The “principles that Number 10, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Ministry of Defence are guided by” have been branded “progressively obsolete”, by the former Defence and Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind.
The stark warning comes in a report, published today by the Henry Jackson Society, which concludes that 15 core assumptions of British foreign policy are outdated and no longer apply to the world we live in.
- Globalisation is an immutable and desirable force;
- The West will remain technologically dominant;
- Liberalism and democracy will continue to spread;
- ‘Zones of chaos’ are the primary threat;
- Global governance is replacing geopolitical competition;
- The European continent is Britain’s overriding geostrategic concern;
- Britain is central to the Euro-Atlantic System;
- The Gulf and Middle East is of growing importance to British interests;
- The Indo-Paciﬁc zone presents economic opportunities;
- Nations will respect globally ‘shared spaces’;
- Britain is a pivotal, but declining, power;
- The pursuit of national security and economic growth are Britain’s primary national interests;
- Britain is best served by working with allies and partners, particularly the US;
- National cohesion is becoming less relevant;
- Military and diplomatic power have declined in importance.
The report’s assessments – backed by Sir Malcolm – are that the assumptions are either outdated, inaccurate or wholly erroneous. It warns that each of them of them require urgent re-evaluation. The proposals come as the Government conducts the “deepest review of Britain’s security, defence, and foreign policy since the end of the Cold War”.
The core assumptions studied are those the author, James Rogers, Director of the Global Britain Programme at the Henry Jackson Society, claims lie at the heart of British foreign policy that have lost relevance or accuracy in the past 20 years.
Sir Malcolm’s remarks are included within the foreword to the report, in which he also says that “unlike Japan or Germany” the UK will remain a “global power” as China continues its rise.
The author blames Britain’s supposed foreign policy drift on the enduring influence of “globalisation” beyond its applicability, which Julian Lewis MP (Former Chairman of the Defence Select Committee) blames in an endorsement to the report for the “weakness of our current posture”.
However, the report warns that a detour to either ‘compensationism’ or ‘isolationism’ is equally inadvisable.
In response to this changing scenario, the report recommends that the Government should:
- Appoint a National Strategy Council to oversee and coordinate the work of the UK’s overseas facing Departments.
- Place DFID’s work under the purview of the FCO.
- Build a royal yacht to boost Britain’s soft-power presence around the world.
- Restore defence spending, up to pre-1991 relative levels.
- Reallocate aid spending to research (including through an advanced research projects agency) into green technologies.
- Accept that Britain is facing increasingly powerful, revisionist states.
The report’s author, James Rogers, commented:
“As Britain leaves the European Union and begins the deepest foreign, security and defence policy review since the end of the Cold War, we need to undertake a thorough re-appraisal of the dominant assumptions that have guided our strategic thinking. If we, as a nation, get those wrong, everything else will be misconstrued. As wider state competition intensifies, Britain needs to re-empower itself to compete with revisionist and expansionist powers.”