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Foreign Affairs (FCO)

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Foreign Affairs: our vision

The Foreign Office has a vision of a distinctive British foreign policy promoting our enlightened national interest while standing up for freedom, fairness and responsibility. It should extend our global reach and influence and be agile and energetic in a networked world. We will use our diplomacy to secure our prosperity; build significantly strengthened bilateral and multilateral relations for Britain; and harness the appeal of our culture and heritage to promote our values, including human rights. We must make the most of the abundant opportunities of the 21st century.

To focus the Foreign Office on realising this vision, the organisation works around three overarching priorities:

  • safeguarding Britain’s national security
  • building Britain’s prosperity
  • supporting British nationals around the world through modern and efficient consular services.

I want to ensure that the Foreign Office is a strong institution for the future and a strong central department in government. I want the Foreign Office to attract the most talented entrants from diverse backgrounds, and we will place emphasis on geographic and regional expertise as well as management and leadership ability. It must be a Foreign Office that is astute at prioritising effort and seeking out opportunities, so that we can reinforce our economic strength, and lead through the power of our ideas and our ability to contribute to solutions to global challenges.

Our distinctive foreign policy must run through the veins of the whole of the Government. We must marshal the resources of all departments to achieve our objectives, particularly in elevating key bilateral relationships with the emerging powers of the world. We will make a leading contribution to the work of the new National Security Council, and work closely and cooperatively with other government departments. In doing all this, I will maintain our global diplomatic network to protect and promote British values, and serve British people worldwide.

William Hague, Foreign Secretary

Foreign Affairs: our priorities

Protect and promote the UK’s national interest

Shape a distinctive British foreign policy geared to the national interest, retain and build up Britain’s international influence in specific areas, and build stronger bilateral relations across the board with key selected countries to enhance our security and prosperity.

Contribute to the success of Britain’s effort in Afghanistan

Support our military Forces abroad, protect British national security from threats emanating from the region, create the conditions to shift to non-military strategy in Afghanistan and withdrawal of UK combat troops by 2015, and support the stability of Pakistan.

Reform the machinery of government in foreign policy

Establish a National Security Council as the centre of decision-making on all international and national security issues, and help to implement the foreign policy elements of the National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Pursue an active and activist British policy in Europe

Advance the British national interest through an effective EU policy in priority areas, engaging constructively while protecting our national sovereignty.

Use ‘soft power’ to promote British values, advance development and prevent conflict

Use ‘soft power’ as a tool of UK foreign policy; expand the UK Government’s contribution to conflict prevention; promote British values, including human rights; and contribute to the welfare of developing countries.

Other major responsibilities

Reduce the risk to the UK and to UK interests overseas from international terrorism

Ensure appropriate structures are in place to deal with terrorist incidents overseas, enhance the detection and disruption of terrorists and terrorist networks, and reduce the risk to the UK and UK interests by countering violent extremist ideology and undermining the terrorist narrative.

Support British nationals around the world through modern and efficient consular services

Deliver a smaller and better Consular Service by managing resources more effectively and putting the needs of British nationals overseas at the heart of consular service provision.

Control migration to secure the UK's borders and to promote the UK's prosperity

Work with the UK Border Agency and Whitehall partners to support the development and delivery of a migration policy that protects our security and attracts the brightest and best.

Support conflict resolution in fragile states

Work with the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence to support conflict resolution and improve governance in fragile states.

Lead effective international action on climate change

Achieve acceleration towards the low carbon economy in the EU and build momentum towards agreement in the post-Copenhagen climate negotiations.

Europe: our vision

The Government believes that Britain should play a leading role in an enlarged European Union, but that no further powers should be transferred to Brussels without a referendum. This approach strikes the right balance between constructive engagement with the EU to deal with the issues that affect us all, and protecting our national sovereignty.

Europe needs to reform to drive growth

The Government has published a pamphlet Let's Choose Growth setting out why it's time for growth in Europe.

In the pamphlet there is a stark warning that if current trends continue, by the middle of the century, leading EU nations could fall out of the world’s top-10 most powerful economies.

The pamphlet comes as a growing number of EU countries are making the case for action on growth, deregulation and completing the Single Market.

The European Council on 25 March endorsed much of this approach and agreed on the need for action to promote economic growth.

To secure sustainable growth Prime Minister David Cameron is calling for action to be taken to:

  • complete the Single Market. By prioritising areas such as services and energy and modernising the Single Market for the digital age. The Single Market already adds €600 billion a year to our economy. Further liberalisation of services and the creation of a digital single market could add €800 billion more. This is the equivalent of making the average European household almost €4,200 better off each year;
  • unlock the benefits of trade. Concluding the Doha agreement this year and signing trade deals with some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, including India, Canada, Japan, Mercosur and the ASEAN nations. By opening up new markets and reducing barriers to trade between the EU and other dynamic markets, Europe could gain 5.2 million jobs; more than the number that was lost in the recession;
  • reduce the costs of doing business. Making it easier for all our companies to start up, grow, invest and take on staff. Reducing the overall burden on business of EU regulation over the life of this Commission, ensuring that new burdens are offset by savings elsewhere and exempting small business from regulatory burdens. It costs €593 to set up a business in Brazil, €641 in India and €644 in the US, but it costs on average €2,285 to do so in Europe; and,
  • make Europe number one for innovation. By creating a clear, cost-effective and business friendly continent-wide patents regime. And closing the funding gap for innovative firms by reducing barriers and developing proposals for a pan-EU venture capital fund that will invest in the most innovative and high growth companies across the EU. For every euro invested in venture capital within the EU, five times as much is invested in the US. And since 1975, 70 per cent of innovative companies have been created in the US.