#GE17: Bring on a Foreign Policy Election

British foreign policy doesn’t normally feature much in elections. In the past, this may be because we assumed such matters were handled by unelected or unaccountable bodies remote from our lives.  Some of these things seem trivial, like being able to travel abroad. Others may be less clear but equally important such as maintaining safe access to the world-wide web. Finally, there are those things which at some level everyone knows are really important, but most people assume are well looked after by specialists and not really related to how we vote on election day. The most important of these is perhaps preventing foreign powers from attacking us at home.

The truth is that we should be more concerned about all of these things. We shouldn’t assume that there is any single group of experts who are reliably protecting our interests, and we can be sure, sadly, that there are hostile forces around the world who would like to see the United Kingdom, and us as individuals and families, weakened, divided or even destroyed.

On the other hand, we live in a rapidly changing world which offers unprecedented opportunities for the UK as a country and to us as citizens to improve our lifestyles, our health, and the prospects for our children. Whether it is through our research, technology, creative or a host of other innovating industries, Britain has incredible advantages we could be making far more of if we applied that imagination and practical focus which has served us in the past.

This election will be special because of the decision made to leave the European Union. That decision has put us as UK citizens fully in the driving seat in this world of rising threats and opportunities. There is no question that with the right leadership, strategy and resources the UK can revitalise our influence abroad to support our interests at home.

But if we are to make the most of those opportunities, and to avoid the dangers ahead, we need to discuss them as part of this election. That means not just talking about Brexit itself. It means discussing in practical terms about what we, as British citizens, need from the rest of the world, what we have to offer in return, the values we wish to project, and what we’re prepared to do to maintain our interests, lifestyles and security. This is the debate the British Foreign Policy Group has been established to support.

We need to use this election as citizens to chart a bold path for the UK through a volatile world. And we need to choose as representatives those people, from whichever party, who recognise how important it is to pursue a dynamic foreign policy vision for global, but most importantly, British interests. For once, let this be a foreign policy election about securing Britain’s place in the world as a free, influential and responsible force for global benefit, but most importantly for the benefit of our own people both in this country, and around the world.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the BFPG. The BFPG is an independent not for profit organisation that encourages constructive, informed and considered opinions without taking an institutional position on any issue.
Tom Cargill

Tom Cargill is Executive Director of the British Foreign Policy Group. He has worked in various roles in the public, private and NGO sectors, including at the charity for children in care Believe, as well as 10 years at Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) followed by 4 years at the engineering, procurement and construction multinational Bechtel. He is the author of numerous reports, chapters and articles on international and foreign policy issues.