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21 Sep 2021

Relationship with the EU

Role in the World

Many countries see major opportunities to expand economic, political and security ties with the UK post-Brexit, a new academic report finds.

Global Britain: Views from abroad reveals that, while some states regret Brexit, most find there are strategic advantages to be gained with the UK and its ‘Global Britain’ agenda.

The report, by UK in a Changing Europe and the School of Security Studies at King’s College London, finds the two superpowers – China and USA – see the fewest opportunities in ‘Global Britain’.

Washington already sees the UK as likeminded and ‘Global Britain’ will receive little attention in the US, except when it conflicts with its interests. One of the UK’s chief advantages in dealing with the US — acting as a bridge to the EU — has been lost because of Brexit. The UK is in danger of being viewed by the US as an interested but no longer vital party in EU affairs, equivalent to Norway or Canada.

China’s view of ‘Global Britain’ is not a friendly one, regarding it as confirmation it stands on the side of the US in a new Cold War between Washington and Beijing.

China believes a ‘declining Britain’ does not have the capabilities to become an influential player in the Indo-Pacific region and that ‘Global Britain’ is more rhetoric than reality.

Germany’s attitude towards ‘Global Britain’ is fundamentally shaped by the Brexit process. It has less trust in the UK as a partner and fears bilateral cooperation on security will be used to undermine EU unity. Berlin is highly sceptical of a ‘Global Britain’ that, for ideological reasons, is unwilling to cooperate with the EU.

However, France sees major new opportunities in a ‘Global Britain’. The UK’s narrative seems bolder and the promotion of universal values in the Integrated Review chimes with the country’s approach to international relations.

London and Paris have many shared interests and might, perhaps because of Brexit, find common ground for closer cooperation. Brexit gives France a new avenue for cooperation where EU action fails.

Two key tenets of ‘Global Britain’ – the focus on the Indo-Pacific region and accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – have long held sway in Japanese political thinking and could lay the foundation for a ‘significant upgrade’ in UK-Japan relations.

The report identifies growing potential for UK-India partnerships in trade, science and security, but finds this could be undermined if the UK does not grant more visas to Indian professionals.

The UK’s increasingly frosty relationship with China has enhanced the prospects of India engaging with the UK as a strategic partner. The UK’s ‘tilt’ to the Indo-Pacific, as outlined in the Integrated Review, is an opportunity for India to build a collective alliance in this region of significant geopolitical concern.

In Brazil, there are hopes for greater economic ties with the UK, stemming from a Brazilian sense of injustice about the EU’s protectionist tendencies.

US disengagement from the Gulf gives ‘Global Britain’ ample opportunity to bolster security and commercial links ‘East of Suez’. But ‘Global Britain’ has imperialistic undertones, which is an anathema to the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Professor Anand Menon, director, UK in a Changing Europe, said: “What emerges from the report is a complicated mixture of constraints and opportunities.

The UK needs to be aware what other countries are looking for if it wants to make the most of those opportunities that Global Britain offers.”

Dr David Roberts, senior lecture, School of Security Studies, King’s College London, said: “Whatever the government wants Global Britain to mean, it is clear that its foreign policy agenda will only be a success if it understands and addresses the diverse and at times conflicting interests of other states in a rapidly evolving world.”

You can read the full report Global Britain: views from abroad here.

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