Robin Niblett, an expert on UK foreign policy, has argued that although the UK has been accused recently of stepping off the international stage, leaving Germany and France to run the show, Britain’s seeming lack of engagement “does not paint an accurate picture of the country’s overall foreign policy.”
Robin outlines three reasons for this. First, he believes that the government’s core priority is to rebuild the foundation of the UK’s long-term economic prosperity. Second, with British public opinion suffering more than most from intervention fatigue, the government are far more risk-averse than in the past. Finally, “all governments inhabit a world in which the exercise of national power to achieve external goals is exceedingly difficult, and all countries, Britain included, are currently more selective in where they put their effort.”
Nonetheless, Robin believes it’s important to note that “Britain still has the world’s fifth-highest defence budget, the sixth-largest economy, one of its two leading financial centers, and is the second-largest contributor of international financial assistance. It remains one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council and a nuclear power. Not bad for a country representing under one per cent of the world’s population.”
However, he also contends there are two serious worries for the future. First, “the government’s willingness to countenance a further decline in British defense spending”; and second, that “widespread ambivalence across Britain about the value of EU membership is undermining the capacity of British policy-makers to offer leadership within the EU at a time of unprecedented risk and uncertainty.”
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