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UK Foreign Policy After Brown

UK Conservative Party leader David Cameron at the 2010 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland / Remy Steinegger, flickr


Their campaign slogan is “Vote for Change.” But in terms of foreign policy, if David Cameron’s Conservative Party maintain their opinion poll lead over Labour and go on to take office after the British general election on 6 May, change is likely to be conspicuous mostly by its absence. As The Economist pointed out last week, with the notable exception of Britain’s relations with the EU, “foreign policy is distinguished by the broad agreement it commands in Westminster […]. For the time being, politics, to a degree that some find heartening and others worryingly complacent, still stops at the water’s edge.”

Take Afghanistan, a war that bleeds popular support with every British fatality (281 now since 2001) but one that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats – the UK’s third largest party (and possible kingmakers if voting ends in a stalemated ‘hung’ parliament)  – offer to end Britain’s military involvement with any time soon. Indeed, and quite apart from any security fallout, a hasty withdrawal would deal a serious blow to the UK’s longstanding ‘special relationship’ with the US, which the Conservatives are (uncontroversially) committed to upholding.

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ISN Weekly Theme: Euro-Mediterranean Relations

Turkey flag

Photo: Vyacheslav Argenberg/flickr

It’s the real-life version of Samunel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations: The Euro-Mediterranean region. The area is home not only to some of the most breathtaking sites in the world, it’s also the meeting place of European and North African/Arab cultures. After years of starts and stops the EU and non-EU members in the region are attempting to join together in a sustainable partnership, but hopes aren’t high.

This week, we’re examining Euro-Mediterranean Relations as our weekly theme.

  • In the latest edition of ISN Podcasts, also part of our Special Report, Dr Bichara Khader says that the issue South-to-North migration in the Mediterranean region is a sticking point due to various factors, including the tendency to group the desire to move from one place to another for a better life with illegal acts.

And as always, you can follow us on Twitter and join our Facebook fan page.

Melting Expectations

Iceberg, Alaska, photo: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton/flickr

Iceberg, Alaska, photo: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton/flickr

With the Copenhagen conference on climate change only two weeks away, it remains doubtful whether a legally binding agreement on climate change will emerge.  Here a run-down of the (mostly vague) pledges made by key greenhouse gas emitters in the wake of the conference:

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British Defense Policy at a Crossroads

CSS Analysis in Security Policy no 64

CSS Analysis in Security Policy no 64

Is British defense policy experiencing an East-of-Suez flashback?

In a new policy brief, CSS researcher Aleksandra Dier looks at whether Britain might have to scale back its global ambitions.

The current situation has been compared to 1968 when, largely as a result of lacking resources, Britain had to adopt a more modest international role.

According to her, the future of the country’s defense role depends on its relation to Europe:

“Strengthening its European commitment could help Britain to align its global ambitions with the resources it needs to project a credible international role.

Pursuing European ways to achieve global ends however remains a domestically disputed strategic option.

You can download the paper here.

Want to know more about British defense policy? Check out our publication holdings on the topic.

The Lisbon Treaty, Back in Fashion

Vote Maybe to Lisbon- a recipe for more confusion? Photo: Tom Phillips / flickr

Vote Maybe to Lisbon- a recipe for more confusion? Photo: Tom Phillips / flickr

Today, 2 October, in an event likely to be a defining moment in the slow evolution of the European Union, the Irish are voting in a second referendum over the fate of the Lisbon Treaty. The Treaty, which aims to transfer more power to the EU and to streamline operations to match the new challenges faced by the Union as one unity, was rejected last year in Ireland in a campaign that brought emotive issues such as abortion into a debate over a legal document riddled with Euro jargon. The ingenious motto of the ‘No’ camp was, befittingly,  “If you don’t know, vote no.” It was more like, “If you don’t know- we’ll invent something for you”.

There were more than a few muted smiles around, particularly among Conservatives in neighboring England, when the Treaty was rejected. A pet project of more Eurocentric nations like France and Germany, the Treaty was received with hostility in smaller countries, and in traditionally Euroskeptic circles, where fears of political unaccountability and loss of control dominated EU-related debates.

But Europhiles persisted and pushed Ireland to think again. Bullying or not, the Irish were encouraged to reconsider and seem to have changed course. With familiarity comes acceptance and with acceptance a sense of purpose more in line with the majority of member states that have already, mostly through parliamentary ratification, accepted the Treaty’s status as the foundation of a new and improved Union.

Although much still depends on the staunchly Euroskeptic Czechs (their president more specifically) and possibly a soon-to-be Tory government in Britain (general elections there are set for the first half of 2010), a ‘Yes’ vote would mark a dramatic U-turn for the Irish in terms of the majority’s views of the EU and its future.

What gives? » More

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