‘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.