Post Brexit, UN even more critical for UK

03 November 2016

The UK will have to build fresh alliances with European states, and demonstrate its continued value as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, says Lords report published today.


The Lords International Relations Committee has been investigating the priorities, from the UK's interests, for the new Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres. In its report published today, 'The UK and the UN: Priorities for the new Secretary-General', the Committee finds that, in light of Brexit, the UK will have to build fresh alliances with European states, and demonstrate its continued value as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Chairman's comments

Commenting on the report, Chairman of the Committee, Lord Howell of Guildford, said:

"The United Nations is today more than ever the indispensable forum for addressing, and where possible ameliorating and resolving, the great global issues of our times. However, a new injection of organisational vigour and leadership is needed to meet formidable challenges.

Given the new status that the UK will have outside of the EU, our Committee feels strongly that the UN will be an increasingly important arena in which to promote our foreign policy objectives. We will need to reinvigorate both old ties and build new strong alliances where possible.

In our report we consider that the incoming Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, should focus on forming a new global consensus in response to the unprecedented flow of refugees and economic migrants, especially those who have been displaced through environmental disaster. He should also pursue the institutional reforms which we see necessary to overcome the fragmentation and incoherence of the past and position the whole UN structure for facing new world conditions.

We recognise that a new Secretary-General alone cannot possibly achieve change on the scale required, and some aspects of reform remain clearly outside his powers, such as the continuing anomaly of the Security Council permanent membership. But he can both identify the priorities, invigorate the agents of change and set the overall tone and vision."

Other conclusions and recommendations

  • The UN must be made fit for purpose in a world transformed by technological developments, and evolving global threats.
  • Priorities should be to strengthen conflict prevention, and eradicate UN peacekeeper sexual exploitation and abuse. The report urges the incumbent Secretary-General to treat peacekeeping reform as a priority, where he should also consider scrapping failing missions.
  • The UN must do more to respond to growing number of refugees and migrants displaced because of climate change and environmental disasters.
  • A lack of an international agreement on the long-term policy on refugee resettlement, and a lack of system of burden sharing, needs to be addressed.
  • Leaving the EU would have a significant impact on the UK's influence at the UN. We urge the Government to forge close relationships with the EU at the UN, and use the Brexit negotiations to this end.
  • As the UN becomes more important to UK foreign policy, the UK dedicates itself to working closer with the UN.

Further information

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