UK gears up for multipolar diplomacy

British foreign policy is shifting its focus towards new power blocs in the emerging world, Foreign Secretary William Hague told ambassadors in his address at the Lord Mayor’s Easter Banquet.

Heralding an expansionist era in British foreign policy, Mr Hague predicted that in 20 years time Britain would be in a position to work as effectively with new regional groupings in Asia, Latin America, the Gulf and Africa as it does today with traditional allies in Washington and Brussels.

“In a more competitive world, we need more connections to prosper; and in a more multipolar world, we need to be present in more places,” he said.

The Foreign Secretary was careful to state that old alliances would not be abandoned but he also hinted the UK had no plans to expend resources on “ever closer political union” with the European Union. He also said Britain had been correct not to enter the eurozone.

Instead, resources will be allocated to new regions and traditional diplomatic skills. The FCO’s new Diplomatic Excellence programme will encourage an in-depth understanding of other countries, combined with the strengthening of economic skills and expertise.

A new language centre will train up to 500 members of staff a year which will give the FCO 40 per cent more speakers of Arabic and Mandarin in overseas posts than two years ago, while the numbers of speakers of Spanish and Portuguese in Latin American posts will have increased by 20 per cent.

The Arab Spring, Iran, Afghanistan and counter-terrorism remain top foreign policy priorities for Britain’s national security, said Mr Hague, but he added that economic diplomacy was vital to kick-start the UK’s economic recovery and to double UK exports to £1 trillion by 2020.

“Foreign policy has to support this; just as our economic success underwrites everything we can do in world affairs,” he said.