Gaps in UK Foreign Policy


In addition to the saga of the UK's Membership to the EU, there is a steady decline in the UK's representation at senior levels in  EU institutions. This has undermined London's influence in Europe and its traditional role as a bridge between the US and Europe.

In relation to its share of the EU's population (12.5%), the UK remains significantly under-represented among the staff of  major EU institutions, and its presence continues to shrink. The number of UK nationals on the staff of the European Commission had fallen by 24% in seven years by 2013, and it stood at 4.6% of the total.

France however, which has almost the same share of the EU's population only fell by 9.7%.  In the increasingly powerful European Parliament, the UK's share of administrative grade staff has fallen from 6.2% to 5.8% since 2010 (while France's has risen from 7.5% to 8.6%); and in the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU the UK's share of administrative grade staff fell from 4.8% to 4.3% over the same period (while France's fell from 7.7% to 6.9%). 

There is also an obvious  'generation gap' following the retirement of senior British Diplomats within EU institutions and the increasing uncertainly related to the UK's membership of the EU  has also discouraged  British nationals  to join EU institutions.


UK- Euro-Asia

There is a growing opinion that upon the start of the Ukraine crisis, there was a clear lack of experts and expertise within the Foreign Office - the old Cold War experts were simply not there . The House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on External Affairs has issued a stark warning on the diminishing role of the UK but this time speaking in terms of Euro-Asia and specifically the Ukraine crisis. The Committee found that the Foreign Office has lost expertise and analytic capacity on Russia and the region, and that the UK was unable to read events on the ground and offer an authoritative response. The Government needs to reconsider how it can regain these skills.

UK- Africa

Africa has not been a major priority in UK foreign policy as it focused more on trade with mature emerging economies - the stage that most African economies have not reached yet. The Prime Minister made a visit to South Africa in July 2011 as its an emerging economy with good trade potential for the UK economy. The UK is one of the major players in international development in Africa. However, rapid economic growth and more widespread political stability in Africa requires more focus on trade and political cooperation than on development aid.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is facing scarcity in its resources given that the budget of the FCO was cut by 30% from 2010 to 2014 and around 70% of FCO staff are local hires which restrict career development for Junior diplomats. Nonetheless, to maintain its status as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and prominent member NATO, the UK should invest in acquiring expertise in global security issues necessary as a geopolitical power. 

UK- Middle East

The invasion of Iraq was based mainly on  a dilemma of maintaining or damaging the UK-US special relations and ignored assessments by different stakeholders which illustrated, at the time, the potential tragic outcomes. The intervention in Libya which appeared, at the time, to be necessary to save lives of thousands of Libyans from their notorious dictator; this intervention was followed by the country turning into chaos in the absence of any viable post-intervention plan for the transitional period. This confirms John Barons Statement that lack of understanding of the region leads to failure of engagement in the region. According to John Baron MP, a Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the House of Commons, the UK has made a series of  fundamental errors in the region starting from the Iraq war and ending with intervention in Libya and the ongoing campaign against ISIS. He stated that these failures are due to the dilution of skills in the political establishment in terms of foreign policy that has led to lack of understanding of the region structures. 

UK- Latin America

Over the past several years, the UK has been trying to revamp its foreign policy towards Latin America. This has faced major challenges over the years, namely, Argentina's dispute over the Falklands/Malvinas islands. This situation did not help improve London's relations with other South American countries . For example, at one point Peru was pressured into not allowing a British warship, the HMS Montrose, to dock in the port of Callao. The way the UK handled the escape of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, to the Ecuadorian Embassy led to further escalated tension with Ecuador. Ecuador has received backing of the organisation of American States and its Latin American Neighbours. Whilst, the UK has established a strong relations with Brazil and Mexico, its relations with other Latin American countries and Latin America regional organisations need strengthening and adjusting.

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