1. How will the outcome of the EU referendum affect the UK’s role on the world stage, including its relationships within other multilateral institutions such as the United Nations?
Leaving the EU will promote the UK’s ability to play a more effective, more independent role on the world stage, one that is more aligned with British priorities. By definition, Brussels only adds value to our foreign policy insofar as we agree with the action being taken. But our weight in the EU and our ability to defend our corner has declined steeply over the 43 years we have been members.
In theory, the EU’s common foreign and security policy requires unanimity. This can be a recipe for paralysis. Additionally, the EU’s definition of foreign policy excludes areas such as trade and development. Decisions on these issues are subject to qualified majority voting so can be pushed through against British opposition.
By leaving the EU, Britain will regain its voice on key international bodies such as the World Trade Organization, enabling us to accelerate the opening of trade. The EU has failed to reach agreements with any of the world’s major economies.
The EU’s ambition to take over national representation on financial bodies like the International Monetary Fund was set out explicitly in last year’s Five Presidents’ Report. This would be a serious risk given the hostility in much of Europe towards Britain’s strength in financial services.
2. How will the outcome of the EU referendum support a strong multilateral role for the UK in terms of the international agendas on peace and security, development and human rights?
Outside the EU, Britain would continue to cooperate closely with our friends and allies, including the Union and its member states. We are often at our most effective when we work directly with partner countries, for example fighting Islamic State or, as part of Nato, deterring Russian aggression. The British armed forces are among the best in the world and Britain has the fourth largest defence budget. It is important that our contribution is distinctive and deployed to maximum effect.
European cooperation will continue to be vital in many fields where it already exists such as air travel, sanitary controls, disease, and counterterrorism. But we should not subcontract our international role to a supranational organisation. As we have seen with the EU’s faltering and divisive attempts to deal with mass migration into Europe, trying to harmonise the policies of 28 countries with often very different interests can be counter-productive. There is no need for a European army.
Britain is legally committed to spending 0.7% of GDP on international development. This will not change. We will continue to seek improved results in development, human rights, transparency and the fight against corruption.
3. How do you see the UK’s relationship with the United Nations changing as a result of the referendum?
The relationship would not change significantly if we left the EU. Britain’s permanent seat on the Security Council is central to its ability to play a useful global role and the UK will retain it while continuing to support wider reform of the council. In November 2015, the European Parliament endorsed a report calling for the abolition of the UK’s seat on the UN Security Council. Its preference was for “the EU to become a permanent member of that body, with one permanent seat and one single vote.” Leaving the EU will remove the threat of Brussels taking over the UK's role.
By leaving the EU and taking back control over our foreign policy, Britain will become more engaged internationally, not less.