Coalition foreign policy ‘harms UK’

A majority of the British public thinks the Coalition Government’s foreign policy has damaged the UK’s image abroad, according to a Chatham House-Yougov survey.

In the poll, conducted among 2500 voters across Britain, 40 per cent felt foreign policy over the past year had damaged the UK’s reputation and nearly half were sceptical about Britain’s involvement in foreign crises.

In particular, 64 per cent of those polled said Britain should not involve itself in the Arab Spring uprisings, while 47 per cent said the UK should intervene ‘only if it benefits the national interest’.

Respondents also felt that the Government was contributing too much to the EU and overseas aid which they said did not enhance security and wellbeing at home.

By contrast, they thought the UK was spending too little on the armed forces.

By a clear margin, the majority of people think the most important focus of British foreign policy should be protecting its borders and counter-terrorism. The lowest priority was dealing with international crises.

International terrorism, interruptions to energy supplies, organised crime and global financial instability were considered the greatest threats to the UK while climate change was not seen as a great threat.

The public were also asked to give their views on diplomatic relations with foreign countries. China tops by far the list of countries with which the public feels the UK should be forging closer ties, with 34 per cent calling for a stronger relationship and only 10 per cent preferring weaker ties.

By contrast only 15 per cent called for stronger relations with the EU, while 35 per cent favoured weaker ties.

People felt ‘most favourable’ towards traditional allies, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada and ‘least favourable’ towards Iran, Pakistan and North Korea.

Nearer to home, those polled expressed positive views towards the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway and negative views towards Greece, Russia and Turkey.
When asked to rate the effectiveness of international organisations, the public felt most positive towards the World Health Organisation, the Commonwealth and the UN, but were least impressed by the EU and the IMF.