FCO reforms: Hunt to appoint ‘one or two’ ambassadors from outside the civil service every year

Written by Richard Johnstone on 1 November 2018 in News

Foreign secretary confirms move to recruit from outside government as part of “the biggest expansion of Britain’s diplomatic network for a generation”

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has revealed further details of his plan to appoint businesspeople as ambassadors in a shake-up of the UK’s diplomatic network in response to Brexit, confirming he aims to make “one or two” external hires each year.

In a speech to the Policy Exchange thinktank yesterday, Hunt confirmed that he had developed plans to “broaden the pool of talent we tap into for our ambassadors”.

He said that as the UK expanded its trade policy outside the European Union following Brexit next March, “it makes sense to open up applications [for ambassador posts] to external candidates, so that one or two positions every year might be filled by people with important experience from outside the civil service, especially the world of commerce”.


In a speech where he also announced a boost to the diplomatic service of 1,000 new personnel and a plan to double the number of British diplomats who can speak a foreign language from 500 to 1,000, Hunt said: “I am sure there are experienced, multilingual businesspeople who would welcome the chance to enter the service of their country at this critical time and the Foreign Office of the future will welcome them to some of our key ambassadorial posts.”

He also said that the Foreign Office would look to boost the diversity of senior diplomats to “ensure that those who champion Britain abroad better represent the country they serve”.

He highlighted that the department had this year launched a university outreach programme to encourage applications from under-represented groups.

“This includes not just women and BAME candidates, but also those from backgrounds that have not traditionally felt comfortable applying for a career in the service,” Hunt said.

He also unveiled what he called “the biggest expansion of Britain’s diplomatic network for a generation, including 12 new posts and nearly 1,000 more personnel”.

Six new high commissions are to be opened by the end of next year, he said. They will be in Lesotho, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), the Bahamas, Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu, while the British diplomatic office in Chad will be upgraded  to become a full embassy, and new embassies will be opened in Djibouti and Niger, as well as a new British mission to the headquarters of the Association of South-East Asian Nations.

“By the end of 2020, we will send 335 more British diplomats overseas, and reinforce the Foreign Office in London with another 328 personnel,” Hunt said. “We will hire another 329 locally-engaged staff in our embassies around the world.

“In total, our network will gain 992 extra people, meaning we are represented in 160 countries  –  of the 192 countries of the UN, that’s the same as France and only marginally less than United States and China.”

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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