COMMONS

Autocracies and UK Foreign Policy examined

11 February 2019

The policies of the UK Government towards autocratic states are to be explored by the Foreign Affairs Committee in a new inquiry.

The Committee aims to scrutinise both direct foreign-policy relationships with autocracies and the ways in which autocracies interact with the rules-based international system. It complements other work being undertaken by the Committee; particularly the inquiries into sanctions and media freedom.

Chair's comments

Chair of Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, commented:

"The challenge from autocratic states today is something that all democracies, including the UK, have to face. We must protect the interests of our open societies and political systems from interference with our lives at home or attempts to undermine the international order that has helped us prosper. In recent years this has been made clear by Russian state actions threatening UK national security – but this is a broader issue, spanning many countries and demanding a whole of government response from the UK, as well as close cooperation with allies and like-minded states.

"The Committee will examine the relationships the UK has with autocracies, as well as the ways in which autocracies interact with the rules-based international system. We will look at a wide range of themes, including the effects of new technologies and the role of energy and resources as a tool of influence. We want to know whether the UK government has the right approach to this challenge, whether the FCO is playing an effective role in shaping that approach, and what more the UK can do to work with its allies and partners."

Send in your views

The Committee is calling for written evidence on the following topics:

  • Should the UK and its partners aim to influence the domestic regimes of autocratic states, including to foster respect for the rules-based international system, strengthen the rule of law and prevent the closing of space for civil society? If so, what policies, best practices and tools do the UK and its partners have, and how can these be used more effectively? What are the risks of such an approach?
  • What can the UK do to encourage the development and use of technologies that support political freedoms, and to hinder the development and use of technologies that assist repression?
  • Are autocratic regimes attempting to interfere in the domestic affairs of the UK and its partners, and if so, in what ways? How should the UK and its partners respond?
  • How is the use of data and social media changing the way autocracies interact with free societies? Are there lessons that can be learned from the past, or from other countries?
  • How should the UK respond to the leveraging of energy and resources as a tool of geopolitical influence by autocratic states?
  • What can the UK do to restrict illicit flows of money to and from autocratic states?
  • Are autocratic regimes attempting to change the rules and institutions that underpin international order, and if so, in what ways? How should the UK and its partners respond?
  • Are autocratic regimes more or less effective than the UK and other democracies in designing and implementing national strategy, including on trade, security and defence, in what ways, and are there any consequent impacts regionally and globally? Does this necessitate any adjustment in the way the UK makes strategy and foreign policy?
  • Is there effective coordination within the UK Government towards the challenges posed by autocratic states? What is the FCO’s role in this process, and how effective is the FCO in this regard?
  • How successfully is the UK cooperating with allies and partners in dealing with the challenges posed by autocratic states? What are the most effective mechanisms for such cooperation? Could, and if so, how, will Brexit affect this?

For the purposes of this inquiry, autocratic states are defined as those in which governments gain or hold power by means other than democratic elections that meet international standards.  

Send in a written submission to the inquiry on Autocracies and UK Foreign Policy.

The deadline for written submissions is 19 March 2019.

Further information

Image: Parliamentary Copyright

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