None of it a surprise. The Tories simply can't give this country away fast enough.
Peter, following the Spending Review, Foreign Office funding by 2014-2015 (GBP 1.3 billion) will be exactly half the amount envisaged for the nascent European External Action Service (which will have risen to Euro 3 billion by then, or GBP 2.6 billion).
This will reflect a fundamental shift in UK diplomatic influence and activity.
Civil servants and diplomats follow the money. It is one of the reasons why historically in Brussels the best quality civil servants and diplomats tend to come from Ireland and other smaller states – because the EU budgets far exceed their own home country’s ministry budgets. That was never the case for the larger countries in the EU, until now.
A young diplomat from the UK joining up in 2015 will be faced with option of joining the UK diplomatic corps or an EU corps with twice the funding. Which will the most ambitious opt for?
This revolution in UK diplomacy is taking place against a backdrop of a Foreign Office already thrown into internal confusion by David Cameron.
He has this year paved the way for a commercial-first policy for diplomats, saying that UK diplomacy should henceforth focus on trade interests. This is all very well, but it goes against the FO tradition of a mixed training and corps in which diplomats moved between trade and political appointments.
He also caused consternation by moving a non-career diplomat – Simon Fraser – to become the permanent secretary for the diplomatic corps as of July this year. Fraser was at the department of business before that. It was the first time a non-diplomatic background civil servant had got the job.
Interestingly before 2009 Fraser was on secondment to Brussels for four years where he was Peter Mandelson’s trade spokesman. He is a europhile. That will probably not give the FO much confidence as moves into a demographically weak position vis a vis its new European rival corps!
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