While the Queen’s Speech today in Westminster focussed largely on constitutional and welfare matters for Britain, it outlined the UK’s plans for its year in international affairs, and not just those rigid state visits. Here is a phrase-by-phrase analysis of the key global facing parts of The Gracious Address:
My government will renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union and pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states. Alongside this, early legislation will be introduced to provide for an in/out referendum on membership of the European Union before the end of 2017.
The UK has never really considered itself European and this is subtly highlighted by a government preference for the phrase “relationship with the European Union”, which implies that Britain is separate, not a part of the body, despite its long-standing membership. Prime Minister David Cameron met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker this week to signal the start of talks, with following meetings scheduled with French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The PM hopes to complete negotiations before a referendum in the UK on membership of the EU. Though Cameron himself is thought to be pro-UK membership, the issue divides his party.
Brussels is to host an EU summit in June, but it is unclear whether Britain’s demand for reforms, such as limiting the right to freedom of movement and cutting benefits for EU nationals, will be discussed.
Europeans should watch out for these developments, and be aware of the risks of a so-called Brexit from the EU single economy, as well as being aware of the impacts that anti-immigration rhetoric surrounding the UK debate could have on future relationships between diplomats, particularly from Eastern Europe.
My Lords and members of the House of Commons, my government will continue to play a leading role in global affairs, using its presence all over the world to re-engage with and tackle the major international security, economic and humanitarian challenges.
Britain has become increasingly concerned that its role as a global authority is waning. Since decolonisation, the UK has increasingly attempted to claim economic and military might as a new source of power, despite the country’s small size and population. This Conservative government is keen to mark out the UK’s role as an international leader.
My ministers will remain at the forefront of the NATO alliance and of international efforts to degrade and ultimately defeat terrorism in the Middle East.
Although clearly terrorism takes place worldwide, the middle east is highlighted here as both a populist measure and in order to steer clear of the Norther Ireland peace arrangements, which are currently under threat by proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act. This is also a symbol to other NATO and European defence partners that this government will maintain the status quo on the choice of states which receive western designation as “threat” or “challenge”.
The United Kingdom will continue to seek a political settlement in Syria and will offer further support to the Iraqi government’s programme for political reform and national reconciliation.
My government will maintain pressure on Russia to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and will insist on the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
My government looks forward to an enhanced partnership with India and China.
Here is a roll call of key countries in international diplomacy currently. The UK will likely use this agenda to focus its spending on the countries listed, whether that be in enhancing ties or pressuring for change. keep an eye out for pricier policies and head of government meetings on these ones.
Prince Philip and I look forward to our state visit to Germany next month and to our state visit to Malta in November, alongside the Commonwealth heads of government meeting. We also look forward to welcoming His Excellency the president of the People’s Republic of China and Madame Peng on a state visit in October.
Highlighting the Queen’s few diplomatic engagements chosen for the year, you may note that extra territorial visits are restricted to countries close by. The Chinese state visit in October will sit amongst a range of other measures to recommend the UK to China’s good graces, something which will receive concerted effort in the coming year.
My government will seek effective global collaboration to sustain economic recovery and to combat climate change, including at the climate change conference in Paris later this year.
With Paris as a major diplomatic challenge this year, the Government is here calling on participation and productive engagement. “Global collaboration” could be a nod to TTIP and EU negotiations currently underway, but will undoubtedly be a sign that the Government will be critical of states not playing ball,i.e. Russia and Iran, this year.
My government will undertake a full strategic defence and security review and do whatever is necessary to ensure that our courageous armed forces can keep Britain safe.
My government will work to reduce the threat from nuclear weapons, cyber-attacks and terrorism.
This includes reference to the Armed Forces Bill that is expected, and to the fact that the Government has not yet committed to keeping defence spending at 2% of GDP. It is also referring to the colloquially named “Snooper’s Charter”, which is similar to new legislation in Australia which will require ISPs to keep internet history for their customers and make it available to law enforcement. These mentions also suggest that a good proportion of defence time will be spent on intelligence, away from the public eye. Current government defence staff are facing criticism that they are too close to MI6 and not independent from the intelligence community in their Whitehall roles.