The Queen: 70 years of diplomacy, trade and global Britain

By Harry Brown & Tom Haynes

As the nation prepares for the Jubilee celebrations this weekend, SEC Newgate’s Trade team take a look at the role our longest serving Monarch has played on the international stage. Despite what many consider to be a largely ceremonial role, the Queen has been able to help project the UK’s soft power, as well as foster and maintain crucial relationships with key trading partners. 

With a total of fourteen Prime Ministers elected during her reign, there has been much change to the UK’s policies and approach to international trade throughout the Queen’s 70 years on the throne. The monarch has helped establish the Commonwealth, seen the UK enter and leave the European Union and hosted over a hundred leaders from across the world. 

Many Prime Ministers have spoken of the importance of the Queen in helping the UK forge and maintain relationships, David Cameron, for example, praised the Queen in 2011 for being a ‘game changer’ in Irish-Anglo relations following her visit, during which she opened her speech in native Irish language.  Throughout her reign, the Queen and her family have visited every corner of the world, as well as being responsible for hosting diplomats, politicians, and Heads of State. 

However, perhaps Her Majesty’s biggest international achievement, and her most crucial legacy, has been helping to establish the Commonwealth and making it fit for purpose in the modern world. 

Indeed, following the death of her father George VI and her accession to the throne in 1952, the UK was in a precarious situation. The United States of America and the Soviet Union had risen as the two hegemonic world powers and Britain found herself broke and without an Empire. The UK was left in an insecure position on the world stage, struggling for allies and confused about its place in the world.

When the Queen inherited the crown, she also inherited the title of Head of the Commonwealth (at the time only a mere collection of eight nations). However, the Commonwealth now is an organisation with a membership of 54 nations. 

Throughout its formation the Queen has played a crucial role in building a Commonwealth that works for all its members. From famously dancing with Ghanian President Kwame Nkrumah, to hosting dinners with Nelson Mandela, the Queen has been credited with helping the UK establish relationships in a way that Prime Ministers have never been able to. 

Furthermore, from 1971-2015, the Queen only missed two biannual meetings of the Commonwealth, reflecting her commitment and passion towards the group. The Commonwealth has been crucial to UK trade and relationship building and has helped boost trade between member countries. 

Is it any surprise that following the UK’s departure from the European Union, the UK have turned to their oldest friends in the Commonwealth as part of the new post Brexit trading arrangements? The first trade deals signed have been with Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore, as well as ongoing negotiations with India and Canada, all Commonwealth nations. Further, the UK’s admission into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) would see British exports access a trading block where over half of the members are other Commonwealth nations with iconic British products such as beef, lamb, pork, cheese, whisky and gin on the shelves and in the restaurants across the Commonwealth. 

However, it’s not just her role with Commonwealth nations that the Queen has played in the last 70 years. She has helped secure the support of the US throughout the course of her reign, and has hosted nine US Presidents in the UK and been on four State Visits to the USA. Most recently she hosted President Trump, which in spite of being controversial at the time, was very beneficial for transatlantic relations and instrumental in kickstarting UK/US trade negotiations. While progress on a comprehensive FTA has been slow, conversations on a state by state basis have also been progressing. Just this week, the UK and the US State of Indiana have signed “Memorandum of Understanding” which will create a “framework to remove barriers to trade and investment, paving the way for UK and local businesses to invest, export and create jobs”. 

While celebrating the many achievements of Her Majesty from the past 70 years, the diplomatic power that she continues to have across the world is largely unrivalled and is as important now as it has ever been, as Global Britain carves its new place in the world.