Foreign relations of the United Kingdom

Foreign relations of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom (UK) is a key player in international politics, with interests throughout the world. The former British Empire, notably through its successor, the Commonwealth of Nations, links the UK with many of the world's nations in one way or another. The UK has also exported its parliamentary style government, legal and financial systems, and language throughout the world. The UK is a major Member State in the European Union (EU) and holds a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

ummary of UK relations specific countries and regions

United States of America

The United Kingdom and the United States are close military allies. The two countries share cultural similarities, as well as military research and intelligence facilities. The UK has purchased military technology from the USA such as Tomahawk cruise missiles and Trident nuclear missiles, and the US has purchased equipment from Britain (e.g. Harrier). The USA also maintains a large number of military personnel in the UK. In recent years, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of the United States have often been close friends, for example Tony Blair and Bill Clinton and later with George W. Bush and in the 1980s the often like-minded Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Present British policy is that the relationship with the United States represents Britain's "most important bilateral relationship" [] .

European Union

The UK has had good relations with the rest of Europe since the Second World War. It became a member of the European Economic Community in 1973. The EEC eventually became the European Union through the Maastricht Treaty of the European Union in 1993. [ [ BBC ON THIS DAY | 1 | 1973: Britain joins the EEC ] ] . Although the UK does not use the Euro and is not a member of the Eurozone [ [ BBC ON THIS DAY | 1 | 2002: Celebrations as euro hits the streets ] ] , it still plays a leading role in the day to day workings of the EU. The UK has clashed with other Member States of the European Union, particularly with France and Germany, most recently over the US-led war with Iraq [ [ BBC ON THIS DAY | 20 | 2003: US launches missiles against Saddam ] ] .

Commonwealth of Nations

The UK has varied relationships with the countries that make up the Commonwealth of Nations which originated from the British Empire. The Queen is the head of the Commonwealth and is head of 16 of its 53 member states. Those that retain the Queen as head of state are called Commonwealth Realms. The European Union generally takes precedence over the Commonwealth, and the UK has tended to side with EU countries over Commonwealth countries when disputes arise. For example, over French nuclear testing, the UK sided with France over fellow Anglosphere nations, Australia and New Zealand. Over time several countries have been suspended from the Commonwealth for various reasons. Zimbabwe was suspended because of the authoritarian rule of its President [ [ The Commonwealth of Nations - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade ] ] and so too was Pakistan but has since returned. Countries which become republics are still eligible for membership of the commonwealth so long as they are deemed democratic. Commonwealth nations such as Malaysia enjoyed no export duties before the UK concentrated their economic relationship with EU member states. This policy has somewhat backfired with the growth of India. British diplomats are now trying to assert this link.


India was a colony of Britain from 1858 to 1947 and the British East India Company ruled over large parts of India from the 18th century before that. Since 1947, relations between the two countries have been good. Around two million Indian immigrants live in the United Kingdom. India is the second biggest investor in the UK following the US. Indian culture and cuisine are very popular in the UK (although the stereotypical Indian curry, Chicken Tikka Massala, is actually Glaswegian recipe). Tea is imported to Britain from India. Both India and the UK, are members of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Republic of Ireland

Despite a long history of conflict from English Tudor plantation in Ireland to the Irish War of independence, the UK presently works closely with the government of the Republic of Ireland in areas concerning the peace process in Northern Ireland as well as on many security issues. In 1949 the Irish Houses of Parliament passed the Republic of Ireland Act, making the Republic of Ireland officially fully independent; the country withdrew from the Commonwealth. Under the Ireland Act 1949 Irish citizens are treated as though they are Commonwealth citizens and not aliens for the purposes of law. Until 1998, the Republic of Ireland claimed Northern Ireland, but this was rescinded under the Belfast Agreement through an amendment of the Irish Constitution, which now states an aspiration to peaceful unity. There is an ongoing dispute that also involves Denmark and Iceland, over the status of the ocean floor surrounding Rockall. However, this is for the most part a trivial issue rarely makes it onto British-Irish meeting agendas. [ BBC ON THIS DAY | 21 | 1955: Britain claims Rockall ] ]


Pakistan, being a former part of the crown jewel; the British Raj, Pakistan has maintained very good relations with the United Kingdom. Relations with Pakistan felt a slight drop in November 2007 due to the Pakistani state of emergency and resultant suspension of Pakistan from the commonwealth of Nations. Relations since then, however have improved dramatically.


Since World War II the UK has enjoyed excellent relations with West Germany, as well as the reunited Germany. The UK has maintained a large military prescence in Germany since World War II. Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder also enjoyed a good relationship although this was tempered by the Iraq War, where Germany aligned with France in not supporting military action against Iraq. The former German Democratic Republic was a socialist state with which the UK was naturally hostile towards during the Cold War. Germany and the UK are both members of the EU.


As with Germany the political position of both countries can be seen as very good, the British population engage in a lively and highly tongue-in-cheek relationship and mostly friendly rivalry with France, stemming from hundreds of years of rivalry and enmity between the two countries and perhaps epitomised by The Sun newspaper's relentless bashing of French institutions and personalities. There have been continual clashes publicly and through national newspapers over such issues as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) where France is seen as a major net recipient and unduly so. However in important times the United Kingdom and France normally stick close together. The two nations maintain a mutual respect for one another as both countries suffered greatly during both World Wars in which both were members of the Allies.On a two-day summit which began in London 26 March 2008, Queen Elizabeth II threw a lavish banquet at Windsor Castle after taking the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy on a carriage ride through the streets of Windsor. Gordon Brown hopes the visit will cement his warm relationship with Sarkozy, and offer a chance to discuss France's positive new stance toward the United States. Other weighty topics are: expansion of France's military role in NATO and Afghanistan, a joint nuclear energy program, immigration, and the Subprime mortgage crisis that has spread from the United States to Europe. After visiting the queen, Sarkozy and Bruni-Sarkozy will lay a wreath at the Tomb of The Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey -- a gesture designed to emphasize that Britain and France have fought World War I and World War II together. Besides, the meeting shall thrash out thorny issues including a stalled joint aircraft carrier project and slow progress on a joint call for a 26,000-strong peacekeeping unit of United Nations and African Union troops for Sudan's western Darfur region. Relations between London and Paris have improved dramatically in recent months, and Sarkozy's arrival is a chance to "put it up in lights". [ [ UK to give Sarkozy, wife royal welcome - ] ]


Between 4 and 5 million British tourists visit Italy every year, while 1 million Italian tourists visit the UK. [ Italy Country Profile, Foreign and Commonwealth Office] ] There are about 19,000 British nationals living in Italy, and 150,000 Italians living in the UK. [ [ Bilateral Relations British Embassy, Italy ] ]

*'Britalian' - British people of Italian descent.


The United Kingdom has stated its support and recognition of the breakaway state of Kosovo from Serbia. [ [ U.S., Britain, France and the Netherlands back Kosovo] ] The United Kingdom and Kosovo also maintain bilateral relations at ambassadorial level. The UK has been lobbying on behalf of the Republic of Kosovo for international recognition.


Ever since its recognized independence in 1948, the United Kingdom and Israel have shared cordial and strongly strategic relations; the two nations share interests in the fields of political cooperation, immigration (seeing as many British Jews migrate to Israel) and economic tradeFact|date=August 2008. Nevertheless, Anglo-Israeli relations became turbulent in the summer of 2006 when Prime Minister Tony Blair, along with many other European leaders criticized IDF airstrikes against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, which had high civilian casualties. During the current Brown premiership, relations between the two countries continued to remain close.


The UK maintains two sovereign area military bases on the island of Cyprus. The UK is also a signatory to a treaty with Greece and Turkey concerning the independence of Cyprus, the Treaty of Guarantee, which maintains that Britain is a "guarantor power" of the island's independence. [ [ Sovereign Base Areas Cyprus ] ]



The UK was once a dominant colonial power in many countries on the continent of Africa and remains the largest investor in sub-Saharan Africa. Nowadays the UK as lead member of the Commonwealth of Nations seeks to influence Africa through its foreign policies. Current UK disputes are with Zimbabwe over alleged human rights violations. Tony Blair has set up the Africa Commission and urged countries to end Third World Debt.

Major international disputes between the UK and foreign countries since 1945

* 1946 – territorial disputes with Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, DDR, Bulgaria and others.
* 1948-1949 – Berlin Blockade - dispute with USSR over access to West Berlin [ [ BBC News | Berlin | The Berlin blockade: Moscow draws the iron curtain ] ]
* 1950-1953 – Korean War - war with the People's Republic of China/North Korea
* 1951-1954 – Abadan Crisis - dispute with Iran over expropriated oil assets
* 1956-1957 – Suez Crisis - armed conflict with Egypt, and dispute with most of international community
* 1958 – First Cod War - fishing dispute with Iceland
* 1962-1966 – Konfrontasi - war with Indonesia
* 1972-1973 – Second Cod War - fishing dispute with Iceland
* 1975-1976 – Third Cod War - fishing dispute with Iceland [ [ BBC ON THIS DAY | 19 | 1973: Super tug to defend fishing fleet ] ]
* 1980 – with Australia over nuclear testing by the United Kingdom in lands claimed by some Aboriginal groups to be sacred.
* 1982 – Falklands War - war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands
* 1983 – dispute with the United States over its Invasion of Grenada, of which Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is the monarch. [ [ BBC ON THIS DAY | 25 | 1983: US troops invade Grenada ] ] [ [ Grenada - Relations with the United States ] ]
* 1984 – dispute with Libya after a policewoman is shot dead in London by a gunman from within the Libyan embassy.
* 1988 – further dispute with Libya over the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over the Scottish town of Lockerbie [ [ BBC ON THIS DAY | 21 | 1988: Jumbo jet crashes onto Lockerbie ] ]
* 1991 – Gulf War with Iraq [ [ BBC ON THIS DAY | 17 | 1991: 'Mother of all Battles' begins ] ]
* 1994 – dispute with the European Union, United States and Canada over the ban on exports of British meat products, UK withdraws co-operation with the EU.Fact|date=August 2008
* 1995 – involvement in Yugoslavia (specifically Bosnia) through NATO
* 1999 – involvement in NATO bombing campaign on Kosovo
* 2001 – occupation of Afghanistan
* 2003 – war against, and subsequent occupation of, Iraq, including disputes with Russia, France, and Germany
* 2007 – (ongoing) diplomatic dispute with Russia over the death of Alexander Litvinenko [ [ Timeline: Anglo-Russian relations | UK news | ] ]

overeignty Disputes

* Spain claims the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. [ [ BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Country profiles | Regions and territories: Gibraltar ] ]
* Argentina claims the overseas territories of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. [ [ Falkland Islands - LoveToKnow 1911 ] ]
* Mauritius claims the entire Chagos Archipelago in the British Indian Ocean Territory, including the island of Diego Garcia used as a joint UK/US military base since the 1950s when the inhabitants were forcibly removed, Blenheim Reef, Speakers Bank and all the other features. [ [ The battle for the Chagos archipelago: Mauritius is preparing to go to the International Court of Justice to re-claim its sovereignty over the Chagos archipelago. Nasseem Ackb... ] ]
* Dispute over territorial waters and continental shelf rights around Rockall.
* There is a territorial claim in Antarctica, the British Antarctic Territory, which overlaps with areas claimed by Chile and Argentina. [ [ Argentina ready to challenge Britain's Antarctic claims | Environment | The Guardian ] ]


ee also

* British military history
* Common Travel Area
* Foreign and Commonwealth Office
* Department for International Development
* Heads of United Kingdom Missions
* Sino-British Joint Declaration
* Diplomatic missions of the United Kingdom
* List of diplomatic missions in the United Kingdom

External links

* [ Foreign and Commonwealth Office]
* [ Department for International Development]

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