Britain the most attractive country for work, rest and pray

Tolerance of religion and faith helps country take top spot in poll

Britain’s claim of being a “soft-power superpower” has been reinforced by a survey in which it ranks as the world's most attractive country.

Based on its appeal in education, employment and tourism, the UK leapfrogged Canada to become the number one nation for young people, an Ipsos Mori survey for the British Council found.

Tolerance for different faiths and religions also played a role in the landing top spot.

The survey of young adults from 36 countries, carried out before the coronavirus pandemic broke out and Brexit negotiations concluded, gives some credibility to the claim made in the Integrated Review on defence and security, that the UK was a world leader in wielding influence through soft power.

The UK passed Canada to take the top slot with 74 per cent of respondents saying it was the most overall attractive country to visit. Italy, France and Australia made up the rest of the top five, followed by Germany, Japan, USA, Brazil and Russia.

The findings come after the £10 billion ($13.83bn) cut in Britain’s overseas aid budget that was condemned across the political spectrum.

Adrian Chadwick, a British Council director, suggested that “complacency in the face of massive investment and soft power from other international players” could result in the loss of long-term influence.

“There's a reason to be cautiously optimistic for the future of global Britain but we need to be realistic about the challenges inherent in maintaining that position,” he said.

There were tangible benefits in people trusting a country that made it attractive for foreign investment, said Bridget Williams, a research director for Ipsos Mori. “Trust and things like equality, respect, tolerance, diversity, social justice and the environment are important,” she said.

Britain also ranked highly among G20 countries for “valuing diversity and cultural difference”.

“The UK scene is open and welcoming, demonstrates respect and tolerance for different faiths and beliefs and we are seen as free and fair, with a strong democracy and a free press and media,” she said.

Britain dropped one place to fifth as a global power but held top position in working constructively with other governments and as a force for good, the survey found.

In terms of negotiating new trade deals or rebuilding after the pandemic it was vital that Britain was recognised “as a reliable, trustworthy partner willing and capable of working with others”, said Mr Chadwick.

“The world is in urgent need of more collaboration and more connectedness on any number of issues, which means international reputation becomes a premium."

He said 1.4 billion people were learning English with 3 million in the Middle East downloading educational material from the British Council’s learning tools.

But Wayne David, Labour’s spokesman on the Middle East, gave a warning that the reputation as a soft-power superpower would be severely undermined by the overseas aid cut.

“These cuts are having a hugely detrimental impact in places like Yemen, Syria and Somalia ... undermining in the most detrimental way Britain’s good reputation,” he said.

The survey covered 20,612 educated adults aged 18-34 in 36 countries, including the 19 member states of the G20.

Updated: July 16th 2021, 12:29 PM