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How to make Global Britain a reality

Brexit must not mean a retreat from the global stage

By Alex Dean   May 2019

Britain’s international role is changing. Brexit raises profound questions about our place in the world. Add to that the unreliability of one-time allies and the emergence of unpredictable new powers, and there is a great deal of uncertainty about what comes next. What we can be sure of is that Britain must find a way to compete on the world stage in the 21st century.

The government knows this and has long talked up its “Global Britain” strategy, which it claims is “about reinvesting in our relationships, championing the rules- based international order and demonstrating that the UK is open, outward-looking and confident on the world stage.” Impressive sounding words and most politicians and industry leaders agree that Brexit must not mean a retreat inwards. But how can we seize new opportunities outside Europe? How can we punch above our weight in the world? What are the upsides—and the risks?

This report provides some answers. One essential component is of course economic, and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox lays out his vision for Britain’s trading future. In his view we can once again become an exporting powerhouse—if we reorient towards fast growing markets then our best days are ahead of us. Labour frontbencher Barry Gardiner is just as optimistic, though he stresses no new deal should come at the expense of workers’ rights.

Another crucial component is international development. Penny Mordaunt, the Secretary of State responsible for foreign aid, argues that the 0.7 per cent target doesn’t just help developing countries—it helps us too. Maintaining the spending target is a good way to boost our global standing.

Then there is defence and security policy. Karin von Hippel, Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute, asks how Britain can lead the fight against despots and extremist groups. We have a moral duty to fulfil some international responsibilities. For Tom Tugendhat, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Britain’s proud foreign policy traditions point to the way forward.

In the end no one can dispute that the coming years will pose difficulties. This is a time of great upheaval. But Britain remains a leading global power. We are the sixth largest economy in the world, with substantial military heft and masses of soft power from our world-renowned legal system and universities. However the pieces settle, we can provide some much-needed leadership in a world that desperately needs it. What’s certain is that there is no time to lose.

A world beyond Europe
Alex Dean asks International Trade Secretary Liam Fox how he plans to turn Britain into a 21st-century trading powerhouse

UK trade at a glance
What do we sell—and who to?
Prospect staff

Time to recalibrate
Britain can help build new security and defence alliances
Karin von Hippel

When aid is win-win
If we spend the 0.7 per cent well, the developing world will benefit— and so will we
Penny Mordaunt

Trade that is fair for all
Competitiveness should not come at the expense of production capacity, wages and living standards
Barry Gardiner

Foreign policy for the new age
Self-interest demands that Britain play a leading role—as it always has done
Tom Tugendhat

The perils of partnership with China
Deals with Beijing can be risky. Is it worth it?
Isabel Hilton

Look beyond free trade deals
There is more to trade policy than shiny new agreements
David Henig


Ports: the backbone of Global Britain
Trade and maritime are the foundation of our prosperity, past, present and future
David Leighton

London: the leading world city
We need to make the capital a place where people want to be
Catherine McGuinness

Jersey: working towards a global future
Jersey is well placed to make its own contribution to the success of Global Britain
Ian Gorst

A forward thinking approach
Jersey’s finance industry has a vital role to play in supporting the UK’s future international ambitions
Joe Moynihan

A zero carbon future
Nuclear and renewables
Peter Haslam

This report forms part of Prospect’s work on trade. For more information on this report and our wider programme of activity please email:

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