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Axing Middle East minister leaves ‘Global Britain’ stretched thin


The UK has axed its Middle East and North Africa minister. This will leave the Foreign Office stretched thin and constrain Britain’s global influence.

The last few weeks have seen Britain keen to position itself as one of the leaders of a Western response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Around this time last year, however, the UK was busy announcing its plans to ‘tilt’ towards the Indo-Pacific, in part to counter China’s rise, in part to seek new trade opportunities.

Amid this geopolitical focus in Europe and Asia, the UK risks overlooking a key geostrategic region: the Middle East. The ministerial role, quietly axed this month, was held by James Cleverly and previously Alistair Burt. Instead, Cleverly will be responsible for Europe and the Americas, and Iran, while the remainder of the Middle Eastern responsibilities will be taken on by Amanda Milling.

This comes just a month after the UK cut £90 million of specialist work on conflict prevention to the Middle East and North Africa, and cut 50 per cent of funding for work protecting children from landmines, including in Syria and Lebanon. Syrian refugee and aid programmes have also been cut.

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