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United Kingdom - Foreign Policy

Today Britain seeks to "pursue an active and activist foreign policy, working with other countries and strengthening the rules-based international system in support of our values.... We will use our global diplomatic network to protect and promote UK interests worldwide. Retain and build up Britain’s international influence in specific areas in order to shape a distinctive British foreign policy geared to the national interest."

The UK intends to continue a strong, close and frank relationship with the United States that delivers concrete benefits for both sides, and to advance the British national interest through an effective EU policy in priority areas, engaging constructively while protecting national sovereignty. The UK seeks to deliver more effective and modernised international institutions, particularly the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the European Union, the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe. In addition, it was working to strengthen the Commonwealth as a focus for promoting democratic values, human rights, climate resilient development, conflict prevention and trade; while using soft power as a tool of UK foreign policy; promote British values, including human rights; and contribute to the welfare of developing countries and their citizens.

Britain is home to the world’s largest foreign exchange market, its biggest insurance market and one of the two largest centres in the world for fund management and international legal services. The UK is at the heart of the world’s largest single market, ranked the easiest place in Europe to do business and the number one location for European headquarters.

The continuity and continuous development of British Foreign Policy, now and again distorted, or even reversed, by dynastic interests, by careless diplomacy, by erratic statesmanship, by ecclesiastical dissensions, by foreign rivalry, by stress of circumstance, had always reverted to the course prescribed by nature and approved by experience. England, this "precious gem set in the silver sea," held a post of vantage unparalleled among the nations. "True to herself" and to her natural destinies, she endured and prospered. This fortress-isle of Britain, safely intrenched by stormy seas, confronting the broadest face of the Continent, and, later on, almost surrounding it with her fleets, was, and was not, a part of Europe according as she willed.

First appearing in the dawn of history as the mysterious Ultima Thule, planted somewhere out in the Western Ocean, she grew to observe more and more closely from her watch-tower the strife of the Continent, and, as her expanding interests dictated, to interfere as a belligerent, an ally, or an arbiter. Yet deeply implicated as she became in the Balance of Power in Europe, she never lost sight of her strong position as an extra-Continental Power,—a position which, as her navy, her commerce, and her colonies grew, expanded into that of a world-wide maritime empire. The development, the oscillation, and the reconciliation of these two principles of national policy long formed the story of British foreign policy.

By 2011 Britain was consciously shifting UK diplomatic weight to the East and to the South; to the economic titans and emerging economies of Latin America, the Gulf and of Asia, where it have not been as active in recent years as circumstances warranted. These are the markets of the future, and as the old club of so-called developed nations gives way to a wider circle of international decision-making, they may also come to hold the balance of influence in international affairs. Britain must pursue a distinctive British foreign policy that is aligned with Britain’s other national interests and geared to security and prosperity. This requires Britain to look East as never before, to new sources of opportunity and prosperity and for solutions to threats to our security.

Britain was not turning away from Europe or from the indispensable alliance with the United States. America will remain our single closest ally and Britain will be an active and activist member of the European Union. Britain will support its enlargement, the effective use of its collective weight in the world, the strengthening of its single market, and proposals to promote economic growth.

The Commonwealth is now a unique association of 54 independent states (the newest of which, Rwanda, joined in 2009) consulting and co-operating in the common interests of their peoples and in the promotion of international understanding. It comprises a diverse range of countries from all continents of the world (apart from Antarctica). In the 60 years since the Declaration, the relevance and value of the relationship has been reaffirmed and consolidated repeatedly. Today it is a growing organisation of fifty-four countries, spanning every continent and containing a quarter of the world’s governments and every major world religion. 800 million Hindus, 500 million Muslims and 400 million Christians live in the Commonwealth. It contains India, one of the world’s most populous countries, and Nauru, one of its smallest.

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Page last modified: 06-12-2021 10:04:42 ZULU