For UK foreign policy, improving relations with the EU is a priority.

Labour’s overwhelming victory in the UK general election constitutes a strong starting point for the next prime minister, Keir Starmer and his government. He and designated Foreign Secretary David Lammy will aim for an ambitious agenda and quick action. They will have the EU in their sights.

Since Brexit, London has managed only to join the EU’s military mobility project and re-join Horizon, the bloc’s scientific research initiative. Both sides collaborate well on supporting Ukraine, but this cooperation occurs primarily via the G7 or NATO. Meanwhile, an EU-UK security agreement is lacking. The new British government will seek closer security cooperation with Brussels while enhancing bilateral ties with individual member states. According to the Financial Times, an Anglo- German defense deal could be signed within weeks.

On Ukraine, the UK’s partners can expect the new government to continue playing a leading role among Europeans. London will remain steadfast in its support of Kyiv, especially in terms of military assistance, and will work to ensure that Washington maintains its own commitments. 

Labour will also not disrupt the “special relationship” with the United States. A new American administration, rather, may be the source of that if Donald Trump wins in November. Until then, London will prepare scenarios instead of taking concrete steps. 

Policy toward China will be the UK’s biggest foreign-policy challenge, and the new government already aims to “audit” relations thoroughly. Beijing remains a critical trade partner for London, but the threat perception is growing. The United Kingdom will consequently continue to deepen cooperation with the United States and Australia through AUKUS, even if London is aware of its limited influence on Washington and of its status as a middle power whose leverage is lessened with unconditional alignment with the Americans. That elevates further the importance of building and reinvigorating bilateral, minilateral, and multilateral relations with European partners.

Net week’s NATO summit in Washington, DC, and the European Political Community meeting in Oxfordshire the week after are the first opportunities for the new British government to interact with allies and set the tone for the years ahead. 

But lurking in the background is a critical challenge to all the plans: the budget. Without a more dynamic economy, the United Kingdom will struggle to finance its international ambitions.