The Coalition Hosts British Foreign Policy Group Report Launch Running out of Credit: The Decline of The Foreign Office and The Case for Sustained Funding

 

Author: Lauren Pizzey

On Tuesday 18th June, the Coalition for Global Prosperity were delighted to host the launch of the British Foreign Policy Group’s report Running out of Credit: The Decline of the Foreign Office and the Case for Sustained Funding.

The Coalition heard from senior speakers including Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Foreign Secretary 1995-97), Rt Hon Dame Margaret Beckett MP (Foreign Secretary 2006-07), Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP (Chair, Select Committee on Exiting the European Union), Tom Tugendhat MP (Chair, Foreign Affairs Select Committee), Sir Simon Fraser (Permanent Under-Secretary of State, (Foreign Office 2010-15), Tom Cargill (Executive Director, BFPG) and Sam Goodman (Report Author, BFPG).

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The event, co-hosted by the Coalition and The British Foreign Policy Group, brought together parliamentarians, journalists and foreign policy experts to discuss the critical work that the Foreign Office does to promote British soft power overseas and the need for further resources for the FCO.

Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind opened the event by arguing that with the threat from Russia and the emergence of China as a superpower, the FCO is in urgent need of further resources. He went on to note that there is no logic in increased defence spending unless it is matched with an increase for the FCO.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind

The UK must continue to lead internationally to champion British values. A united foreign policy that uses every tool at our disposal from hard to soft power, is vital to protecting Britain’s strategic interests overseas
— Sir Malcolm Rifkind

The audience then heard from Former Foreign Secretary Rt Hon Dame Margaret Beckett MP, who outlined the importance of the Foreign Office in the fight against climate change, stating that the ‘seeds for conflict’ were in almost every aspect of it. She went on to discuss the crucial role development, diplomacy and defence play in keeping Britain safe and responding to the global challenges of our time.

Our leadership in defence, development & diplomacy is critical to our national security & there is a pressing need for investment to allow the UK to play an active role in addressing the global challenges we face
— Rt Hon Dame Margaret Beckett MP

Rt Hon Dame Margaret Beckett MP

Tom Cargill then concluded the opening speeches by thanking both speakers and the audience, and stressed that this conversation around the Foreign Office was long overdue.

Following opening speeches, Theo Clarke, CEO of the Coalition, chaired a panel of experts on the issue, including senior MPs Rt Hon Hilary Benn, Chair of the Brexit Committee and Tom Tugendhat MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Panellists discussed the impact of Brexit on Britain’s global reputation, how equipped the Foreign Office is to deal with the global challenges of our time and ways forward. Panellists also agreed that while we need a stronger Foreign Office, we also need an independent Department for International Development to continue projecting British values and interests around the world.

Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP

Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP

The UK plays a leading role on the world stage, from protecting human rights to tackling climate change. To keep our global standing, we need a stronger foreign office, alongside an independent department for International Development
— Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP
Tom Tugendhat MP

Tom Tugendhat MP

Only by investing properly in our diplomatic capabilities across the spectrum, from defence to development, can the UK meet and shape the defining challenges of our time, which are critical to our security and prosperity
— Tom Tugendhat MP
Sir Simon Fraser

Sir Simon Fraser

If the UK is to have any hope of restoring, let alone expanding, its global influence, as promised by the champions of global Britain, it is clear our soft power capabilities will play a central role
— Sir Simon Fraser
 
 

After the panel discussion there was an audience Q&A, in which questions centred around diversity in the Foreign Office, Brexit, Britain’s role in the world and the difficulty of Official Development Assistance spending.