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‘Global Britain’ has become a rallying cry for those who want to see the UK stride confidently into a post-Brexit future. Opponents of Brexit have argued that this perspective ignores the damage being done to the UK’s national interests by leaving the European Union.

Some of those willing to give the idea of ‘Global Britain’ a chance have had their doubts too. In a March 2018 report, the Foreign Affairs Committee argued that the term:

has not been precisely defined by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which has also appeared reluctant to respond to our requests for basic information about the objectives of Global Britain and the resources to be devoted to it.

The time is right to take stock of the UK’s role in the world, not only in the light of domestic developments but also in the light of long-term changes in the international system and global balance of power. The UK has a wide range of attributes that have traditionally made it a global player, but it remains unclear what the Government believes the UK should do with these resources and assets in the post-Brexit environment, and how the UK should exercise leadership on the most urgent and complex issues facing the international system. For Global Britain to be more than a worthy aspiration, the slogan must be backed by substance. The FCO should place online, in one place, all the statements and speeches that Ministers have made about Global Britain, and all other Government documents in the public domain that set out what Global Britain means, translated into the world’s ten most-used languages. If it comes to be perceived as a superficial branding exercise, it risks undermining UK interests by damaging our reputation overseas and eroding support for a global outlook here at home.

In June 2018 the Government launched a webpage collecting together the main official documents about ‘Global Britain’. Soon afterwards, the FCO responded to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s report, arguing that “Global Britain is already backed by substance.” It went on to say that it had established a “new cross-HMG Global Britain Board, chaired by an FCO Director General, Deborah Bronnert”, as well as an FCO Global Britain Taskforce “to implement the expansion of the diplomatic network, take forward policy development and devise metrics for measuring progress.” Government ministers have continued to invoke the term regularly since then – for example, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in an August 2019 speech.

This reading list draws together a wide range of material on the theme of ‘Global Britain’. It is not, of course, comprehensive. We have included some sources that we thought might be relevant even though the phrase itself is not invoked. Under each heading, the most recent item is set out first. It is one of several reading lists on Brexit-related issues published by the Library.

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