Trust in British government foreign policy declines

UK’s global role in Ukraine war and response to the Covid-19 pandemic provides a boost

A racegoer at Ascot in front of a Union Jack flag. Only a third of Britons support the government's foreign policy decisions, a survey has found. Reuters
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Only a third of Britons trust the government to make foreign policy decisions in their interests, an influential report on public attitudes has found.

The British Foreign Policy Group’s annual survey also revealed that a little more than half of the public “actively distrust” the government on overseas decisions.

But 38 per cent of Britons stated the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, defending Ukraine against the Russian invasion and joining the AUKUS (Australia, UK, US) defence pact had given Britain the biggest boost to our global reputation”.

The 2022 Annual Survey of UK Public Opinion on Foreign Policy found the country was “in a state of transition”. While the issues over Brexit and the pandemic were receding, tensions with close allies and the cost-of-living crisis were “forging a new period of uncertainty for Britons”.

Almost a third of respondents did not think the UK had any “particularly close allies” but America still remained the closest partner, according to 42 per cent of respondents.

However, exactly half thought the instability in American politics had weakened the alliance. They also believed America’s fragile society and democracy would make the US focus more inwardly for the near future.

By contrast, 81 per cent did not trust China to act responsibly in the world, with only one in five supporting economic engagement with the country.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been in charge of foreign policy since November last year. A survey shows that only a third of Britons trust the country on foreign policy. Reuters

Given the Ukraine invasion by Russian and China’s hostility, 45 per cent viewed both countries as “equally dangerous to the UK’s interests”.

The survey is the leading study of British attitudes to international affairs, with this year’s survey the most extensive yet.

“Public opinion is becoming an increasingly powerful force in shaping foreign policy decisions in the UK and among our key allies – affecting defence choices, spending, trading relationships and climate commitments,” the report said.

The good news for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s beleaguered government was that 66 per cent of Britons supported his government’s international climate action leadership.

But almost half understood this would mean Britain needed to make the domestic transition on net-zero at a faster pace than other countries.

Post-Brexit, 55 per cent of Britons supported a reduction in trade barriers with the European Union and 41 per cent were in favour of facilitating people’s freedom of movement along with co-operating on global geopolitical issues.

But recognition of the benefits of globalisation to Britain had also declined by eight points to 58 per cent agreeing.

Updated: June 16, 2022, 4:49 PM