A SCOTTISH MP has hit out at the government’s “woeful” record on defence after the UK slipped to its lowest-ever ranking in a world “soft power” table.
And Douglas Chapman said it confirmed what the SNP had been claiming for months – that Brexit had harmed the UK’s international standing, even before Article 50 had been triggered.
The concept of soft power was developed by American political scientist Joseph Nye in the late 1980s to describe a country’s ability to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion – or hard power. Global affairs magazine Monocle noted that the UK had slipped to fourth place in its world soft power table after being overtaken by Japan in third place. The US was first, followed by Germany, The magazine said the fall was “thanks to a divisive EU referendum campaign and subsequent anti-foreigner attitudes”.
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“The UK is a soft-power giant but recently its strengths have been undercut by a government that doesn’t see it,” said the publication. “Animosity towards foreigners serves to diminish its soft power further.”
Three of its weaknesses centred on refugees, innovation and its image: “The referendum vote, fuelled by anti-immigrant rhetoric, has damaged the UK’s standing around the world. If foreigners don’t feel welcome, the country’s soft power will be drastically diminished.
“Too few international patents are filed in the UK, particularly for the world’s sixth-largest economy. The UK is a multicultural society but sometimes forgets to look like one.”
Last month, Chapman, the MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, asked in a parliamentary question of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) “what definition the government uses of soft power, and how the government quantifies the statement that the UK has some of the strongest and most effective soft power in the world”.
His question was answered by Parliamentary Under-Secretary Alok Sharma, who said: “The UK’s soft power stems from a wide range of resources, many of which are completely independent of government. This includes the UK’s values, the English language, our cultural heritage and assets, and our world-class education system, all of which attract tourists, students and business investment.
“In addition, the Government has chosen to invest in organisations such as the British Council and the BBC World Service, which build understanding between countries.”
However, Chapman told The National: “Despite their insistence that the UK’s ‘soft power’ compensates for its woeful record on defence, this survey proves what me and my SNP colleagues have been saying for months: that Brexit has done untold damage to the UK’s international standing, even before we get to Article 50.”
“HMG’s assertion that the UK’s soft power will make up for its hard power deficiencies, at a time when the Navy is crying out for new ships, and our armed forces personnel are going through a real terms wage cut, is looking pretty embarrassing.”