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Wednesday 31 October 2018

Plan to appoint business leaders as ambassadors “risks undermining the UK’s influence”

The FDA has criticised proposals to recruit UK ambassadors from the private sector after Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested top diplomatic jobs could be opened up to business leaders after Brexit.

Hunt is set to unveil the plans to an audience at the Policy Exchange this evening and told the BBC that the chief executive of a FTSE 100 company “could do a brilliant job representing the UK” and “building up our trade with another country”. 

However, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman cautioned that “the role of a diplomat in representing the UK’s interests abroad is much broader than simply trade”. 

Responding to the proposals, Penman explained that diplomats go through “years of training” to develop the range of skills required to be an ambassador, which already includes expertise in international trade. 

According to Penman, solely focussing on trade “risks undermining the UK’s interests and influence given the complexities of international relations”. 

He added: “Diplomats are made, not born and the UK’s interests are best served by a professional diplomatic service.” 

Penman’s comments were included in reports from the Financial Times, Mail Online, the Express, the Mirror, City A.M. and the Guardian as well as BBC 1 Breakfast and BBC Radio 4. He was interviewed on CNN by Richard Quest, where he explained that the Government "putting its money where its mouth is in funding the FCO" would do more to support Britain's trade "than a gimmick around trying to look for CEOS to become ambassadors."
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