The UK is no longer among the top 10 diplomatic powers. And that’s just in terms of diplomatic network, never mind global reach.
According to the latest edition of the Lowy Institute think-tank’s global diplomacy index, the UK is 11th of 61 countries. It was ninth in 2016, the first outing of the index that measures the size and reach of countries’ diplomatic networks. In 2017, the UK was 10th.
And in a sign of the jockeying for diplomatic reach and influence, China is at number one on the 2019 index, having overtaken the US, with its 276 diplomatic posts around the world. That’s three more than Washington, and nine more than third-ranked France.
As for Britain, however “global” the Conservative government claims it wants to be, especially after Brexit, 11 consulates and diplomatic offices have either been downgraded or closed since 2016. However, the number of UK embassies have remained steady at 149.
Of course, a diplomatic network is never the only indicator of the effectiveness of a country’s diplomacy. But it does say something important about aspiration.