWN
Indeed. Can we talk then about the global context for the formation of UK foreign policy? It’s on many counts a difficult time for those who are charged with both making and implementing foreign policy. How would you characterise the contemporary world in which the UK has to pursue its interests through foreign policy? Victoria? 

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
I think that’s another tricky question, in that the contemporary world is forever changing. And I think that Britain’s own relationship to it and Britain’s own self-image is changing within that. We used to know who the enemy was. They used to be in a very specific part of the world. We used to be able to identify them very easily. Now, we have lots of contradictory problems to deal with. The people that are not necessarily on our side are not necessarily the enemy; sometimes they’re just people with different priorities to our own. We’re not dominant enough to be able to always pursue the policies that we want. We have to deal with partners that are much bigger than we are, whether it be militarily, economically. Very often we’re playing a very different game than one that we have been engaged with before. One we should be good at playing. We’ve had plenty of practice over the last 100 years, but sometimes we’re just not that good at it. 

So I think it’s a very difficult time for British foreign policy, because like my answer there is no definitive set of priorities. No definitive set of problems that we can find an answer to. 

WILLIAM BROWN
Tom, there’s multiple agendas that policy has to address today you think. 

TOM CARGILL
Yes, and I mean there are some who would say well the world’s always been complicated hasn’t it, and we look back and it’s easy to make sense of the past and then to lay a narrative on it. Sure. But I do think the world is becoming increasingly complex for a country like the UK now, with a particularly distinct set of challenges. Whether they’re about social and cultural change taking place around the world, whether it’s about the emergence of China as only at the beginning of its development really, but already a major power in the world, whether it’s about the decay of the kind of norms and rules that the UK and many other kind of advanced Western economies took for granted for many years, certainly since the end of the Cold War, all of this is in flux now. And it makes it very difficult I think, particularly in the context, you know, we’ve seen this long crisis since the financial crisis in 2008, and then the election of Donald Trump in the US, and now Brexit itself, there’s this huge raft of challenges coming at us, and it does make it very difficult to prioritise I think. 

WILLIAM BROWN
And the Foreign Office itself describes its policy aims as falling into three different areas. There’s the pursuit of security, of the national security for the UK; there’s the pursuit of prosperity, the welfare of the UK economy; and also the need to protect Britons who are all around the world. Can you say a bit about what falls within each of those boxes if you like? 

TOM CARGILL
So let’s take them each in turn. So security at many levels you would imagine, and you’d be right to imagine that this is something for the military, for the intelligence services perhaps to take a lead on. Police, you could broaden that, Interpol. But actually the Foreign Office is at the front line of a lot of these security issues. Both in terms of trying to prevent them before they become a conflict of course, and diplomacy is still the best tool that we know of to try and avoid conflict in the first place. But also as a way, once there is a conflict, whether it’s directly affecting the UK or indirectly affecting it, to try and resolve it. So that’s a big challenge for the UK. 

In terms of commercial work, prosperity, this is front and centre and huge a challenge for the UK. It has been arguably for some time, but the financial crisis and now Brexit is really focusing minds on the importance of the UK securing the kind of deals, investment, exports that it needs to be able to maintain the standards of living that all of us or most of us take for granted. And that is an increasing challenge in a world where the rules are no longer clear about how you make your way. And then on consular, I mean we live in an increasing globalised society, many of us will have many friends or ourselves travel around the world all the time, whether for work or for pleasure, and being able to keep British citizens safe around the world is a huge challenge for the Foreign Office, particularly at a time when resources and staffing are stretched. 

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
I think it’s interesting that those are the three stated aims of the Foreign Office because I think that they cover a whole gamut of different elements. I don’t think anybody would fundamentally disagree that those are the things that the Foreign Office should be doing. But I think that it also covers things that perhaps the Foreign Office is less willing to publicise when it talks about what it does. So, for example, when it’s dealing with issues of prosperity and security, it’s also essentially not just selling Britain abroad in a financial sense, it’s selling Britain abroad in a kind of identity sense. This is what Britain is. This is what Britain looks like. These are the values that we hold up. It’s dealing with developed nations. It’s dealing with developing nations. It is trying to for example deal with issues with developing countries about building economic relationships. Which is great for Britain, that’s perfect, but there’s the underlying questions about is it doing this in a sense of colonial guilt, or is it doing this in order to keep some kind of semi-informal hold on its empire? There’s an awful lot of different elements of all that. 

So those three categories cover what the Foreign Office do, but they also raise questions in people’s mind about well is that the gamut of the things that they do, are they actually doing other things within those categorisations perhaps in a more quiet sense? Which are good for Britain, like increasing our relationships, particularly economically with developing nations, but are they also fending off bumps in the road that could potentially be ahead if you start to see developing countries perhaps ask some awkward questions about their past? 

WILLIAM BROWN
We’ll come back to that question I think later on because that’s an interesting aspect of the historical background that the Foreign Office carries with it. But just touching on that question of British values, foreign policy is often discussed in terms of national interests, and those are often interpreted in a selfish way: what’s best for Britain; what’s to the most advantage of Britain first. But the UK also emphasises a great deal the promotion of British values. Things like rights, the rules of the international system that Tom mentioned at the start, good governance, democracy and so on. To what extent do they shape foreign policy and what are the problems of bringing that element into policymaking? 

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
In terms of the rules of the game, I suppose, there’s a number of benefits to this for the British. So, for example, if you wish to commercially deal with other nations, it’s always very handy if you have similar ideas of what is normal practice, all of those kind of ideas, but actually it’s very useful for you to be able to shape the game more generally. For you to be able to build relationships, for people to have a shorthand understanding of what you do and what you’re after and what you’re looking for. That all works really extensively and that works for Britain economically. But then there is this bigger question about Britain pushing its ideals. We are a Western democratic country. We hold up our Parliament, we hold up our governing system as being not just the mother of Parliament, but as essentially being one of the most important facets of us as a nation. And in trying to export that, there is the sense in which we are trying to export Britishness.

We’re building up our own international identity, and we are, we hope, trying to improve conditions in other nations. But that word “improve” is a tricky word, because you’re trying to graft your own cultural expectations on other nations who don’t necessarily have those same cultural or religious expectations. So it’s coming I think from a relatively positive place. I hope it isn’t this kind of neo-colonialism. We’re coming at it from the point of view of wanting to improve lives. But it’s improve lives in the way that we see that we want to improve lives, taking our own model and trying to sell it to other nations as brand Britain: we are excellent at all of these things, wouldn’t you like to be excellent at it too? So it’s a bit of a mixed picture I think. 

WILLIAM BROWN
Tom, is that a fair representation do you think? 

TOM CARGILL
Yes, I think that’s a really good explanation of the ambiguities around it. So for instance when I’m talking to audiences who aren’t part of the foreign policy world, you asked them whose interests should UK foreign policy represent: what should it be achieving, aiming to achieve first? And it’s a no brainer for most people. They say it should be the UK’s interests. It should be about the UK, representing the UK and our interests abroad. You ask it to people such as ourselves, even people, whether diplomats or journalists or people professionally involved in the field, think tank people, often you’ll get a much more ambiguous answer. You’ll get a much more nuanced conversation. And often a discomfort with the idea that foreign policy should be there primarily to support the UK’s interests. 

Now, as Victoria said, that’s with very good reason because of the history that we have in the UK, the disparities in power and influence, our colonialism, imperial, that kind of legacy. And it raises for me how in some senses damaging and how challenging it is for a country such as the UK that has that history to escape, for good and for ill, to be able to have an honest conversation about how our interests are served overseas, while at the same time acknowledging that there are broader more global purposes that UK foreign policy should serve, whilst at the same time having reference to UK’s interests within those. 

WILLIAM BROWN
And that’s quite a longstanding tension as well. I mean you can go back to the colonial period, and you get that mix of moral purpose together with national interest, even during the expansion of empire, particularly in relation to questions such as the abolition of slavery. 

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
But maybe the ambiguity is the thing. Because if you talk about for example the period of slavery, some of it is self-justification: we’re doing this! And it’s not just because we want to do it, because it’s in our best interests to do it, we’re going to tell ourselves it’s moral. It’s the right thing to do because we’re saving people in some way. Maybe we should be a little bit more make America great again, and we should be really unambiguous in what we’re saying. And we should say actually yes we’re doing this to line our own pockets. We’re doing this because we’re British, and the Foreign Office and our foreign policy should be about improving our lives, and all of this kind of moralistic grandstanding, we’re just going to put that to the side. And we should be really direct about it. Because foreign policy has traditionally been shrouded in this kind of elitist language, elitist approach, you know, a British government foreign policy is pretty much the most elite. It’s done by experts far away in exotic places. So maybe we should be a little bit more unambiguous about it and say actually yeah we don’t care about the rest of the world, or we do care about the rest of the world. But, you know, maybe pick a team.

WILLIAM BROWN
One or the other.

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
Yeah!

TOM CARGILL
I think that’s right. And I think Victoria’s point about how foreign policy, the process of making foreign policy and deciding what the UK’s interests are internationally, still, despite the fact that it’s changing, we’ll maybe talk about that in a bit, still remains one of the almost most 19th century top-down elitist areas of policymaking in the UK, one which in other areas of life probably would not be tolerated in a democratic society. And that’s with no criticism to the people involved in it, it’s just it’s seen as this kind of remote specialist area, as Victoria said. And that sets up these I think ambiguities, what could be perceived as hypocrisies. Because often when I think talking publicly about foreign policy, maybe because there’s a sensitivity, a kind of embarrassment or a need to keep people at a distance, the rhetoric of foreign policy is often about Britain’s global role, what we give to the world, shared interests, shared values; when in private often there’ll be much more straightforward conversations about what is in our interests. And maybe actually we should be a bit more honest and turn those around. And perhaps the public would respond much more enthusiastically, because people aren’t stupid. People I think do perceive that there’s hypocrisy behind some of this. But it’s hypocrisy of rhetoric often more than hypocrisy of reality. 

WILLIAM BROWN
And is that notion of foreign policy as something elitist, is that being addressed, is there an awareness of a need to open it up if you like, within government circles? 

TOM CARGILL
Well my view is that yes. And that this is changing very quickly. Not fast enough, but it is changing very quickly, and there’s a huge cultural change going on within the Foreign Office and within government actually that there’s probably not enough external understanding, scrutiny or recognition of the vast change going on underway. And this is partially generational. I think the move from people who were born in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, to those who were born in the ‘70s and even ‘80s coming into leadership positions, I mean there’s such a vast change in outlooks for that generational shift, and that’s now finding its way even into the Foreign Office. And much more of an embracing of the importance of diversity and understanding the complexities of the UK that the Foreign Office is representing. And this is a key point because I think there’s often been a criticism that the Foreign Office doesn’t understand the UK very much a lot of the time. Even internally there’s that recognition. And what’s the reason for that, because diplomats spend a lot of their time abroad. And ironically as there’s more cuts to the Foreign Office, and so people aren’t being able to be posted abroad as much, you’re actually getting a Foreign Office that does understand the UK, including the burdens and costs of not having enough resources and money. So there is this shift going on which I think is really interesting to see.

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
I do agree with all of that, but I think perhaps I’m slightly more negative about it. Because I think you’re right, I think the people are changing. You’re beginning to see a whole new generation of civil servants. And the idea of the foreign policy view, which is essentially driven by civil servants, is changing. But I tend to think that the limitations of the game have not changed. The parameters in which these things still exist are exactly the same as they have been for the last 40 years, which were not that dissimilar from the 100 years that went before it, despite the huge global changes that have gone on. And therefore I think that, I think that change is filtering through, I don’t think it’s filtering through fast enough. I think that there are people in different roles in the Foreign Office who would like to see the leadership of the Foreign Office and the Foreign Office as an entity move faster in newer directions than it is. And it will get there, whether or not it will still be relevant to get there when they get there I think is a different question. 

But I tend to think that the issues with the leadership of the Foreign Office, how it ties into government, the issue of the Foreign Secretary and essentially the global vision of the Foreign Office I don’t think has changed as much as it should, or as quickly as the people who occupy those positions of middle management are almost nudging up. Because they’re not quite upper echelon yet, and I don’t think those people have changed so much. I don’t think that the world in which some of those people exist is quite the same Britain as the world in which I live or you live Will, or you live Tom. 

TOM CARGILL
Yes, I think that’s right. And you look at the Foreign Office and it’s almost, you see this kind of desire and urge for cultural change that hasn’t yet quite made it to that. It’s kind of pregnant with change, but it’s not yet developed into a genuine transformative institutional change. I think that’s absolutely right. 

WILLIAM BROWN
OK. We’ve talked a bit about the context for UK foreign policy, the aims of UK foreign policy, and some of the difficulties of articulating those aims internally. Can I now turn to Britain’s standing in the world at large, because as I’m sure the Foreign Office itself would recognise Britain’s no longer the preeminent power that it was at the turn of the century. It’s not even as significant a power I think as it was at the end of the Second World War. So to what extent can we really expect Britain to be able to achieve its aims abroad? What sources of power and influence can it use, what sources of power and influence can it seek to develop in order to achieve those aims internationally? 

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
I think that’s a really difficult question. Because I think that there’s no empirical measure other than how much a country generates as part of its gross domestic products, which is not necessarily a good measure. Therefore it becomes a question of perception: where do you perceive yourself to be in a game where there’s no real measurement and no real rules? Britain has had to accept the fact that it is not a super power, it gets that. But I do tend to think that while recognising that we are a middle power. That we like to think we’re kind of the top shelf of the middle power. We’re almost clinging on to elements of our great nation status, just by virtue of having once had it. And we use our relationship with the United States. We use our permanency on the UN Security Council. We use the fact that we are a nuclear nation. We use our membership of NATO, of IMF, of the World Bank. We use all of those things in order to be able to say look how great we are. We’re one of the G7, or we’re one of the G8. And we tell ourselves that that is who we are as a nation. We’re not the superpower but we’re kind of almost there. 

We’re like their junior partner. I think that was William Hague’s kind of idea. I’m not entirely sure that that is helpful for us as a narrative as a nation. Because I think that by clinging onto old versions of yourself as a nation, and being able to kind of pull out those ideas of the bulldog spirit, and winning the Second World War, all of which were incredible achievements, victories and magnificent achievements, I don’t necessarily think it helps us to recognise the issues that we have in our current situation, where we are essentially in some ways at the mercy of the United States in order to push things at the UN Security Council, in order to push things on a greater stage. And I don’t know how you square that circle. I don’t know how you suddenly admit one day we’re not quite the power that we thought we were, when we still have some of those vestiges of power, we’re still a member of the Commonwealth, and we still have our P5 membership, but I don’t think that we’re doing ourselves any favours by clinging onto those old glories. 

WILLIAM BROWN
Tom? 

TOM CARGILL
I agree with that, although I’d slightly turn it around. Victoria spoke a number of times about clinging on. There is this real problem of rhetoric and history, and where the UK has come from. But I think by any measure we’re still one of the certainly top 10 countries in the world in terms of ability to project influence, fifth or sixth largest economy, probably one of only three or four countries able to project force with some significance around the world, the membership of all of those organisations that Victoria listed. You know, to me this does not come across as sounding like a middle ranking power in all of that that it might imply in terms of just being kind of running along with the pack. I think the UK retains a huge amount of influence if it wishes to project it. But then again as Victoria said it’s like how you define that influence and how you use it is often, it’s often a question of perception. And the way that we project that influence and use those assets that we still have, whether we cling onto them, or whether we choose to boost them in some way imaginatively, or whether we choose to add to them in different ways, that’s about our sense of ourselves and what we want to achieve in the world, both on our own behalf and for global interest.

And I feel that’s the conversation that we’re not really having in the UK. And it’s almost the elephant in the room behind Brexit. Since the end of the Cold War arguably, since the financial crisis, and this issue that we were talking about earlier of generational change going on, you know, thinking through imaginatively and constructively what do we actually want to do with the position and influence that we have. Whether it’s declining, or whether it’s rising, or whatever it is, what do we want to achieve? And I find it interesting that that’s something you don’t really see being discussed very much in the newspapers or in the media. 

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
Absolutely not, and I think it’s something that Britain would benefit from hugely. And I think that you’re right generally, I think it depends on how you view Britain. If you want to take the long view it’s a question of decline. We’ve gone from being a great empire state and all of those things, to being a more middle ranking power. But we’re still in a position that many, many, many countries would wish to be in. We’re economically strong. We have lots of membership of big key organisations. But I’m not sure that we’ve had those conversations with ourselves about who we want to be as a nation, what we want to pursue as a nation, what we think our, not just in our best interests in a very self-interested pragmatic way about what’s coming up, but about who we want to be. The kind of thing of do we want to be the voice of the developing world, which was Tony Blair’s big idea for Africa. Do we want to be somebody who is pushing at a particular foreign policy agenda, because we think it’s the thing that we ought to do? We’re not really having those conversations. 

WILLIAM BROWN
OK. One of the questions that came up before was the role of Britain’s imperial past in contemporary foreign policy. And we’ve talked a bit just now about the perceptions of Britain and its standing in the world. How far does that imperial past impinge on the making of foreign policy today, and particularly from the view of developing countries? If you posed the question why should developing countries pay any attention to what Britain is trying to do through its foreign policy? 

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
Tom earlier was saying about the generational changes at the Foreign Office, and I think that that’s absolutely true. I think that the Foreign Office is not filled with individuals who come from a colonial era. Or even from the post Second World War era where you have the empire turning into the Commonwealth. They come from a very different era. And therefore I think that they are politically aware of the situation, but they’re politically sensitive to the situation. But inevitably any country that has a colonial past, not just Britain but other nations as well, it feeds into their foreign policy generally. So for example if you look at the list of donors that DFID gives money to, a large proportion of the top 10 are former British colonies. And that is true for many former colonial countries. I think that it can on occasion make us cautious. I think it can on occasion mean that we measure what we say far more than we would do. And I think that Gordon Brown’s discussion, things like the situation with Mugabe in Zimbabwe was a perfect example, because we know what the criticism is going to be. 

We know that we’re going to be accused of neo-colonialism. I don’t think that as a country we shy away quite as much as we could do. I think that we still wish to be seen as being principled. We’re still very keen to sell our ideals and or principles across the world. But I do think that the people that make those decisions are aware of the way in which they can be viewed overseas. And on occasion I think it can make us a bit cautious.

WILLIAM BROWN
Tom? 

TOM CARGILL
I think this is a really good example of where the foreign policy we project is also a reflection of who we are as a country, and the two things are intimately connected to each other. And, as Victoria said, the generation who are now coming to positions of seniority in the Foreign Office are from a very different UK to that of even arguably 15-20 years ago. They represent and increasingly are drawn from a much more diverse multicultural UK, globalised connections around the world. And many of those connections and people, communities in the UK, also have links to parts of the world which were former colonies of the UK. And their experience I think is incredibly valuable in all of this. It doesn’t make it any more straightforward, it doesn’t simplify it, in many ways it makes it more complicated, but it does make it a much less good and bad discussion about the UK’s responsibilities with regards to the rest of the world former colonial powers, because we have British communities who were also colonised by the elites of the British Empire. And it brings in a very different dynamic I think when you recognise that those people you are representing in UK foreign policy just as much as you are people who are descended from people who were colonial administrators themselves, or who benefited directly from colonialism. And this is the complexity of representing the UK in 2018/2019. 

WILLIAM BROWN
But that process of change isn’t just about the personnel within policymaking circles, and the population of the UK; it’s also change external to Britain as well. It’s changing attitudes from those former colonies, there’s generational changes among the elites of some of those developing counties and that alters the dynamic as well doesn’t it? 

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
It does. So for example when David Cameron went to Jamaica and was challenged about his family’s past on slavery and issues relating to reparations, there is an awful lot of growing upset. Britain has so far, like many former colonial empires, managed to kind of side step the issue, and essentially pointed to things that it’s doing positively. Well it might have all been terrible 200 years ago, but look at the magnificent things that we’re doing now. But I don’t think that we’ve, I think that what we’ve both alluded to is that Britain isn’t entirely comfortable with its colonial past, we haven’t quite figured out how to it, and not just our colonial past but our historical past generally, and I think that the Windrush scandal has been a way in which this has kind of hit home. We have people who have been living in this country for many years, and we’re still not entirely sure whether we view them as being British citizens or we don’t view them as being British citizens. Or the government at least doesn’t seem comfortable with that; I think the population at large might be slightly different.

But there is this view that we’re not entirely comfortable. And we’re still dealing with the repercussions because this is normal people’s lives. Whether they be here, or whether they be in a former British colony, or whether they’ve just been a part of the world where Britain wants to engage in new relationships, very rarely do you start with a clean slate, so you always have to try and figure out how you got to where you are at this moment. And I don’t think we’ve entirely kind of put that to bed, nor do I think that we will in the near future. 

WILLIAM BROWN
Thank you. To wrap up this discussion one final question I’d like you to speculate slightly. If you think about the next five to 10 years at least, what would be the one or two, three key challenges you think UK foreign policy is going to have to address? Tom, do you want to go first? 

TOM CARGILL
I think it’s, so there’s an external challenge and an internal challenge. Externally I think it’s trying to bring up new tools in a box, new ways that we can address some of the huge challenges out there. Whether it’s climate change, organised crime, emerging powers, some of which want to upend or undermine the rules based international system. Our relationship with Europe, rebuilding that. There’s a huge range of international challenges that the UK has to face with diminished resources. Internally I think it’s this question that we’ve talking about, about how do we reconcile ourselves to our past, celebrate what we want to but recognise the challenges that are there, and rebuild ourselves as a 21st century country in this increasingly complex world. Because I think without doing that we’re going to struggle to be able to address some of these vast challenges that are coming our way. 

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
I agree with all of that, so I’m going to add a couple more in just for good measure. I think that the emerging nations is going to be a big concern: countries that we consider to perhaps not have views similar to our own such as China; countries that we like to think are a little bit more similar to us in our viewpoints such as India. If you look at India, you’re beginning to see they’re flexing their muscles. They are not simply going to be guided by us in some kind of paternalistic relationship. They want to do what is in the best interests of their own nations. And I think that the emerging nations are going to be difficult. Some of them will want to upend the system entirely. Some of them will simply want their voice to be heard. So issues like membership of the UN Security Council for example. I think that there are other problems that we’re going to need to face. The movement of, for example the far right and the far left in certain countries I think is going to be a big concern across the board.

But I think that we’re beginning to see people becoming more polarised. It will be interesting to see whether that lasts or not, but that could be another challenge. And I think the issue of internet security, internet terrorism, the rise of all of those kind of issues, which we’re already seeing obviously from Russia, but also from China, I think that those are going to be the big issues. You know, the Foreign Office is a small spending department. They have to do an awful lot with not an awful lot, and I think that that will just make everything more complicated. 

WILLIAM BROWN
OK. Thank you very much. We’ve covered an enormous range of topics here, looking at UK foreign policy from the inside as well as the external challenges it faces. So I just want to thank you, Tom and Victoria, for your contributions today. 

DR VICTORIA HONEYMAN
Thank you.

TOM CARGILL
Thank you.

Tom Cargill is author of 'Rising Power: Revitalising British Foreign Policy for a New Global Era'. Find out more about the British Foreign Policy Group

Victoria Honeyman is author of numerous publications including the 2017 article, 'From liberal interventionism to liberal conservatism: The short road in foreign policy from Blair to Cameron’. Find out more about her research

 

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