UK Ambassador Says Integrated Review Responds to ‘Nasty Age in the 21st Century’

May 7, 2021 by Kate Michael
Dame Karen Pierce, the United Kingdom’s first female Ambassador to the United States.

WASHINGTON — Following its recent withdrawal from the European Union, the United Kingdom published an Integrated Review setting out a vision for a renewed role in the world. This comprehensive document also underlines that the U.K. and the U.S. take a different approach to global development than many other nations. “To borrow from Hamilton, ‘We think in English,’” said Dame Karen Pierce. “To think in English means, quintessentially, to put freedom at the heart of everything we do.”

Pierce, the United Kingdom’s first female Ambassador to the United States who was also knighted with distinction in 2018, recently joined a virtual discussion of The Wilson Center to share her views on the future of U.K. security, defense, development, and foreign policy following the publishing of what U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as “the largest review of its kind since the Cold War.”

Launched in mid-March, Pierce admitted that the review was “designed to address the question of how to adapt to… a nastier age in the 21st Century than we had ever expected when the Cold War came to an end.” 

Still, she asserted the result “shows that an independent Britain is back,” with plans to include strategic advantages through science and technology, shaping the open international order of the future, building resilience, and strengthening security and defense at home and overseas. 

“We have a real ambition to be a science and technology superpower,” Pierce said, understanding that the world stands on the threshold of a transformation of technology. She said that the U.K. has long wanted to get ahead of the curve and “try to harness, exploit, and identify all of these opportunities caused by emerging technologies…. because it’s going to be transformative.”

The nation has especially focused on the life sciences over the last few years, though she admitted that the U.K. needs to put more effort into manufacturing capabilities as well. 

“We want to establish the U.K. as a global services digital and data hub,” she said, “and we know that we need better funding for emerging tech so they want to stay and grow more in Britain.”

And despite its independent interest and withdrawal from the EU, Pierce said the U.K. does plan to “work with the EU even though we’re outside of it on certain issues… like human rights.” She highlighted the importance of “burden sharing,” which she described as taking a share of the world’s problems and trying to help solve them together.

“[We want to] partner with countries around the world… willing to step forward and help resolve some of the world’s key challenges,” she said, and “build agile alliances so we can put our ‘shoulder to the wheel.’”

“We [also] need America back on the world stage and leading,” she insisted, and, for its part, the U.K. wants to be a leading European neighbor in NATO and has joined as an ASEAN partner. 

Along with regional coalitions, Pierce specifically spoke of modernizing big institutions like the UN and pushing for open societies and open markets around the globe.

“If the New World Order doesn’t uphold open societies and open markets, the world will be poorer both literally and metaphysically,” she said. “We do not want to cede the 21st century to authoritarianism.” 

Though she said the U.K. was “ready to collaborate and cooperate on global challenges” with China, Pierce also recognized that “the China thing is certainly the issue of our times… we’re at a very interesting moment in terms of how we work with China.” She acknowledged the U.K’s need to try to compete with China in terms of invention while pushing back on intellectual property and security concerns as well as challenges to democracy.

For example, she said, “We consider China’s actions in Hong Kong a breach of international treaty, and the Chinese are not correct in pretending that it isn’t.”

In all of this, Pierce reminded that the Integrated Review “sets out very clearly that the U.S. remains our most important strategic ally and partner,” even calling America “Ally #1.”

“Sharing endeavors in war and peace is fundamentally what the bedrock of our relationship is all about, and the Integrated Review is designed to take us to the next level.” 

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