UK Labour Party Minister vs. Former US State Dept. Official: Is The UK Still A Great Power?


UK Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry and former US State Department adviser Jeremy Shapiro joined BBC's Evan Davis to debate the UK's place on the world stage. Shapiro now serves as a research director at the Eruopean Council on Foreign Relations.

"I know that Great Britain has a great history of diplomacy, likes to think of itself as a great power, but the truth is, it has been a medium sized power for several decades now, and it has punched above its weigh during those decades because it has had a good relationship with the U.S. and it was a member of the E.U... so it was able to punch above its weight diplomatically. But with the Brexit decision, those days are over. Britain now needs to align itself ever more closely with the U.S., and that means it has less influence with the U.S. and its European partners... You have nowhere to go," Shapiro said, drawing a negative response from Thornberry.

"We don't need to be second fiddle to the U.S. at the Security Council," Thornberry responded. "People speak English, we have a huge amount of soft power... Very large proportion of the world's leaders have been educated in Britain."

"That's great. And I think all of the things that you talk about are, in fact, British strengths, but I can tell you they are more keenly felt inside the country than outside the country,"Shapiro fired back.

"When I was in the State Dept... we barely noticed it. When you look at, for example, the article in the New York Times about the G-7. It barely mentions British... it was buried. It wasn't seen as The story... And if you read the British press coverage about it, it is about 'Boris is a failure.' Which misses the larger strategic picture," he continued.

"Soft power is what people appeal to when they want to talk about a power asset which is too nebulous to actually pin down," Shapiro said sardonically. "There is something real to it, but it is a little bit hard to get your hands around."

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