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Government urged to invest in diplomacy to make Brexit a success

Ministers' failure to heed calls to substantially boost the Foreign Office (FCO) budget is "cold comfort" for diplomats trying to manage Britain's role in the world post-Brexit, an influential group of MPs has said.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in July urged the Government to inject funds into the FCO so it could deal with the "enormity" of the task it now faces in supporting the country's reputation, security, values and prosperity.

Responding to the committee, the Government said discussions are under way about how the FCO can best manage its budget during the "period of transition".

It also highlighted the £10 million earmarked in Chancellor Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement for the FCO and Department for International Trade.

But committee chair Crispin Blunt said it was not enough to fulfil ambitions of the UK being a globally confident trading nation.

The Tory MP said: "The FCO will play a central part in the Brexit negotiations and in representing the UK abroad as the UK defines its place in the world post-Brexit.

"The additional £10 million for trade policy officers is welcome, but is hardly enough to fulfil the ambition of the Prime Minister's and Foreign Secretary's Global Britain agenda for the UK as an outward-looking trading nation.

"Ministers have failed to heed the committee's call for a substantial injection of resources to reverse the recent trend of downsizing the UK's bilateral operations in European capitals for and beyond the EU exit negotiations.

"Given the scale of the task ahead - including what our most senior diplomat has described as the most important negotiation of his career - the FCO must be properly equipped.

"The Government's response to our recommendations is cold comfort for the diplomatic community, who have seen their budget and capacity reduced dramatically in recent years.

"We urge Government to consider this urgently. To make a success of Brexit and the opportunities it presents, I believe we need to invest in diplomacy to support our country's reputation, security, values and prosperity in Europe and globally."

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