UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Dominic Raab has told his officials to work carefully to manage relations with the US and China — and avoid the UK becoming trapped in a new “Cold War” between the two countries.
Raab held an internal meeting of British diplomats and officials on Sept. 2 during which he set out his vision for “global Britain” and outlined the approach for the newly formed government department he leads — the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
According to details of the meeting shared with Bloomberg, Raab hardly mentioned the so-called special relationship between the UK and the US during his remarks.
Instead, he drew a distinction between British interests and the direction that political debate was taking toward China in the US and Britain, saying the UK would need to pitch its approach carefully with Washington as well as Beijing.
The FCDO declined to comment.
The comments emerged as Raab prepared for talks today with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington.
It shows how the UK government is working to avoid outright condemnation of China, despite anticipating pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration to take a harder approach. Walking that line would be a key challenge for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government as it seeks to carve out a new role for the UK outside the EU.
Raab said the UK could act to help bring mid-sized countries together as geopolitical alliances shift in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will need to pitch ourselves very carefully, both directly with China, but also with the US,” Raab told the meeting. “That interesting coalition of like-minded countries is not really interested in being snared in a new Cold War of some description, and it will require a lot of focus and analysis.”
Raab described the current international landscape as the most challenging in a generation.
He said the UK had a niche as a “great convenor” of like-minded middle-ranking powers that together could “make a difference and shift the dial” — and described just talking about the big players — the US, Europe and China — as “intellectual laziness.”
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