1 June 2010


Robin Niblett

Dr Robin Niblett CMG

Director, Chatham House


The report argues that the UK coalition government's international workload is about to increase dramatically - and it urgently needs to upgrade and reform the way it approaches foreign policy.

  • Structural shifts in the global economic and political centre of gravity from West to East, growing competition for natural resources, new risks emanating from the most fragile states and pressure to reform structures of global governance will all affect the UK's long-term security and prosperity.
  • A global role for the UK is therefore a necessity, not a luxury. But its relative place in the world and the legitimacy of its stake in the global system are under serious pressure, not least because of the perceived flaws of the Anglo-Saxon economic model following the global financial crisis.
  • Britain needs to focus on core strategic objectives that go beyond crisis management. Central among these should be the promotion of open markets that can help deliver sustainable global growth even in this period of economic uncertainty.
  • The UK possesses considerable strengths through which it can advance its national interests, particularly in the areas of diplomacy, finance and knowledge. It will remain a top-ten global military power and retains important comparative economic advantages.
  • Britain sits at the heart of the world's leading international organizations and is well placed to deepen its relations with the large number of medium-sized countries in key regions that have traditionally stood back from engaging meaningfully in these institutions, but whose influence is now increasing.

This paper forms part of the project Rethinking the UK's International Ambitions and Choices.


This is a selection of related media coverage generated by the Briefing Paper and the project.

Cameron's 'hard headed' diplomatic strategy, BBC R4, Today Programme, July 29 2010

India-Britain ties, mind the gap, Hindustan Times, July 28 2010

Realism grabs hold of British foreign policy, Financial Times, July 5 2010

UK's new foreign policy 'pre-Cold War', BBC R4, Today Programme, July 1 2010

Hague reasserts role of diplomacy, Financial Times, July 1 2010

Poised for a British-US realignment, Council on Foreign Relations interview, May 5 2010

Does Britain still matter on the world stage?, BBC R4, The World Tonight, May 19 2010

Shrunken ambitions, Financial Times, April 28 2010