Written by Jamie Gaskarth.
Downing Street has been a social whirl in the last few weeks. A procession of leaders have traipsed through the large black door of Number 10 and been warmly welcomed, including the Chinese President Xi Jinping, Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and Narendra Modi of India. These visits form a part of the prosperity agenda that is driving Britain’s foreign and security policy. In many cases, they coincide with the announcement of trade and investment deals worth billions. Thus the Chinese Premier’s visit on 20 October was said to involve £30 billion worth of business, Nazarbayev met UK business leaders, and Modi’s trip was said to herald over £9 billion in agreements between UK and Indian firms.
This kind of bilateral diplomacy has been a feature of government policy since William Hague in the last parliament announced a ‘networked foreign policy’. In theory, this involved a more adaptive policy framework in which the UK could engage with individual countries to advance the national interest. In practice, it meant an ad hoc and often confused foreign policy that seemed to lack an overall rationale. In this vacuum, the Treasury emerged as the dominant influence on external policy. The desire to increase trade has dominated Britain’s relations with other states in recent years, and spread its influence into defence and security policy. Prosperity is now a central plank of the country’s security agenda.