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30 March 2015Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs 720

The last combat troops have recently left Afghanistan after 13 years of warfare but with considerable instability in Syria and Iraq and the threat of Islamic State foreign affairs are highly relevant to the future of the United Kingdom. Traditionally issues of defence and foreign affairs have not featured significantly in UK elections although some would credit the high level of support received by the Liberal Democrats in 2010 to their opposition to the Iraq War.

The Conservative Party have come under pressure to pledge to spend 2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product on defence, with back benchers from the party calling on the leadership to ring fence funding for the armed forces. This kind of commitment hasn't happened in the past but budget cuts in coming years mean funding could drop below this threshold.

The ease of global transport and technological links has increased the ties between countries. In addition addressing many global challenges, such as climate change and the Ebola outbreak and other public health crises, requires a response greater than what one individual country can achieve.

The UK's continued membership of the European Union will also be under scrutiny during the election campaign. The Conservative Party have pledged a referendum in 2017 following a renegotiation of membership. UKIP want Britain to leave the EU while the Liberal Democrats are firmly behind continued membership. The Labour Party believe that the best option for Britain is to remain in a reformed European Union

Christian perspective 

Christians often pray for situations in countries around the world, at the election we have the opportunity to have a say about how our government engages beyond the borders of the UK. It can also be difficult to see how we can have a difference especially in the face of the extreme violence and warfare many experience across the globe.

Some Christians take a view that war is always wrong, while others argue for certain conditions which have to be met to justify it. Theoretical positions are also complicated by the specific situations surrounding decisions whether the UK should enter a particular conflict. While we hope and long for the day when war will be no more we also act in our world to help bring peace wherever we can –regardless of whether we think a particular war is right or wrong.

Party policies

The Conservatives have promised to hold an in/out referendum on the EU, maintain the size of the armed services and retain trident.

Labour pledge to allow no further transfer of powers to Brussels without a referendum, outlaw discrimination against Armed Forces members and establish a Centre for Universal Health Coverage to provide global support to help countries provide free healthcare.

The Liberal Democrats would ban arms exports to countries flagged up by the FCO's human rights report, integrate defence and security spending and cut the number of submarines.

UKIP would push forward an in/out referendum on the EU in the hopes of leaving the EU, seek to establish free trade agreements across the globe, increase defence spending, retain trident and consult parliament before committing Britain's armed forces to combat situations. 

The Greens would scrap the UK's nuclear weapons, prioritise securing a global agreement on climate and stop the EU-US free trade deal (TTIP).

You can read more about the party manifestos here

Questions to consider

  • What is the best way to respond to the threat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and broader instability in the region?
  • The future of the armed forces –can we afford to maintain a military that is well resourced and able to deal with the potential threats?
  • How should nations cooperate together to tackle global problems such as public health crises?
  • Should the UK stay in the European Union, and should the relationship be renegotiated?