1 March 2014


Robin Niblett

Dr Robin Niblett CMG

Director, Chatham House



  1. This submission assesses the extent to which the UK’s soft power will enable it to exert influence within a changing international context, and examines some ways in which UK soft power could be enhanced. I argue that soft power is a core aspect of Britain’s international influence, but that it does not exist distinct from more traditional sources of power. Rather, it is built upon them.
  2. This submission will deal principally with the relationship between the UK’s traditional sources of international influence and its soft power. The submission explores the economic, multilateral and non-state aspects of Britain’s soft power.
  3. Britain has the potential to retain its capacity to enhance its international influence through soft power, even though it faces a number of near-term challenges. In order to live up to its potential, Britain’s leaders must concentrate on three priorities.
  4. The first is to ensure that the UK sets its economy on a path to sustainable and productive growth. Without a strong economic base, Britain’s many attributes for international influence as well as its power of attraction will begin to erode.
  5. Second, the UK will need to leverage its national and diplomatic strengths more proactively and challenge the status quo more frequently if it is to be influential in promoting its values and interests. Britain’s proactive role within the key institutions and relationships that helped promote its interests over the past sixty is a central pillar of its soft power, but that position is now more precarious than ever. In this context, leaving the EU would represent the greatest risk to the UK’s soft power.
  6. Third, the UK government must continue to invest in or create the necessary supportive environment for those organisations and institutions which enhance Britain’s soft power – its universities, the BBC and other UK-based media organisations, the British Council, and the rich mixture of British non-governmental organisations.
This evidence was given to the UK Parliament's Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK's Influence. Read the full report 'Persuasion and Power in the Modern World'.