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What are the first foreign affairs questions for the new government?


The next UK government will immediately be thrust onto the world stage with NATO and European summits in July. The campaign is a distraction but there are urgent questions to answer on foreign affairs, including Gaza.

It’s well-known in the UK that the next government, whoever wins, will face a cascade of difficult domestic problems – the opposition Labour party have even drawn up a list, including prison overcrowding and the prospect of collapsing local councils and universities. All these issues are rightly high on the agenda in the campaign. But a July election will also mean some foreign affairs events and questions will immediately confront the next government. 

Under the UK’s rules, Rishi Sunak had until 28 January 2025 to hold an election, and most assumed he would wait for the autumn to see if his poll numbers improved and if UK economic news would get brighter. In the end he went early. While July at least means any prospective new UK government will have some more time to prepare for the November US election and the prospect of a second-term Donald Trump – including his ruthlessly transactional approach to NATO – the new date is far from a reprieve. 

The new government, of whatever stripe, will be immediately thrust onto the world stage. The NATO summit will be held 9-11 July in Washington DC. After that, on the 18 July, the UK hosts the European Political Community Summit. Both are important to the UK’s future relationship with Europe and role in European security. 

The election campaign has also distracted from pressing questions on Israel and Gaza that will be difficult for any new government to address. And, because current government plans are based on very limited spending forecasts, all of these issues will be underpinned by immediate trade-offs on spending, especially on defence. 

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