What does the Tory manifesto pledge on foreign policy? Not much, say critics

What does the Tory manifesto pledge on foreign policy? Not much, say critics
Brexit, soft power, redefined aid and warship-backed free trade – all of these featured in the Conservative Party manifesto launch on Thursday.

However, responses to ongoing conflicts and strained world relations were conspicuously absent.

RT takes a closer look at Prime Minister Theresa May’s foreign policy and defense priorities.

Brexit

Unsurprisingly, Brexit features prominently in the Tory manifesto. Despite May’s past support for the EU, the Conservatives have worked hard to position themselves as the party of Brexit.

The manifesto sets out the government’s wish for a “frictionless” divorce which will benefit “both sides.

We want fair, orderly negotiations, minimizing disruption and giving as much certainty as possible – so both sides benefit,” the manifesto states.

However, should they be elected on June 8, the Tories appear determined to achieve a hard Brexit, and to do so “within the two years allowed by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.”

Foreign aid

Former Prime Minister David Cameron made aid funding a major strand of his foreign policy.

Although a victorious May government would likely maintain this commitment, her manifesto says the definition of aid will be rewritten and captured in legislation.

The manifesto commits to “spend 0.7 percent of our gross national income on assistance to developing nations and international emergencies.

How this spending commitment will be achieved according to the redefined definition is unclear.

If the government’s creative accounting with its defense budget is anything to go by, items covered by the aid budget could become rather broad. In order to hit the symbolic 2 percent of GDP required of NATO member states, the Tories folded a variety of funding – including military pensions – into the defense budget.

Military

As well as fresh, if rather vague, commitments to supporting serving personnel and veterans, the Tories emphasized their commitment to large-scale projects, many of them controversial, including the replacement of Trident nuclear submarines and building two new aircraft carriers.

Listing a variety of new projects, such as Astute class submarines, Ajax tanks and frigates, the party points to its £178 billion (US$230 billion) spending plans as “the largest program of investment in our armed forces for generations.

The opposition was not convinced, however. Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry was quick to point out the manifesto’s lack of direct reference to any of the current conflicts and international tensions involving Britain.

As long ago as December 2016, commentators had predicted that defense and trade would be likely to mesh substantially post-Brexit.

This seems to have been borne out in the manifesto, which openly links global influence and trade with military power and security.

Culture wars

Outward-facing PR would also feature strongly in a post-election, May-led Britain, with the manifesto emphasizing the core values the UK seeks to projects.

Using a ring-fenced BBC World Service and British Council, the Conservatives promise to spread the UK interpretations of “democracy, the rule of law, property entitlements, a free and open media, and accountable institutions in countries and societies across the world.

We will continue to promote those institutions and ensure they have the resources they need to amplify Britain’s voice on the world stage and as a global force for good,” it adds.