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Past speakers

  • Andrew Wilson, News Presenter, Sky News ( Chair)
  • Sean Mcguire, Director of CBI Brussels, Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
  • Chris Doyle, Director, Council for Advancement of the Arab British Understanding
  • Lord Davies Member of the House of Lords
  • Dr James D Boys, Associate Professor of International Political Studies at Richmond University in London and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King’s College London
  • Lord Hannay, Former UK Ambassador to the United Nation, Member of the House of Lords
  • Jonathan Paris, Former Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York
  • Dr. John John F Jungclaussen, Correspondent of DIe Ziet in London
  • Lindsey Hilsum, International Editor, Channel Four (Chair)
  • Nick Arche, Managing Director of Policy and Network Development, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI)
  • Gabrielle Rifkind, Director of the Middle East programme at Oxford Research Group
  • David Campbell Bannerman MEP, Member of the European Parliament, Conservative Party
  • Ashlee Godwin, Production Editor/Deputy Editor, RUSI Journal (Chair)
  • Xan Smiley, Editor at Large, The Economist
  • Richard Nield, Journalist, photographer & filmmaker, Middle East & Africa

UK- EU Relations

The past 4 years have been dominated by uncertainty and loaded with events that put the coalition Government under strain and challenge related to the homogeneity of their policies and tested the strength of their union. The relationship with the EU is one of these areas in which there were many differences in policies between the two parties. It is hard to reconcile that a pro-EU party, like the Liberal Democrats, is part of the same Government that is threatening the EU with an exit referendum in 2017.

Prime Minister Cameron has called for a review of how EU membership affects the UK. While this exercise is seen by many as a response to the rising voices of euro-skeptics within the conservative party as well as the increasing popularity of the UK Independent Party (UKIP), the Prime Minister’s recent narrative about the European Union did propose some legitimate reforms for the EU system. For example, the call for more democratic accountability in EU institutions is a legitimate request, given the fact that current EU commissioners who manage multi-billion budgets are non-elected officials. However, this perspective contains a major contradiction in that it simultaneously insisting that the national Parliament take on a bigger role whilst saying that it didn’t see "his" Parliament being able to handle the “in or out” question and would instead let a referendum decide the question. Even if the whole EU saga can be considered as part of the management of party politics within the Conservative party, it is very risky as well as unlikely that the UK would receive sufficient support for negotiation of a new EU treaty.

The Question still remains of the future of the relationship with the EU:

Would the UK think of playing more leadership within the EU due to economic performance and international stand rather than keeping on foot in the EU and one foot outside? 


UK-US Special Relationship

The United Kingdom has maintained a special relationship with the United States, which isnot a symbolic relation based on historical bonds; it is a deep relationship which is centred around a strong depth of cooperation and trust. The National Security Agency's (NSA) communication leaks have proved the level of cooperation and trust between the two nations compared to their relations with any other countries

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uk foreign policy- what will define britain's global engagement- 2020 and beyond?

 

The United Kingdom is home to the world’s most dominant language, an influential player in the international scene with a permanent seat in the United Nations’ Security Council and membership to the European Union and the NATO. In addition, the United Kingdom is an important global trading nation and has one of the most equipped and well trained armed forces in the world.

After 13 years under a labour Government led by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, a coalitionGovernment between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats came to power after the 2010 elections - Britain's first coalition Government since the Second World War.  Whilst the Government incorporated the vision of the two political parties in their foreign policy, this task was challenging, as in some areas, the two parties have often presented conflicting policies, especially regarding Britain’s relationship with the EU.

 The emergence of new demographic and economic power in the world has brought new shapers to influence at the international scene. The complexity of the security issues with terrorism issues and the pace of changes in different regions of strategic importance to the UK national interests present some serious challenges that this Government has had to deal with during its mandate.

The coalition Government took power in a very fragile global economic environment with the financial crisis hitting strongly their European neighbours at the Euro Zone. The UK has to expand its trade relations into new regions to hedge to uncertainties associated with its traditional markets.


Trade Driven Foreign Policy

Whatever the direction this takes, the EU is undoubtedly crucial for the UK’s economy. 2013 saw over 48.5% of UK exports going to the EU and 52% of its imports coming from the EU. It is worth noting that this was significantly higher only 10 years ago, when the numbers were 62% and 59%, respectively. Could it be that this decline in trade presents one of the reasons for the UK evolving position towards the EU?

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), on the other hand, are becoming increasingly significant to British trade. UK exports to those countries have increased by 53% since 2007. 

Cameron has made several visits to the BRICS countries recently, leading to increased trade with those countries. For example, Cameron’s visited to China in November 2010 , a country to which, in 2013,  UK exports grew by 80%  from 2010. The Prime Minister has made three visits to India, a period that was associatedwith almost 45% increase in UK exports to India. Russia looked a promising destination for UK exports before the current conflict with Ukraine.Since 2001and until 2011 UK-Russia trade has been growing by an average of 21%. The UK has been one of the largest foreign direct investors into Russia, with Russian companies accounting for approximately one quarter of all foreign IPOs on the London Stock Exchange. This will definitely be affected by the ongoing events inUkraine the imposed sanctions by both sides.

Cameron’s visit to Brazil in 2012, a country expected to assume a greater role in the world as it hosts the Olympics in 2016, was also seen as a crucial visit, aimed at boosting UK trade. In 2012, the UK was Brazil’s eleventh trading partner in terms of exports and fourteenth in terms of imports with the balance of trade in favour of Brazil by around £630 million. Other trade targets for the UK include Turkey, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africawith which the UK aiming to double its trade at different time frames.

Besides South Africa, Brazil and Mexico, African and Latin American  countries weremissing opportunities for the UK trade policy during the last decade. 

Trade was crucial in the recovery of the British Economy and there are still plenty of opportunities in different part of the world to engage in trade


Diminishing Influence in the Middle East and North Africa

The diminishing influence of UK in matters of international security can be seen especially in the Middle East with the lack of propositional rolein middle east peace process, the backlash of the controversial invasion of Iraq, lack of resources. According to John Baron MP, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the House of Commons,  the UK has made a series of 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 due to the budgets cuts and other factors making the FCO budget  half of the French Foreign Affairs ministry. Another official was critical of the UK foreign policy in the middle east. Last year, Baroness Warsi resigned from her role as Minister of State at FCO in protests for the UK position regarding the Israeli war on Gaza last summer. The divisive invasion of Iraq has made this government cautious regarding any external intervention. 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 turned into chaos in the absence of any viable 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. The parliament opposed intervention in Syriawhile it supported a low key role in Iraq's war against ISIS. However, the UK remains a major economic partner to the Gulf states, and continues to exert some influence there. Although the Gulf states are perceived as cash cows for the British economy, they are still far from it. Only the United Arab Emirates appears in the list of the top 20 destinations of British exports