Phillip Hammond

Phillip Hammond

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, UK


The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP was appointed Foreign Secretary on 15 July 2014. He was previously Secretary of State for Transport from May 2010, when he was appointed as a Privy Counsellor. Prior to this, he held a number of shadow portfolios. He was elected to Parliament in 1997 and was appointed Secretary of State for Defence in 2011. Outside politics, he had a business career in small and medium-sized companies in manufacturing, consultancy, property and construction, and oil and gas, both in the UK and abroad. He studied politics, philosophy and economics at University College, Oxford. 
Robin Niblett

Dr Robin Niblett CMG

Director, Chatham House


Robin Niblett became the director of Chatham House in January 2007.Before joining Chatham House, between 2001 and 2006, he was the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).During his last two years at CSIS, he also served as director of the CSIS Europe Program and its Initiative for a Renewed Transatlantic Partnership.He is a frequent panellist at conferences and events around the world and has testified on a number of occasions to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as US Senate and House of Representatives Committees on European Affairs.He received his BA, MPhil and DPhil from New College, Oxford.Download Robin's full biography (PDF)

Video highlight


‘We should be thinking of the EU as an organization that we can shape.’

Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, UK


Key discussion points

Lack of support for foreign ventures in the UK and US will not last forever.  There has been an observable change in public mood in the UK regarding international engagements, but this does not mean that Britain is inexorably in retreat from a global role.

Commercial diplomacy is a reality. Britain’s focus on commercial interests has the potential to jeopardize other foreign policy priorities, but equally commercial ties could be used to  leverage other foreign policy objectives and do not necessarily represent a threat or substitute to other, arguably more ‘value-based,’ goals.

Britain’s bilateral relationships remain of the highest importance. The ability to continue to cultivate these relationships is the key issue at stake when considering the budget of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Britain continues to benefit in multiple ways from EU membership. It remains in the economic interest of the UK to be a part of the EU, assuming the EU remains outward looking and interested in the globalization of the economy. The EU provides the UK and other European nations an invaluable set of non-military tools that can be used to punish foreign governments in violation of their international agreements. This has been brought to bear in Ukraine, where sanctions remain Britain and the EU’s primary response.

Britain should think positively about engagement with Europe. As one of the largest economies in the EU, the UK is in a position to more greatly shape the direction of the organization than it has in recent years.

Britain’s soft power is still underpinned by hard power. While Britain has provided mediation in some niche conflict areas, its military signature is important to the role it plays, or could potentially play, in the world. Specifically, the UK’s nuclear deterrent amplifies, rather than undermines, its ability to effect soft power influence.

US strategy may not have changed as much as it seems. While the US has seemed less inclined to unilateralism and more inclined to act as a facilitator that pulls together coalitions of interest, it is too early to distinguish what is a change of national mood from what is the opinion of the current president.

A decline in US power is not inevitable. America still retains wealth, vast resources and deep resilience. 

Session video