Jeremy Hunt plans to appoint business chiefs as ambassadors in FCO shake up

Foreign secretary also reveals plan to hire 1,000 new diplomats to boost Foreign Office capability and boost to the number of language courses

Photo: PA

By Emilio Casalicchio

31 Oct 2018

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt will today raise the prospect of appointing businesspeople as ambassadors in a shake-up of the UK’s diplomatic network in response to Brexit.

In a speech today, Hunt will say that the UK must not “close our eyes” to the skills in the business sector as he also announces a boost to the diplomatic services of 1,000 new personnel.

British ambassadors have traditionally been long-standing civil servants, while in the US the president gets to choose whoever they want subject to Senate approval.


Hunt will argue a shake-up of the diplomatic service will help to redefine the British relationship with the rest of the world after it quits the European Union next March.

He will tell an audience at the Policy Exchange think tank: "The strength of our network is its professionalism, which has given us what I believe is the finest diplomatic service in the world.

"But we must never close our eyes to the approaches and skills of other industries."

Hunt will also announce plans for a diplomatic personnel expansion to include 335 new diplomatic positions overseas, 328 in London, and 329 "new locally engaged staff" abroad.

He will add: "Our network of friendships is unparalleled. But they are underpinned by something more than shared history, shared language or shared culture.

"They are underpinned by the values - democracy, the rule of law, the separation of powers, respect for individual civil and political rights, a belief in free trade - that bind us.

"When these values are under threat, Britain's role - indeed obligation - is to defend them.

"Which is why to do so, we must become an invisible chain linking the world's democracies."

Hunt will also announce a drive to double the number of British diplomats who can speak a foreign language from 500 to 1,000, including increasing the number of languages taught at the Foreign Office from 50 to 70. Additional languages will include the central Asian tongues of Kazakh and Kyrgyz, Shona from Zimbabwe and Gujarati from India.

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