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Michael Jay

The Lebanon crisis has once again shown that foreign policy is made in Downing Street, not the foreign office. The recently retired head of the diplomatic service tries to explain why the FCO matters

By Charles Grant   September 2006

Thirty years ago, the foreign and commonwealth office (FCO) acted as Britain’s gatekeeper to the world, defining its interests and cementing links with its allies. Today it is often overshadowed by 10 Downing Street on diplomacy, bypassed by domestic departments on European policy and global economic issues, and outspent by the department for international development (DfID). Like many foreign ministries around the world, the FCO is facing budget cuts, low morale and a crisis of purpose. The war in Lebanon has highlighted the FCO’s uncomfortable role within the government: on the key strategic issues, British foreign policy is driven by…

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