Three foreign policy priorities for the next UK government

A case for realistic ambition
Research paper Published 14 May 2024 ISBN: 978 1 78413 606 2 DOI: 10.55317/9781784136062
Photo of pedestrians opposite the Houses of Parliament, London, April 2024.

With a general election imminent, it is already clear that the next UK government will take office in an immensely challenging environment for foreign policy. From wars in Gaza and Ukraine to concerns about climate change, China’s assertive global agenda and the durability of America’s commitment to European security, the next UK government will face many pressing international problems and have limited resources with which to tackle them. This paper examines how the next government – regardless of which party wins the election – could use its foreign policy assets to best effect in the context of fiscal and other capacity pressures.

‘Realistic ambition’ should be the guiding principle, with the UK recognizing its limits and constraints but remaining actively engaged and agile in its foreign policy. The paper outlines, in particular, three long-term priorities for foreign policy: navigating unpredictable great power dynamics that are complicated by rising Sino-US tensions; improving the UK’s relations with the EU, in part to offset the risk of reduced US engagement in Europe, and in part to fill post-Brexit policy gaps; and reinvigorating the UK’s role in global governance and international development, an area of historical strength.