To remedy the growing imbalance between its spending on defence, development and diplomacy, the UK government must reverse cuts to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s budget. In the long term, the UK should commit to increase spending on the UK's overall diplomatic effort to 0.2% of GDP.
As the new Strategic Defence and Security Review nears completion, the UK faces a far more unstable world than when it published its last review in 2010. Yet, at the same time, significant cuts have been made to many of the traditional levers of the UK’s influence overseas. While recognising the serious resource pressures that exist, the signatories argue that Britain’s long-term interests in the world do not change amid temporary economic difficulties.
They argue that as one of the most globalised countries in the world, tied by its economy, its people, its institutions and its allies to developments beyond its shores, the UK must remain internationally engaged and committed to multilateralism.
The signatories make a number of recommendations to help ensure the UK lives up to its goals as a constructive force in the world, including:
- Increase spending on the UK’s overall diplomatic effort in the long-term to 0.2% of GDP. In the short-term it is important to avoid further real terms cuts to the UK's spending on the FCO's non-ODA budget in the upcoming spending review.
- Rethink visa policy for international students and commercially-valuable talent, as well as the system of regional visa hubs which mean that decisions on UK visas are often taken in a regional centre by staff with limited knowledge of the country concerned.
- Seek more structured and long-term defence collaboration with EU partners and under EU structures. Britain’s continuing determination to block much European defence cooperation does not serve its own interests and no longer finds favour in Washington.
- Return in a more significant way to participation in UN peacekeeping. It should also be willing to send UK forces to assist with training and strengthening institutions of civil-military cooperation, for example in fragile states in Africa.
- Ensure continued funding of key elements of the UK's soft power such as the BBC World Service and the British Council.
Signatories to the paper
- Professor Malcolm Chalmers Royal United Services Institute
- Professor Paul Cornish RAND Europe
- Dr Jonathan Eyal Royal United Services Institute
- Sir John Grant Former UK Permanent Representative to the EU
- Sir John Holmes Ditchley Foundation
- Laura Kyrke-Smith Portland
- Mark Leonard European Council on Foreign Relations
- Dame Mariot Leslie Former UK Permanent Representative to NATO
- Dr Patricia Lewis Chatham House
- Sir Roderic Lyne Former UK Ambassador to Russia
- Sir David Manning Former UK Ambassador to the United States
- Dame Rosalind Marsden Former EU Special Representative for Sudan and South Sudan
- Dr Robin Niblett Chatham House
- Dr Tim Oliver London School of Economics
- Thomas Raines Chatham House (Rapporteur)
- Philip Stephens Financial Times
- Lord Wallace of Saltaire Former Government Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs in the House of Lords
- Nick Witney European Council on Foreign Relations
- Lord Williams of Baglan Former UN Under-Secretary General, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon
The paper reflects the views of its signatories and not the institutions to which they belong.