On 3rd February 2020, Boris Johnson stood under the murals of Greenwich Maritime Museum to outline his vision of a Global Britain outside the European Union. Almost exactly one year on, the UK has left the EU and the Prime Minister is trying to make his promise a reality. The Government’s agenda is driven by an attempt to look further afield than our closest neighbours in Europe to influence global policy.
The Prime Minister has been dealt a decent hand in 2021 to bring his Global Britain vision to fruition: Hosting the G7 summit on the British Seaside in Cornwall in June and the COP26 Summit in Glasgow. The Summits brings Johnson and UK businesses the opportunity to host world leaders and demonstrate the best of British. The G7 is also likely to be the new US President's first major trip outside the Americas and is already tipped to have all the pomp of a state visit, with the coveted trip to see the Queen in Buckingham palace, before he flies down to the Cornish coast to have fish and chips with his fellow world leaders. For this to be taking place in Britain, enabling the Prime Minister to use the UK’s cultural soft power, as the UK forges its own path outside the EU is a huge opportunity for Boris Johnson and his Global Britain agenda.
The UK’s charm offensive on the world stage will come to a head in November when the COP26 summit takes place in Glasgow. COP26 – the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is a unique global event that combines elements of an international summit, a business conference such as Davos, and a Party Conference. It is a powerful positioning opportunity for the UK, but also for brands and sectors as much of the media attention and political agenda of the year (outside of COVID-19) will be focused.
The Government are urging businesses to take part in the Conference by exhibiting or hosting an event to highlight the best of British and show that the whole country is committed to the environment agenda. Boris Johnson knows that the climate emergency is the biggest global issue on the agenda and wants to be seen to be a leading figure in the fight against climate change. The Prime Minister is using this positioning to promote his Global Britain agenda, which brings with it benefits for British business and innovation.
Although the Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic to date has lagged behind most other countries, the global vaccine race has highlighted the UKs ambition to be world leaders in science and technology and commitment to playing its part helping developing nations, despite cutting the aid budget. What appears to be one of the few successes of the Government’s Covid policy was to back venture capitalist Kate Bingham and gamble on unproven jabs and will mean the UK has a surplus of vaccines, that, once the country has been inoculated, will be offered to developing nations to speed up their vaccination programmes. This also offers the UK an opportunity to lead a Western response to attempts by China and Russia to expand their influence by offering their vaccines to poorer countries. The cost of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab enables the British to partake in the vaccination diplomacy game at scale as the jab developed in the UK is one of the cheapest on the market.
To add to the vaccine diplomacy, the UK has also applied to join the Trans Pacific Partnership, a free-trade pact that includes Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand. Boris Johnson and his Trade Secretary Liz Truss will hope that by shifting its focus to other trading blocs outside of Europe, further demonstrates the UK’s ambition to be a Global Britain.
It is clear that since the promise to become a global Britain in Greenwich, the dream is finally starting to become a reality for Boris Johnson, with 2021 only the springboard to this mission.
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We’ve attempted a smorgasbord of 30 second snippets, stories and explanations around sustainability. It’s not exhaustive - more Yoda’s little finger than Yoda. But it is, we hope, a semi-useful guide to the story, meaning and context around COP26 and what matters in the next few years.
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