a space explorer

Beyond Global Britain – UK Foreign Policy in Space

On 12th March, the British Foreign Policy Group hosted an insightful discussion on the future of the UK’s foreign policy in space, and where things stand in the rapidly growing policy area of space. 

Half a century after the Apollo 11 moon landing, space continues to be one of the foremost areas of foreign policy expansion and the projection of national capabilities. The UK is not alone in launching an ambitious space strategy: in November 2019, NATO foreign ministers recognised space as a new operational domain for the establishment of international governance and infrastructure. As ‘Global Britain’ becomes a reality, space will increasingly become a key frontier for the UK’s redefinition of its role in the world.

Our panellists, from a range of areas of the industry, made some really interesting points on the sector, its future, and how it translates into foreign policy conversations. Michelle Howard, of our sister company the D Group, made the point that disruption of the space industry to our economy cannot be overstated, suggesting that disruption could cost “£1million per day.” Dr Alice Bunn, Director of International Programmes at the UK Space Agency, made some predictions on the geo-political nature of space. She said: “We’re coming back full circle – Trump is laying out his plans for boots on the moon and China is showing huge capabilities. We are coming back to a more competitive space – but I don’t think it’ll be as binary as the 60’s.”

Liz Seward, Senior Strategist for Airbus Europe, agreed that the world of space is no longer as binary as it used to be. She pointed out India as an example, and asked ‘is that something we should be looking at?’

Dr Joanna Hart, of the Harwell Space Cluster, argued that there’s a huge new opportunity for Britain post-Brexit, to forge new connections – and that there’s now more of a political will to do so. She said: ‘space is global, and its expensive. We have to look at collaboration and the key things that we want to do.’

Harriet Brettle, Head of Business Analysis at Astroscale, pointed out that we take space for granted and don’t appreciate the extent to which it’s already influencing our lives – in terms of the technology that relies on space. She also pointed out that space is ‘like any other environment on earth… and we need to look at how the space industry can move to a more sustainable future.’

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The British Foreign Policy Group is an independent, non-partisan think tank based in London. Through dynamic research, events and networks, we seek to strengthen the UK’s international engagement, and advance our understanding of global affairs in the 21st Century.

Matt Gillow
matt.gillow@bfpg.co.uk

Matt is the Communications & Events Manager at the British Foreign Policy Group.