Britain’s formal exit from the European Union marks the beginning of a new chapter for British foreign policy as the country seeks to formulate a new global strategy. Big questions remain outstanding. Most importantly, will Britain seek to present itself as a global power, looking outwards to new partnerships, opportunities and alliances, or will it first concentrate on setting its domestic stall in order, restoring confidence at home after the challenges and turmoil of 2020?
Early indications suggest that the Government under Boris Johnson will look outwards, offering a vision of Britain as an unshackled global player free to set its own objectives and pursue its own strategies. Central to this is Britain’s long awaited tilt to the Indo-Pacific, embodied by the decision to send Britain’s only functioning aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth (its sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, is due to be operational in 2023) which reached Initial Operating Capacity for the first time in 36 years on 4 January 2021, to the Indo-Pacific in the Spring. As explained by Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd, this move is significant as aircraft carriers function as a “metaphor for a nation-state that intends to be relevant on the global stage at the strategic level.”
Outside of defence, Dominic Raab has started talks and secured the public support of Vietnam for Britain’s entry into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a free trade agreement between Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Brunei. This is an important development within the context of Brexit as Britain attempts to foster new trading relationships with international partners, but has also been interpreted correctly as further evidence of Britain’s pivot to the Indo-Pacific. Moreover, Boris Johnson’s first major overseas visit of the year was due to be in India at the behest of Prime Minister Modi, who had invited Johnson to the 26 January Republic Day celebrations as chief guest. Although this visit has now been cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown, the symbolism of this visit reinforces the idea that Britain will look east in the coming years to reassert its position on the international stage.
However, the disconnect between strategic objectives and practical realities has already become apparent. Despite Britain’s exit, the EU remains our largest trading partner and arguably our most important ally, especially considering Russia’s aggressive posturing in former Soviet states. Pragmatism will largely confine Britain’s military capabilities to Europe, exercised through the NATO alliance. Public enthusiasm for the Indo-Pacific tilt appears lukewarm at best, with public opinion focussed on pressing domestic issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, Brexit and the potential breakup of the Union.
The tone and substance of Britain’s global ambitions moving forward are set to be announced in a long awaited ‘Integrated Review’ of foreign policy, security, defence and international development, expected sometime early this year. Until then, Britain looks likely to continue making overtures to Asian nations, working collaboratively to counter the China threat as it attempts to align its hard power capabilities with its already extensive soft power potential. Although the foreign policy revolution will undoubtedly be constrained by internal pressures and external realities, Britain’s gaze will be set firmly on the Indo-Pacific in the coming decade.
Gherson has a wealth of experience in all aspects of UK immigration law and has assisted many clients with their applications under the Home Office’s EU Settlement Scheme. If you have any specific questions or queries in respect of your particular circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.