UK International Development Policy post Brexit?
Dr Simon Lightfoot has co-authored an article for The Policy Space about UK International Development post-Brexit.
Dr Lightfoot's piece comes in the wake of Theresa May’s commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on Official Development Assistance.
The article claims that May’s statement can be looked upon as brave, as it is an unpopular decision with some sections of the Conservative party and British media:
The Brexit decision emboldened these critics of UK aid, who believe they have the support of a majority of the British people to cut the aid budget, with this majority being made up of a similar demographic to those who voted Brexit.
The article reminds us, however, that the focus on the amount of aid doesn’t give a complete story. It’s also important how the money is spent and, as the 2015 Treasury Paper reminded us, the focus is very much with the national interest in aid spending.
Lightfoot and colleagues suggest that alongside poverty reduction ‘much of the new energy and investment of the Conservative aid strategy has been in stimulating trade and private sector-led development’. They argue that there is a clear narrative that Brexit will accelerate the trend to utilise aid to secure trade deals, given the need for the UK to re-focus its foreign and trade policy away from the EU.
The article then turns to the future. It suggests that the Conservative Manifesto has reinforced the view that the definition of aid is likely to change should Theresa May win the General Election on 8 June as it focuses on working with like-minded countries to change the aid rules, or else change the law to redefine development spending.
Lightfoot et al heed a warning: ‘The Department for International Development should not be restricted in carrying out its core work, to reduce poverty, by growing pressure to act in the UK’s national interest’, particularly as it is a well-respected government department within the UK and internationally. As we enter a crucial time in British foreign policy it is crucial the UK’s proud record on aid remains.