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Study finds dual approach to politics

Britain lacks clarity in its approach to world politics because there is no united vision between Government departments, according to research.

Britain’s international political strategy is inconsistent, with key state departments having differing views on Britain’s role on the international stage, the study suggests.

Although different departmental perspectives are to be expected, the lack of a shared vision on international affairs between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence is striking, historians say in a study published in Defence Studies journal.

Policy publications

Researchers reached their conclusions by studying a range of policy publications produced by both departments between 1998 and 2012.

Lead researcher Robert Crowcroft says that studying the documents is invaluable because they reflect the departmental assumptions, or ‘worldviews’, which play a crucial role in influencing politicians decision making process, significantly he says that the differences in approach have perhaps become more pronounced in recent years.

Divergence between departments

Dr Crowcroft argues that in contemporary politics the most striking area of divergence between the two departments lies in how they emphasise Britain’s links with the United States and Europe.

Researchers found the Ministry of Defence’s position to be ambiguous on Europe by only regarding a desire to increase cooperation with the European Union. At the same time, they document at great detail a special relationship with the United States, and declared its hopes for a more effective Atlantic alliance.

Emphasis on European Union

On the other hand, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office places emphasis on European Union initiatives and the development of international institutions. The United States and NATO are not listed among the top nine strategic international priorities for the department.

They found the Ministry of Defence’s position to be broadly pragmatic, while the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was found to often assume that the UK’s national interests are compatible with a wider global community.

The clash of worldwide views within British Government needs to be recognised and discussed. A lack of a common vision has significant implications for the future of UK policy.”

Dr Robert Crowcroft School of History, Classics and Archaeology.