Sound foreign policies are made with considerations of public opinion, impacts of globalisation, integrative tendencies of international bodies, and the influence of transnational non-governmental agencies. The logic underlying the drafting of foreign policy in the UK has remained somewhat stagnant over a long time. Ideally, elected representatives and experts in foreign policy matters formulate the terms of international relations based on informed deliberations on possible alternatives. Various tenets of history, precedents, and legal issues shape the choice of options among policymakers. Analysts believe that the strength of the UK’s foreign policy is on the decline, especially after the Brexit. From the conservative UK governments under David Cameron, which sought to shatter Tony Blair’s dream of putting the UK at the center of the 1998 Manifesto to the preempted economic woes emanating from Brexit, the United Kingdom is gradually losing the power it wields in the international circle.
To begin with, the fact that the UK ultimately exited the European Union is an indication of its failure to bolster its foreign policy. Jonathan Eyal, an associate professor at the Royal United Services Institute, believes that UK opted out of the EU to sap the political attention away from the union’s urgent foreign and security concerns. According to Dempsey (2017), the associate professor also noted that the move by Britain to quit EU reinforces the propaganda that Russia has peddled for a long time. Russia has repeatedly claimed that Europe is declining as a force and a role model of public and moral values. By leaving EU, the UK seems to admit that Europe is on the decline and that it has lost its power to shape public and moral authority (Dempsey 2017). Consequently, the UK is failing to retain its grip concerning its foreign policy.
UK’s exit from the EU is against all its efforts to foster good international relations. For instance, the British diplomats are informed that no valid policy towards Russia can be successful in the absence of a pan-European spirit (Dempsey 2017). In addition, the British policy towards Belarus and Western Balkans has always recognised the centrality of EU in stabilizing Europe. Since Britain is determined to position London as a significant financial power in Europe, it is keen to retain its influence in the coordination and regulations of the sanctions by the EU governments. Dempsey (2017) noted that Britain is an essential NATO actor; therefore, it cannot ignore the lingering European security reasons. Apparently, too many European interests are at stake and the UK should step-up its foreign policy.
Experts now urge Britain to continue its involvement in foreign and security issues and resolve any standoffs that exists between it and any Eurozone country as quickly as possible. Dempsey (2017) was convinced that the country requires an in-depth understanding of the trade and financial interests at stake to commit itself to saving its foreign policy, which already is weakening. Britain has always viewed engaging in international relationships as trading off its military support for trade concessions. Admittedly, Britain and EU equally need the help of each other to address foreign policy and security matters.
The divisions between the UK states and the political instability in the region have resulted in fractured foreign policy and made the UK appear less reliable. Clements (2011) believed that it matters when a country can act as a unit because divided states mean that the UK may soon be unable to formulate biding policies within its borders let alone its deteriorating relationship with its international partners. However, the UK has failed to recognise that it no longer has the power that it once wielded as a global superpower (Wallace 2005). The devolution of power to Scotland and Wales in attempt to bolster ties indirectly with EU and strengthen its voice in Brussels seems to dwindle. UK is gradually but continually losing influence in Brussels and EU courts.
Although experts say that Britain had been isolated in Brussels even before the Brexit, the reduction in UK’s influence on Brussels worsened when the union decided to exit EU. The worsened control in Brussels and EU courts is an indication that UK’s foreign policymakers have failed to steer the country towards its former glory in the Eurozone (Williams 2004). The UK voted for Brexit, but they have to trade with the EU, which implies that the UK has minimised its influence on the regulatory standards that form the basis of operation of the EU market. An in-depth analysis of the voting trends by the qualified majority in the European Council shows that the UK government was increasingly outvoted before it opted out of the EU. This downtrend in vote outcome meant that the UK had been losing control over trade regulations, which is a serious indication of a failed foreign policy.
The European Union Act of 2011 gives the European Parliament a more significant role of oversight and requires a referendum to ratify any EU agreements. According to Hodson and Maher (2014), the act displays the UK government as one that tries hands on the international diplomacy, which could place the UK in a tight position than it anticipated (p. 646). Conversely, the outcome of this situation could boost UK’s bargaining power in Brussels at the expense of its credibility (Hodson & Maher 2014, p. 646). In the second possibility, other member states have the audacity to quit negotiations whenever they feel unsatisfied with the offers on the table. This situation implies that the UK’s ‘veto’ of the Fiscal Compact in December 2011 rapidly declined.
Since the EU laws are supreme over the UK’s, the British public cannot vote out those who make their rules. The UK has only 8% of votes in the Council of Ministers and at most 10% votes in the European Parliament; therefore, EU could introduce a law against the interest of UK, and it passes because the UK lacks the majority to block the ratifications of the reference law (Williams 2004). The fact that the rest of the European countries have an inbuilt majority in the critical decision-making bodies explains the importance of the UK developing a close relationship with the rest of euro-nations. The UK was unable to influence the outcome of the voting processes, and the laws the UK introduced depended on the direction that the Eurozone countries took. With the Brexit, the situation is even worse because the rest of the Eurozone countries do not have obligations to consider interests of the UK when deciding matters of importance in Europe.
Theresa Mary adopted extreme measures regarding the Brexit, which have cost the UK access to the EU crime-fighting database. Arguably, the UK’s unacceptance of a role in the European court of justice that regulates and hosts data for the region was to cause the EU to block it out of the EU police database (Rankin 2017). The database contains crucial information regarding the security of the area. With the rise in the rate of terrorists’ threat in the European nations and elsewhere in the world, the UK badly needs to database to keep its citizens safe (Oppermann 2012). A foreign policy that makes a country risks the security of its citizens and the region as a whole is a failed policy.
The EU database is a Schengen Informations Systems II, which is a vast database that the police use to search for missing people and suspects of terror. The databank also enables the police to check passport details and vehicle registrations. With information about 36,000 criminal suspects, 500 million non-EU members who have been barred from entering EU, and 103 thousand missing people, EU police database is an asset that the UK cannot wish away if it wants to protect its citizens genuinely (Rankin 2017). For this reason, experts have decried the need for a deal with EU to combat terror. The UK enrolled as a member of this databank after negotiating an exclusive contract in 2015 although the union is not a member of the EU Schengen zone, which is passport-free. A sound foreign policy must include a tool for fighting international crime and terrorism.
A section of critics of the UK’s foreign policy has blamed its failures on dependent of the UK government on the United States of America. John Kampfner, who is one of the commenters, claimed that Tony Blair developed a soft spot for the U.S. government and decided to side with it in times of crises at the expense of “national interests’ (Williams 2004). Kampfner noted that when President George Bush confronted the threat to global crime and terrorism by the United States primacy and pre-emption, Tony Blair overestimated the influence that Britain had on the foreign policy as a payback to the Americans, which was to act as a sign of its perpetual unconditional loyalty to the U.S (Strong 2015). Even now, Britain continues to depend on the U.S. for a significant section of its foreign policy, and that implies that it poses great limitations on the capacity of UK’s foreign policy-makers.
The failure of the British military interventionism approach in Iraq has tarnished the reputation of the UK as a key role-player in international defense. According to Strong (2015), Tony Blair through ‘New Labour’ pursued interventionism, renewed relations with the United States of America, and promised to keep Britain ‘at the heart of Europe.’ Compared to major crises in Syria, Crimea, and the Republic of Korea, the role of the UK in the Gulf War, Kosovo, and Iraq are unimaginably small. Morris (2011) said that the UK must appreciate that it needs a change of tactic to leverage its interests in the warring proxy nations. Admittedly, the approach that Blair adopted in fighting terror failed to meet the cultural agency as it did during the Cold War. Instead, it tainted the image of Britain as one of the military superpowers in the world.
Recently, the British parliament has shown its determination to prevent another ‘Iraq fiasco.” The parliament’s new actions regarding foreign policy appear to be arise due to the need to block Prime Minister David Cameron from adopting foreign interventionism in Syria’s Assad oppressive regime in 2013. The legislature seeks to evade situations similar to those that caused UK its international reputations under Blair’s administration. Specifically, Mr. Blair committed the British army to many wars that all of his predecessors did. The British forces not only fought in Kosovo and Iraq but also in Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. Specifically, critics assert that the operations in Iraq were poorly planned and executed and they still bog down the Britons without immediate hope of withdrawal.
To summarise, the United Kingdom is gradually losing the power it wields in the international circle. This claim is supported with a range of observations from conservative UK governments under David Cameron, which sought to shattered the dream of putting the UK in the of the 1998 Manifesto to the preempted economic woes emanating from Brexit. Supposedly, Brexit reinforces the propaganda that Russia has peddled for a long time, which claimed that Europe is declining as a force and a role model of public and moral values. By exiting EU, UK seems to admit that Europe is on the decline and that it has lost its power to shape public and moral authority. The worsening control in Brussels and EU courts is an indication that UK’s foreign policymakers have failed to steer the country towards its former glory in the Eurozone. The UK voted for Brexit, but they have to trade with the EU, which implies that the UK has minimised its influence on the regulatory standards that form the business of operation of the EU market.
Clements, B 2011, ‘Examining public attitudes towards recent foreign policy issues: Britain’s involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts’, Politics, vol. 31, no. 2, pp.63-71.
Dempsey, J 2017, ‘Judy Asks: Is Brexit a distraction from EU Foreign Policy? Available from: <http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=68441>. [31 May 2018].
Hodson, D, & Maher, I 2014, ‘British brinkmanship and Gaelic games: EU treaty ratification in the UK and Ireland from a two level game perspective’, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 645-661.
Morris, J 2011, ‘How great is Britain? Power, responsibility, and Britain’s future global role’, The British journal of politics and international relations, vol. 13, no. 3, pp.326-347.
Oppermann, K 2012, ‘British foreign and security policy: Historical legacies and current challenges. Wissner Verlag.
Rankin, J 2017, ‘Will the UK lose access to EU’s crime-fighting database after Brexit? The Guardian. Available at: < https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/may/29/will-uk-lose-access-eu-crime-fighting-database-brexit>. [31 May 2018].
Strong, J 2015, ‘Why parliament now decides on war: Tracing the growth of the parliamentary prerogative through Syria, Libya and Iraq’, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol. 17, no. 4, pp.604-622.
Wallace, W 2005, ‘The collapse of British foreign policy’, International Affairs, vol. 81, no. 1, pp.53-68.
Williams, P 2004, ‘Who’s making UK foreign policy? International Affairs, vol. 80, no. 5, pp.909-929.