If the UK wants to be a strong global power, it takes more than a military. It requires soft power.

First published in November 2020.

I was on LBC this morning talking to Andrew Pierce about cuts to the foreign aid budget.

It is a fair point, and one which will resonate with a lot of people, made by Andrew Pierce during the interview regarding why we should spend nearly £15 billion on foreign aid while at the same time freezing public sector pay.

It is not the whole argument though.

The government has just announced an additional £4 billion per year for the next four years for the armed forces, which exceeds the savings which would be made by reducing the foreign aid budget from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5% with far less real world impact for UK international power.

It is easy to say that the UK should not be spending aid money in countries such as India which are developing a space program. That ignores two key points though.

Yes, those countries should be supporting their poorest citizens, but they are not. Reducing poverty is essential in helping to create long term stability. Yes you can complain that countries should be doing it themselves, but as they are not, then someone needs to and that should be the UK.

By investing into helping others we benefit ourselves. If you want a very cold way of thinking about it, then look at the age old principle of “spend money to make money”. The long term impact of the aid budget helps create links for the UK which increases the chances of trade, etc.

Yes, the UK is one of only a handful of countries which spends the 0.7% allocated by the United Nations. That’s not a reason for the UK to reduce investment though. It is an argument for why it should stand as an example to get others to increase theirs.

We are coming to the end of the road with our relationship with the EU. Once the transition is over, if the UK wants to be a strong global power, it takes more than a military. It requires soft power. There has never been a more important time in living memory of the aid budget.

It is easy to say we shouldn’t send money overseas when it is needed here. We need to send it overseas to save us money here though and generate the ties which help increase the money coming into the UK in the long term.🔷

Further Reading:

Dan Sohege, Human rights advocate, international refugee law specialist, immigration economist, charity fundraising professional and Director of Stand For All.

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 21 November 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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