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Partnerships for the future of UK Foreign Policy: Executive Summary

Article by Adam Hug

December 16, 2020

Partnerships for the future of UK Foreign Policy: Executive Summary

After a prolonged period of introspection and tensions with longstanding partners, this publication shows the many different ways in which a Global Britain can reinvigorate its relationships with allies, alliances and institutions. The UK can show that it is willing to do the hard work to retain and build alliances with like-minded countries to make regional and global systems work in both the national and international interest. In order to build trust the UK should demonstrate that it still believes in the intrinsic value of international cooperation as more than simply an instrumental tool in its foreign policy kit because as an internationally focused middle power the UK benefits enormously from promoting wider global acceptance of international institutions and established norms.


Irrespective of the UK’s Asia-Pacific aspirations, the UK’s security priorities are still overwhelmingly focused on Europe and so the UK needs to find a new way of working with the EU once the current sound and fury has subsided. This can start at an operational level where UK Embassies and EU Delegations can re-establish cooperation and information sharing on the ground in third countries and international institutions. In the future it may be possible to revisit issues such as formal foreign policy and security cooperation, as part of a future EU-UK Partnership and Cooperation Agreement or Strategic Partnership. Irrespective of the state of UK-EU relations Britain will need to redouble its efforts in the other European focused forums such as NATO, the OSCE and Council of Europe, with an emphasis on supporting the work these institutions do to promote democratic values.


Globally the UK must build on its strong position at the UN and take full advantage of its leadership of both the COP and G7 in 2021 to set out an ambitious agenda for the UK’s future foreign policy. It should seek to build on ideas around a ‘Democracies-10’ (D10), by promoting expanded G7 membership to include South Korea and Australia. It should find new ways to promote engagement with the democracies of the global south and support UK NGOs and institutions such as the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to play a bigger role in democracy promotion. The UK will need to work flexibly and creatively with longstanding partners in new formats such as the Alliance for Multilateralism, the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) coalition, as well continuing current efforts to build greater collaboration between the ‘CANZUK’ countries, though recognising the geographic and economic limitations to the scale of such ambitions.


Based on the findings put forward in this collection, there are a number of recommendations that the UK Government and other partners could consider including:

  • Finding a future framework for UK-EU cooperation in foreign and security policy and other non-trade areas, while rebuilding operational-level information sharing and cooperation;
  • Enhancing parliamentary cooperation between the UK and European Parliaments and strengthening UK delegations to the NATO, OSCE and CoE Parliamentary Assemblies;
  • Funding projects conducted by the OSCE and Council of Europe’s human rights mechanisms and supporting election observers as well as secondments and leadership candidacies;
  • Working with the Commonwealth on modern slavery and supply chains, while promoting the Commonwealth Charter and the use of aid and trade to improve compliance with its principles;
  • Using the UK Presidency of the G7 to refocus the organisation as the group of leading democracies by expanding its membership to include South Korea and Australia, while reinvigorating outreach to global south democracies;
  • Supporting the UK’s role in democracy promotion by supporting British NGOs and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy; and
  • Working creatively with forums like the Alliance for Multilateralism and the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) coalition, while developing further CANZUK cooperation.
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