This publication recommends how the UK Government can decide the principles and values that should underpin its concept of Global Britain’ and provides some strong suggestions of what they should be, set in the context of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. The Integrated Review takes place not only in the wake of Brexit, COVID-19 and economic turmoil but in the global context of eroding in confidence in liberal democracy and the buckling of the rule-based world order, challenged by authoritarians such revisionist powers Russia and China.
The publication argues that there is a strong moral and strategic case for putting the defence of liberal democracy and open societies at the heart of UK foreign policy. It argues that the UK should take advantage of its new comparative diplomatic freedoms to be more nimble and able to take a lead on these issues. It welcomes the Government’s commitment that ‘the UK will remain distinctively open and global, working with our allies as a problem-solving and burden-sharing nation’, and argues that as an internationally focused middle power it should renew its commitment to a rule-based international order, putting in the hard yards behind the scenes working with partners and institutions both old and new to show it is still committed to multilateralism.
It recognises and examines the crucial importance of listening to the views of the British people and working with them to improve accountability and policy sustainability. However, there will be times when the Government will need to lead, using public diplomacy to better inform its own citizens.
It argues that having a clearly defined set of core principles and priorities- a ‘Global Britain values statement’- would make it easier to assess policy compliance and coherence against them. It would help give UK foreign policy both an ethical foundation- upon which its approach is built- and ensure there is an ethical core running through each policy, providing a solid structure around which to build Global Britain. It would also help UK policy makers and diplomats more effectively use the full range of tools available to the new FCDO and across government (including its newly independent trade policy) to better support those clearly articulated values.
It recommends that in the Government’s Integrated Review and future foreign policy it should:
- actively engage the British public in developing foreign policy, looking to ‘listen, reflect, explain, and respond’ to their concerns to enhance decision legitimacy and longevity, while conducting ‘public diplomacy’ to them to improve public understanding on strategic issues;
- organise a coherent strategic response to the global erosion of liberal democracy and the buckling of the rule-based world order in the face of revisionist powers and systemic decline;
- continue to ‘get its own house in order’ particular on areas of transparency and anti-corruption to enhance its soft power and ability to promote its values;
- cultivate democratic solidarity and with like-minded consolidated democracies within international institutions, and through ‘mission-coalitions’ and other ad hoc partnerships;
- support international mechanisms that defend and promote democratic and human rights values, rooted in the principles of informed popular consent and universal capabilities;
- draft a Global Britain values statement that clearly articulates the principles and values it wants to be the ethical foundation of its approach to the world;
- use a Global Britain values test and ‘social value approach’ to decision making to ensure an ethical core to each foreign policy decision; and
- develop a whole of government approach ensuring that the institutional structures and all available policy tools, including trade policy, can support this agenda.
Image by OPCW under (CC).