Press play to listen to this article
Robin Niblett is director and chief executive of the independent policy institute Chatham House.
LONDON — This is when the hard work starts. Tough trade negotiations with the European Union may be over, but when it comes to Britain’s post-Brexit future, there’s still a lot that needs doing — especially when it comes to making sure British diplomacy is up to the monumental task of navigating the U.K.’s new geopolitical landscape.
“Global Britain” has become a catchy label for the government’s ambition to look beyond Europe for new commercial opportunities and pathways to global influence. But it will only be meaningful if the U.K. government recognizes that extra investments are needed to make its vision a reality.
At a minimum, the U.K. will need to be an indispensable member of whatever team it joins — whether that’s a coalition to tackle climate change, deter Russian political subversion or balance China’s efforts to suffuse its state-first norms into international relations.
In this sense, a positive image of Global Britain must be earned, not declared. The government’s recent commitment of an additional £16 billion to the armed forces over the next four years is, in part, a recognition of this fact. But this sum will at best plug the shortfall for existing commitments to major platforms, such as making two aircraft carriers operational and modernizing the country’s nuclear deterrent.
The missing piece of the puzzle remains British diplomacy, where spending will need to rise significantly to promote U.K. interests in a highly competitive global marketplace dominated by the United States, China and the EU — or, more to the point, to retain the same level of global influence the U.K.