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How the new Labour government could change British foreign policy

Semafor signals: Global insights into today’s biggest stories.

Starmer will continue Britain’s support for Ukraine, but the country could lag behind in defence spending

Politico, The London Times

Britain’s new defence secretary vowed to honour the multi-year military assistance agreement with Ukraine and Starmer is likely to reassure his NATO colleagues of Britain’s broader commitment to the country, a senior EU official told Politico. But Labour’s self-imposed fiscal rules mean no date has yet been set for increasing Britain’s spending on NATO defence from 2% to 2.5% of GDP, the outlet noted, which has become an increasingly sticking point after Russia’s deadliest airstrikes on Ukraine in months. A former British army chief told the Times of London the figure needs to be “closer to 3%”.

Great Britain also has something to offer the EU

Britain in a changing Europe, Centre for European Reforms

The European Political Community, which Starmer will host, is a forum better suited to symbolism and tone-setting than concrete results, argue two experts at the UK in a Changing Europe think tank. But Labour “should not be put off by often frosty EU officials in improving Britain’s trading relations with the Union,” argues Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform. While some in the EU will inevitably accuse Starmer of “cherry-picking” access to the single market, which he has ruled out rejoining, the reality is that the EU wants to “cherry-pick itself” in the form of British fishing and mobility schemes for British youth, Grant added.

Labour’s approach to China should avoid stabilisation, experts argue

Foreign policy, South China Morning Post, Chatham House

Starmer has vowed to launch a “review” of Britain’s China policy within 100 days, but it “would be unrealistic” to frame his approach to Beijing with a view to stabilising relations, a Foreign Policy columnist argued. Middle powers like Britain cannot solve major geopolitical issues such as Taiwan or China’s support for Russia on their own, he wrote, but Britain and China could find other areas of cooperation, particularly in AI governance, climate and the digital economy, an expert told the South China Morning Post. The British government must recognise that Beijing’s diplomacy is based on a “congruence of interests” rather than shared values ​​like those of Britain and the US, an Asia expert for Chatham House argued.