Global Britain in a divided world is Dr Robin Niblett’s final research paper for Chatham House as director. It assesses the UK’s performance against the objectives outlined in the UK government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, published in March 2021, shortly after the UK formally left the European Union (EU) single market in the final chapter of the Brexit process.
The paper argues Britain has done a credible job of strengthening the liberal democratic community’s voice and security at a time when it was at best in recovery mode, particularly in convening and supporting international responses to COVID-19 and climate change, as well Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
However, to play a constructive long-term role on the world stage, the UK must rebuild its relationship with the EU and avoid being excluded from closer US-EU cooperation. In addition, Brexit has provided some new opportunities to pursue trade deals with countries whose comparative advantages are complimentary to the UK. While these deals will have a minimal economic impact, they could be important for expanding the UK’s geo-economic engagement at a time of intense geopolitical competition.
Lastly, although British soft power appears to have weathered the Brexit storm thus far, this is being undermined by recent severe cuts to foreign assistance and a failure to support refugees. As a solo middle power, accusations of hypocrisy are deeply damaging. Conversely, there will be no more precious asset in the future for Britain’s influence in the world than a reputation for consistency.
A panel of experts join Dr Niblett to explore these issues and others, such as how Britain could help contribute to international efforts to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, and the risks and opportunities of the UK’s ‘tilt’ to the Indo-Pacific.
This event also marks the launch of the UK in the World project which brings together Chatham House’s networks and expert research to identify key priorities, partners, and pathways for the UK to project its values and interests, as well as learn from other countries, as it charts a course in an increasingly fractured and competitive world.
This event is part of Chatham House’s ongoing work on the UK’s role in the world.