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Committee says Government must decide plans for post-Brexit relationships

30 January 2018

Close relations with our friends and allies in Europe, with whom we share values and interests, must be a necessary element of ‘Global Britain’ but the Government must clarify what level of access to EU foreign, security and defence policy decision-making it aims to secure, and it must increase its diplomatic presence in the 27 EU capitals.

In ‘The Future of UK Diplomacy in Europe’, published today, the Foreign Affairs Committee calls on the Government to work towards the goal of securing a level of automatic and institutionalised UK-EU collaboration that respects the decision-making autonomy of both. The Government must also set out its vision for post-Brexit UK foreign policy in Europe, spelling out overall goals and specific priorities.

Always in the UK's interests to co-operate with the EU

The UK can chart its own course in world affairs but it is in our interests to work closely with the EU and its Member States on foreign policy, security and defence. In order to facilitate an effective level of collaboration, the Committee recommends that the Government seeks to have a UK representative in meetings of the EU’s Political and Security Committee and that the UK and the EU establish a UK-EU Strategic Partnership to facilitate enhanced dialogue.

FCO thinly-stretched in Europe

The FCO will need to work harder in the EU27 capitals after Brexit but the Committee is not satisfied that it has sufficient resources to do so. The FCO must increase its diplomatic presence in EU27 capitals, particularly Berlin, Paris and Dublin, without diverting resources from other areas.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP said:

Britain’s future will be decided by our foreign policy.  We’ve succeeded as a networked, trading nation and for this to continue our partnership with others will matter. That includes working with the EU on foreign affairs, security and defence but so far these areas of the Brexit negotiations have received little attention. The Committee has questioned ministers and officials but the Government appears not to have decided on its objectives yet.

The Committee argues that it is important we get clarity soon so that the FCO can set out its vision for UK foreign policy in Europe and around the world.  We must also invest more in our thinly-stretched European network without stripping resources from our global outreach.

As the recent summit meeting between the Prime Minister and President Macron reminded us, the UK’s bilateral relations with our nearest and closest allies in Europe are important.  They will also set the tone for our relations with countries around the world and be vital to ensuring the success of ‘Global Britain’. The UK must urgently define its aims for the future relationship so that we are ready to engage with the world as one of Europe’s leading foreign policy actors. 

Further information

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