England: Post-Johnson Period Foreign Policy Possibilities

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On July 7, 2022, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he had resigned from the leadership of the Conservative Party and would continue to serve as Prime Minister until a new leader would be elected. While the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected the whole world, are still present, regional and global transformations are happening due to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Today, energy, food and economic crises are happening along with these transformations. Thus, the recent developments in the UK may cause some changes in the foreign policy of the country as well as in the domestic policy of the country. The approaches of the candidates who will come to power after the Johnson period will be important in terms of how the UK foreign policy will be shaped with regard to the current situation.

Brexit has been the most important development during the Boris Johnson period. By evading the responsibility obtained by membership to the European Union (EU), England has gained the ability to create a more independent policy. This made Johnson an important leader in the post-Brexit period due to his influence on the shaping of UK foreign policy. Especially in terms of the realization of the “Global Britain Vision”, which was brought to the agenda during the Theresa May period, this period offered Prime Minister Johnson important opportunities.

In addition, the document titled “Global Britain in a Competitive Age” published on 16 March 2021 outlined the general framework of post-Brexit policies. The document, which was introduced by Johnson with the words “A new page in the history of England”, explains the main objectives of England in foreign relations, security and defense policies.

When the document is examined in terms of foreign policy, values and commercial ties with other countries come to the fore, and it is understood that the Atlanticist understanding continues to be a priority. The first statement of the document is that the US-British alliance will continue, and that the importance of the Euro-Pacific Region in ensuring the security and welfare of England should be recognized.

Then, the document states that Russia poses a direct threat to Britain and Europe and that the West is to act as a whole in accordance with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) against this threat.[1] Essentially, the Russian threat has been a critical factor in increasing the commitment to the cooperation of the countries in the region in order to sustain protection and strengthening of European security. In this context, Britain acts jointly with both NATO and the EU in order to ensure European security, and supports Eastern European countries that are vulnerable to Russian influence.

As a reflection of this setting, a triple pact was signed between Poland, Ukraine and England on February 17, 2022, and it was decided to provide coordination on cyber security, energy security and the fight against disinformation.[2] Later, Johnson proposed to form a military, political and economic alliance with Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania against the Russian threat.

The Russia-Ukraine War, which started on 24 February 2022, and revealed that European security was under Russian threat, and thus confirmed the statement of the document. From the early days of the war, Britain showed its commitment to provide Ukraine with military support in its fight against Russia.

The war on the European continent reminded the need for NATO in establishing and protecting the security of the region, and the states that are not members of NATO made attempts to join the Atlantic Alliance in order to increase their security.

Similarly, Finland and Sweden, countries with neutral status, have also applied for membership in NATO. On 11 May 2022, Britain signed a “Security Agreement” with Sweden and Finland, which ended their neutrality status and signed NATO accession protocols. The agreement includes the right of the parties to cooperate in the fields of military training, drills and intelligence, as well as the promise of Britain to provide military support to both countries in the event of them being attacked.[3] In short, during the contemporary reshaping of European security, England tries to be among the shapers.

Relations with China and “Indo-Pacific Region Foreign Policy” are other issues in the document that draw attention. China is described as an important competitor in terms of economic security of England. However, it has been stated that trade relations with China can be developed without harming British values and cooperation can be made on issues such as climate change, protection of biodiversity and fighting transnational problems.[4] London wants to develop more comprehensive and lasting relations in the Indo-Pacific Region, which has become increasingly important and competitive today, in terms of protecting its security, economy, values and interests compared to other European countries.[5]

As it will be remembered, on September 15, 2021, the USA, England, and Australia formed the defense pact called AUKUS in order to prevent the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific Region and to build new nuclear submarines.[6] On the occasion of the AUKUS, Britain continued its traditional US partnership and settled in the Indo-Pacific Region. In addition to the Pacific, Britain has launched free trade negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council with the aim of increasing its effectiveness on the Gulf countries. It should be noted that if any agreement is reached, it will be possible for London to increase its influence in the Indo-Pacific in line with the Global Britain goal, as well as providing more support to the British economy.

All these developments in foreign policy during the Johnson period have had significant consequences for England. The post-Johnson UK foreign policy will be shaped by either former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak or Foreign Minister Liz Truss. Sunak is a politician who lived in the United States and embraced the Atlanticist understanding. Truss, on the other hand, is a Europeanist and is known for being close to Canada. While Truss supported staying in the EU in 2016, when the Brexit issue was presented to the referendum, he later defended Brexit by taking part in the cabinet during the Johnson period. Today, both candidates express their commitment to Brexit. After all, staying outside the EU enables London to be more liberated and mobile.

It is clear that this policy of London, which openly supported the Kiev administration in the war between Russia and Ukraine, will continue in the new leadership period. As a symbol of this support, it is likely that Kiev will be included in the foreign visits of the new Prime Minister. However, there may be a decrease in the intensity and amount of support to Ukraine due to the economic problems in the country.

Both candidates agree that China poses a threat to both the UK and global security. Sunak states that China’s purchase of important British companies, including strategically sensitive companies, should be banned. As a matter of fact, in the recent past, England has decided to remove Huawei from the 5G infrastructure. However, it is estimated that the development of trade relations with China will be more prominent if Sunak, who has an economic and financial background is elected, due to utility maximization. In other words, he can continue Britain’s politics of balance in relations with China.

Truss, on the other hand, advocates the view of limiting technology exports as much as possible from authoritarian regimes. He also made a comparison with Ukraine in the past and suggested that Britain should give weapons to Taiwan in order to prevent a possible Chinese invasion in Taiwan. During the election period, with the influence of the Chinese lobby, he avoided making statements about the security of Taiwan and what happened in Xinjiang.[7] However, in the event that the Prime Minister is Truss, it is likely that the issue of Taiwan will be raised more frequently and that the US will be urged to implement proactive policy in Taiwan. Therefore, Sunak will create a Chinese policy on the basis of interests and Truss will create a Chinese policy on the basis of values.

As a result, both candidates have their own views on foreign policy. However, considering the epidemics, wars, crises, competitions and the fact that the world will face more and more similar crises, radical changes in the foreign policy of the leaders should not be expected. In any case, it can be said that there will be a similar trend to the Johnson period in the new period and there will not be many changes.

The sharp return in Britain’s foreign policy can be realized with the change of the party, not with the leader who rules the country. On the other hand, it should be noted that the new Prime Minister will spend overtime to improve the scandalous image of the party during the Johnson period and increase its decreasing popularity, focusing primarily on domestic policy. In this process, it is possible to take advantage of some foreign policy decisions that will receive the support of the public in order to aid in the interests of the party.

[1]“Global Britain in a Competitive Age: The Integrated Review of Security, Defense, Development And Foreign Policy”, HM Government,, (Date of Accession: 26.07.2022).

[2]Evan Simko Berdnarski, “Ukraine, Poland And UK Sign Cooperation Agreement As Russian Threat Looms”, New York Post,, (Date of Accession: 26.07.2022).

[3]Anne Kauranen, “UK Strikes New Security Agreement With Sweden And Finland”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 26.07.2022).

[4]“Global Britain in a Competitive Age: The Integrated Review of Security, Defense, Development And Foreign Policy”, HM Government,, (Date of Accession: 26.07.2022).


[6]“What Is The Aukus Alliance And What Are Ites Implications?”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession: 26.07.2022).

[7]“Altar Ruse Aims To Outmanoeuvre Truss Over China”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession: 26.07.2022).

Gamze BAL
Gamze BAL
Gamze BAL has completed her undergraduated education at Sakarya University, Department of International Relations. Afterward, she has completed his master in Sakarya University with a dissertation titled “The European Union’s Policy on Palestine-Israel Issue in Post 1992”. Between 2021 and 2022, she studied doctoral program in European Union at Institute of Social Sciences, Istanbul University. At the present time, Bal pursuing a PhD in international relations at Instıtute of Graduate Program, Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University. Having advenced level in English, her main research areas are European Union, security, ethnic conflicts, means of conflict resolution.