10 September 2020 - 11 September 2020

The 2020 Greentree conference at Ditchley: The US and the UK: a special relationship for the 21st century?

Executive summary

Exceptional circumstances

The Greentree conference, held annually with American Ditchley, usually takes place at the Greentree estate just outside of New York. For 2020 it became Ditchley’s first ever ‘hybrid’ conference and was held at Ditchley Park and on-line. In the context of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, the house and conference rooms were carefully adapted with socially distant seating and acrylic screens separating those who met at Ditchley. A larger group of people, many from the US, joined the conference via Zoom. The challenge was to combine virtual and physical engagement, with cameras and screens, in a way that allowed for proper discussion. The experience was promising as a model for Ditchley for as long as pandemic conditions persist. Participants present in person learned how to interact with the camera as well as with each other. Those zooming in felt they were joining a real event.

Context and why this was important

With strategic competition with China growing; the US facing a crucial presidential election; and the UK leaving the EU, this was an important moment to address the future of the US-UK relationship. For those living in the UK and in other liberal democracies, there was a sense of the US withdrawing from international leadership, weakening both the UK-US relationship and the strength and collective global appeal of the democratic world. For the US side, the traditional view of the UK as bridge and translator to the EU would no longer hold and the value of the UK as a partner outside of the EU would need to be proven and reaffirmed.

The conference followed a sequence of Ditchley discussions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic: a virtual programme set up in the spring of 2020; a fully virtual conference in June on economic insecurity; and the Ditchley Summer Project—an intense three-week programme of virtual events in July. The virtual format allowed for systematic engagement with participants from the US across all these activities and the Summer Project discussions brought out a set of themes that sit at the heart of the UK-US relationship: a breakdown in confidence in the West and concern over strategic competition from authoritarian models of governance. The conference was a chance to explore these themes in more detail in the context of the pandemic.


This conference brought together high-level expertise and experience with leading individuals in the UK, US and Europe from academia, politics, the diplomatic world, business and journalism. They were joined by leading actors and experts on trade, China, Europe, security, equal opportunities, governance and policy-making.

Analysis and points for action

This current historical moment was described as a ‘four-dimensional puzzle.’ The combination of the Brexit transition and November’s US election could point to different futures for the UK-US relationship. But the conference discussion gravitated time and time again to more fundamental questions about the trajectory and cohesion of the West, whatever the outcome of the immediate political choices.

We wavered between regret and nostalgia for the loss of ground on leadership of the West and the more optimistic belief that liberal democracy remains the best global story on offer and retains its power of inspiration and attraction despite all the difficulties. If we were in a G0 world now without a global hegemon, then the power of that story mattered all the more and technology enabled it to have global resonance. Where the US and UK could be real partners still was on the renewal of that story and its communication through policy, diplomacy, media, education, science, the Arts and other forms of soft power.

But the contemporary world allows for no separation between home and abroad and whether under President Trump or President Biden, American foreign policy would have to serve and be seen to serve the American middle class. The US and UK relationship would be no exception. This made a full free-trade agreement with provisions on agriculture and health unlikely but progress could still be made on harmonising sectors. More fundamentally, both the US and the UK had serious work to do at home to restore the integrity of democracy, turning the anger and polarisation of recent years to positive effect and greater unity, without losing the vitality and energy of renewed engagement with politics.

Coming to a common policy on how to approach China would be central to any US and UK relationship. This and other areas would be where the US, under a Biden administration, would want to agree a triangular policy between the US, the UK and the EU. To be a good ally to the US, then, the UK would need cordial enough relationships with the EU to work out  common positions on strategic issues.

There were calls for the relationship across the Atlantic to be broadened and deepened at the professional, thematic and regional levels. This could include ever deeper cooperation with Silicon Valley and other technology centres to drive innovation but also twinning of towns, regions, professional associations and other bodies to build a density of connections. How far could we create smooth pathways for talent and ideas to cross the Atlantic? This deepening of connections could play a part in addressing domestic grievances and senses of exclusion in regions and in minority communities.

There were specific opportunities and a need to work together on the UK’s upcoming leadership of the G7; COP; modernisation of NATO; the fight against globalised corruption and organised crime; the development of new democratic groupings such as the idea of a D10; and on education, for example by a converging approach to educational credentials in response to the need for rapid re-education and credentials for the workforce to cope with change driven by technology, as well now as by the impact of the pandemic. We should not forget the unglamorous but important detail of global regulations and standards, which China well understood.

Both sides, US and UK, wanted more than a transactional relationship, with each side understanding what really mattered to the other and cutting each other some slack on these central issues. Consistency and a lack of surprises would be helpful. For the US, high on the list of things that mattered were dependability on China; the UK able to work effectively with Europe; a continued good example on NATO and defence spending; and the future of Ireland. There was American scepticism on the UK’s global relevance beyond soft power. Other than a trade agreement and good will, the UK had yet to articulate what it really wanted from the US in its new role in the world.


We gathered an exceptional group both in person at Ditchley and online. Distinguished politicians were joined by government advisors, experts in trade, security, diplomats and foundations with experience in shaping the recent relationship between the US, the UK and Europe. The conference benefitted from expert briefings from journalists from both the UK and the US, as well as from challenges on the themes of equal opportunities and community development. Real depth of expertise on China, led by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, contributed significantly to the debate on developing a shared western policy. American Ditchley, led by American Ditchley chairman, Ambassador Nick Burns, brought deep insight into the priorities of a potential Biden administration and the hopes of some Republicans for a post-President Trump Republican party. Present were recent but not current members of President Trump’s administration.

We set out to determine the basis for a ‘special relationship’ between the US and the UK in the 21st century and its utility now and for the future. Helmut Schmidt’s quip, ‘a relationship so special only one side knows about it’ was quoted and acknowledged. If we didn’t presume to a special relationship, then to what type of relationship should we aspire and what could be its value? What would be the drivers that shaped that relationship?

The US-UK relationship of the 20th century was forged through partnership in World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the response to 9/11 and the war on terror. Joint security and defence was at its core but this was combined with overlapping visions of democracy and models of a free society. What were the modern threats that would shape the relationship? Could a shared vision for democracy and free societies be reimagined now and for the future?

For many in this discussion, the last two decades had seen a fall from grace: a descent from what many regarded as a highpoint in the late 1990s, when liberal democracy was riding high, before the 9/11 terror attacks, the Iraq war, the financial crisis, Brexit, the election of President Trump and the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic. The international standing, influence and capability of the UK was also seen as reduced. The current position was characterised in terms of failure by some — the US and the UK shared the worst pandemic response in terms of excess deaths so far and the US had lost its aura of global leadership. A position for the US, it was suggested, that few would have predicted just a decade ago. With its unique national health service, the UK had been expected to be one of the countries best able to handle the pandemic.

The US was described as in the throes of four related crises: the pandemic crisis; a related economic crisis; a racial justice crisis; and a leadership crisis, accompanied by increasing social polarisation and withdrawal from the world stage. In the UK too, a loss of direction was apparent: the Brexit decision to leave the EU had been decisively settled by the election but the plan for the UK’s role in the world thereafter remained opaque. If Britain could not define its desired role in the world, then how could it define what it wanted from its relationship with the US?

It was argued that both countries had suffered a slump in confidence. Regardless of objective facts, we seemed to feel weaker, less trusting and more fearful. There were moments when the discussion teetered towards nostalgia but there was an equally strong counter-acknowledgement that the past was gone. If we could not return to the golden moment of the late 1990s, there was hope that political change would bring back an America that would be an instinctive friend to democratic movements; an opponent in principle (if not always in practice) to autocracy; and that could lead on global challenges such as climate change.

The causes of this lack of confidence were long-term, structural and the result of domestic failures in the face of global trends. In other words, this was not just about the Trump administration. There was a tension between a pull to ‘what we can go back to’ and an acceptance of ‘what’s gone for good’.

Structural change from an economic crisis (now on a scale not seen since the 1930s) reinforced an analysis that contemporary Anglo-Saxon capitalism (to borrow the French characterisation) was not working for a good part of the population. The social responses in terms of ‘white grievance’ were evident across the US, the UK (and Europe). Swathes of communities across liberal democratic countries felt ignored for decades (characterised by the populations in the northern regions of the UK and the rustbelt in the US). Meanwhile, ethnic minorities continued to experience discrimination and injustice and were understandably demanding change, with calls for justice encouragingly supported now by a range of white allies and especially the young.

Globalisation had contributed to wage stagnation. There was an expectation that technology and implementation of AI would lead to further disruption and job losses in a range of middle-income roles. The political alienationof citizens, however, was not just the result of economic change but also the result of long-term cultural change, which was seen as a threat to identity. From this perspective, going back to a world abandoned five years ago was not possible, we could only make something new. Education to address the needs of adults and the future of work was a gaping priority policy vacuum, waiting to be filled.

For the US, there were likely to be two different trajectories depending on who won the November election. The pandemic was seen as a pivot point on the scale of the Second World War. But change would take time and pre-existing global trends would continue.

An agenda for renewal

Participants agreed on the continued appetite and, certainly for the UK, continued need, for a shared agenda and close relationship between the US and the UK. It remained overwhelmingly in the British interest that the US should be the dominant power in the world. For all the problems in the US, the US remained the essential power for democratic renewal. All other democratic powers benefitted from living in the shadow of the US, even if formal defence commitments were less certain. A G0 world meant that as yet there was no globally dominant power to take the place of an inward-looking US. But more than this, there was as yet no more powerful story for humanity as a whole than that presented by democracy. Despite all of its difficulties and failings, the story of democracy and a free society was still the globally dominant force in the world, whether measured by hard power, soft power, collective GDP of democratic countries, or attractiveness as a destination for immigration. For its part, the UK would need to demonstrate its 21st century usefulness and value as an ally for the US through technology, cyber power, national security, diplomacy and development. But the hope was for more than a transactional relationship, built on shared values and a largely shared world view.

Participants called for the rebuilding of self-belief in the power, efficacy and justice of liberal democracy. There was an encouraging refusal to concede that liberal democracy had had its day. But to get to renewal, alongside self-belief there also had to be humility, accepting and correcting fundamental failures to modernise government, state systems and aspects of society. There had to be a fuller understanding and acknowledgement of lingering legacies of colonialism, slavery and segregation. There was a sense in the group gathered (who by definition thought the US and UK relationship something worth discussing) that this would be a project in which the US and the UK could add value for each other.

Both countries had to determine what must be done to repair democracy at home in advance of wide-ranging joint international action.

Big picture areas for joint action included:

  • a common approach towards China (US-China rivalry dominates);
  • building a new triangular relationship between the US, the EU and the UK;
  • research, development and delivery worldwide of Covid-19 vaccines;
  • joint action on climate change;
  • a modernisation of NATO and building of a joint approach to Russia;
  • the building of a new approach to multilateral action;
  • the evolution and moderation of market-based capitalism and the social responsibility to address inequality;
  • cooperation on corruption, money laundering and tax evasion;
  • cooperation on innovation in technology, including working together on issues of privacy in relation to technology/AI; quantum computing and biotech.

There was consensus that rebuilding at home (both in the UK and US) was a necessary first step, along with reassessments of major geopolitical shifts such as the changed position of the UK as it left the European Union and new geographic realities in relation to South East Asia and to China. What, for example, should be the response to an emerging consensus in Japan and India over holding China to WTO commitments or to reform of the WTO? Other trends discussed included competition over the militarisation of AI and ideological competition, including the strategic competition from China within Europe (in alliances with certain Balkan leaders), and in South America and Africa.

For many participants (both US and UK) it was clear that the Transatlantic relationship was now triangular and the dominant US economic relationship would be with the EU. Triangulation would present a challenge for both the UK and the EU whose own relationship was likely to be bumpy for years to come as we worked through the unfinished business of Brexit. Alongside the rhetoric of independence, there was a sense that the UK’s ambitions for a technological future might demand more clear regulatory autonomy from the EU, for example on GDPR. It seemed inevitable now that the UK would want to present itself economically as a differentiated competitor to the EU in global markets.

The British Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy had a real job to do in articulating Britain’s objectives and in filling what was described, by US participants in particular, as a ‘strategy gap’ in defining Britain’s relationship and ask, both of the US and the EU.

Britain’s relationship with the EU would inform the Transatlantic alliance and the nature of that alliance would, in turn, inform the way the EU itself evolved (its future autonomy and risks of protectionism, its relationship with China, and its legitimacy within some EU member states). There was discussion of the E3 security trio and a call for further such new formats. Future security cooperation was considered essential and in part dependent on agreements over data policies.

Some participants noted that the future of the UK-US relationship would depend fundamentally on what happened in Washington, not in London. An overly transactional relationship driven by US trade interests might override the strategic element of any ‘special relationship’. On the other hand, from the American side, the initial impasse over 5G and approaches to China had pointed to potentially real differences and diverging interests between the US and the UK.

Set against this, economic and other ties were still strong. As well as an important security partner and reliable member of NATO and the P5, the UK was the single largest investor in the US. This had to be set though in a broader context. The US was the largest trading partner of the European Union and the EU (taken as a bloc) is the UK’s largest trading partner. The EU, taken as a whole, was also of course a much larger aggregate investor in the US economy than the UK by itself.

With the outcome of Brexit (deal or no deal) and the outcome of the US election (Biden or Trump) up in the air, the next few months would be decisive. The UK relationship with the EU had implications for the future of the union within the United Kingdom and there was much speculation about outcomes for Northern Ireland and Scotland. An independent Scotland would reduce the UK’s international standing. But we were reminded clearly that peace in Ireland and the lack of a hard border in Ireland were powerful domestic issues in US politics. Congress would block a US-UK trade deal if Ireland was unhappy.

The Agenda in more detail

The major geopolitical themes set the basis for a top-level agenda under which a more detailed basis for collaboration began to be set out in relation to:

Leading the West

Could the US and the UK provide some form of leadership for the concept of ‘the West’ at a time when both countries faced challenges internally and externally? The UK had to show what it could bring to the table beyond soft power. The notion of Global Britain was considered to be ill defined and to ring hollow by American participants, with half-voiced suspicions that this just meant a mercantile approach to the Far East, without the strategic assets of a global power. A 21st Century West included Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India and Australasia. Humility was required: why would ‘the West’ be led by the UK and the US? We had to demonstrate the value of such leadership and shape it to be inclusive.

US participants asked what Britain wanted from a relationship with the US? The British responses were an appeal to the US to take leadership in the world seriously; for both countries to show faith in liberal democracy; to engage constructively with allies and to have tolerance for one another’s weaknesses, but above all to avoid a transactional relationship and to spring fewer surprises.

Transformation must go well beyond collaboration between traditional elites to radical new engagement with those areas and communities in both countries where entrenched inequalities were at the root of political anger.

The security relationship had to be redefined. The shared and interdependent capability dating from WWII had to be modernised and must incorporate government and private sector partnerships, extending from intelligence and cyber security into scientific research and education.

Practical collaboration on an approach to Russia was needed. This should include joint work on sanctions policies (asset freezes and travel bans) and law enforcement. Magnitsky-type legislation could be broadened to include corruption (use of tax havens, unexplained wealth and money laundering in the UK and the US). Better governance might include updating mutual assistance treaties. Current collaboration over law enforcement was described as being at ‘rock bottom’ and intelligence sharing was not as good as it used to be. There was ground to recover. It was hoped that the UK could remain within Europol.

Whether under President Trump or President Biden it is likely that the UK would need to agree an approach to China with the US, rather than pursue its own course, picking and choosing economic opportunities. For its part, the US would be much more likely to achieve its objectives with China by briefing and engaging its allies, rather than surprising them or dealing in rhetoric.   

Technology and cyber security would be key issues. There would be no absolute decoupling of the Chinese technology sphere from that of the West but we would need to be much more thoughtful and concerted about what integration to allow and what to resist, which supply chains to leave globalised and which to make more resilient or to re-shore. Push back against China would likely be a constant between a Trump administration and a Biden administration.

There was clearly already strategic competition between the US and China. For some participants this amounted to not a Cold War but a war of values. For others, the ‘war’ metaphor was deeply unhelpful and should be avoided altogether. We should speak out on abuses and defend our interests, but we should not dramatise this as a clash of civilisations, noting the massive trade and many forms of exchange between China and the West, including especially the US.

The British Government’s Integrated Review was an opportunity to consider new alliances between liberal democratic countries alongside re-commitments to NATO and to the Five Eyes. Coalitions on cyber defence to engage wider groups of liberal democratic states were considered essential. The system of alliances that has sustained post war transatlantic connections, stemming from the Marshall Plan and international scholarship programmes, was described as ‘East side and Oxford’. What was needed was a new vision and new exchanges to connect people and communities across the US and the UK— not just with the East and West coast and London.

A summary of action points (ideas shared, not consensus) might include:

  • Coordination to improve resilience to hybrid warfare by sharing practical and detailed solutions.
  • Acknowledge new geopolitical challenges and work together on strengthening Indo-Pacific engagement and East Asian security.
  • Modernize and strengthen NATO. Develop a joint strategy for dealing with Russia.
  • Develop a more sophisticated analysis of burden sharing and a division of efforts in diplomacy and engagement.
  • Coordinate a united front on China’s failure to meet WTO commitments. A detailed UK/US strategy on China was called for to include an opening up of US markets to the rest of the world and particularly for those countries allied to a wider strategy in relation to China.
  • Work together on a tech agenda to cover oversight, regulation and approaches to privacy.  
  • Rebuild trust with the EU and avoid divided approaches to technology in the West.
  • Reinvigorate an approach to soft power including authoritative communication (funding of the BBC), leadership on cultural issues, and recognising the powerful role in educating international students.
  • Use the G7 to develop an agenda to reset ties with Europe and establish a triangular relationship.
  • Create a united front towards China over tech oversight, 5G networks, next-generation AI and cyber security
  • Deal with anti-corruption and money laundering in UK and US.

Trade, economic innovation and the digital agenda

A successful FTA might include digital trade and e-commerce provisions. An agreement on services could become a model for third countries and the likely blurring between goods and services provides the basis for joint clarification. Dispute settlement provided another opportunity. Could collaboration with the UK and others replace the exhausted bilateral approach towards China, and could the US and UK work together and join the CPTTP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) at the same time?  Some participants thought this unlikely, others reckoned it possible.

The stumbling blocks over agriculture and health mean that a comprehensive US-UK free trade agreement was unlikely in the medium term. It is not seen as enough of a political priority on either side of the Atlantic and although President Trump, if re-elected, would want a deal signed, he would not be willing to defy the US farming lobby and the UK government would not be willing to take on similar interests in the UK. Failing a trade deal, other opportunities could be taken first: a regulatory framework for financial services for example and dealing with wider questions of taxation of digital firms, regulation of AI and technologies such as self-driving cars, and jointly acknowledging and combatting misinformation and election interference.

Practical cooperation could be achieved over updating rules on public procurement and a review of alignment of domestic regulatory approaches, including access to data and issues which support the ability for UK companies to scale up, such as work permits, visas and even digital health passes to facilitate business travel.

Green technology and investment in infrastructure were seen as particularly important opportunities around which new partnerships and joint fora could be established under a Biden administration.

A summary of action points (ideas shared, not consensus) might include:

  • Clarify the relative priorities in relation to a bilateral FTA and then start with collaboration in other practical areas: update WTO trade rules, public procurement, financial regulation.
  • Increase transferable accreditation across US-UK universities, educational exchanges and research funding.
  • Increase free or preferential visas for work/study.
  • Create new bilateral dialogues and facilitate existing networks across business, professions and research and technology discussions.
  • Increase twinning opportunities particularly at sub-federal, city and town level.
  • Focus in particular on technology industry collaboration across the Atlantic, expediting movement and connection of talent.
  • Use virtual meeting technology and video in innovative ways to connect different groups across the Atlantic.

Renewing the promise of democracy

Participants noted the tension between liberalism and democracy when discussing the renewal of the Transatlantic alliance. Liberalism was delivering too much inequality for democracy to thrive. Democratic processes then risked delivering anti-democratic leaders and outcomes. The Biden team was said to be convinced that the first priority for US foreign policy was that it must work for the US middle- (working-) class. The US-UK relationship would not be an exception and would need to support this fundamentally domestic agenda as well as have value abroad. Democracy in Britain wasn’t seen as broken as some suggested to be the case in the US. The UK is facing policy and delivery failures rather than fundamental democratic failures.

A programme of constitutional reform to tackle inequality was required. A strengthening of institutions at risk from an erosion of trust, increasing capacity for the practice of law, better defences of an independent media and a role for civil society and citizens in asserting the role and purpose of government—were all put forward as means for renewing democracy. Democratic institutions were considered under threat and, in the case of the US, hollowed out.

We had need of a compelling and inspiring narrative on freedom, rule of law, democratic processes, open education, the importance of citizens’ voices, cultural expression and what the US and the UK stand for in the world.

Theuniversity sectors in both the UK and the US were strategic assets. Despite the pandemic, the UK was said to be maintaining its market share of international students with increases in the numbers from India and China. Universities were open and collaborative and operated as working models of liberal democracy. The UK would no longer be a part of the R&D engine of the EU’s Horizon research funding programme but there were opportunities to collaborate on R&D around the world and to create new and equal partnerships with, for example, countries in the Global South.

Exchanges and educational collaboration could create an integrated system of credit transfers across UK/US universities and support joint R&D as would large-scale research funding. In short, an Erasmus-type programme of exchange and a Horizon-type programme of research funding would both be desirable along with new kinds of digital partnerships such as those referenced by TECH UK in its Vision for a UK Digital Trade Policy. Joint discussion on the digital economy including taxation and regulation was now urgent.

Many existing networks that linked the UK and the US—between business, universities, regulators, professions and science—were not government dependent. Government could support, not replace, these. Other non-governmental partnerships could be established between cities and towns at the sub-federal level with Metro Mayors and universities as a basis for US-UK city and regional partnerships.

Education was increasingly an area of divergence between the US and the UK and China that most of the UK participants hoped could be sustained. Chinese admissions to US universities seemed to be being discouraged. Meanwhile, the number of Chinese students expected to arrive in the UK this autumn is expected to increase by 23 percent. This represented an opportunity for the exercise of soft power in the demonstration of education as open liberal debate based on free speech.

The significance of the BBC was emphasised by foreign participants: it was the rigorous work of BBC journalism (and particularly John Sudworth) that brought to light the existence of Uighur Camps to the world. The BBC and its World Service were critical to UK soft power.

There had to be serious attempts on the part of the UK and US to better understand China as a country, the Chinese Communist Party, and the current situation in the country post-Covid. Poverty, inequality and low levels of societal trust were said to be significant current challenges for the Chinese government.

UK and US partnership could add value on the strategic competition with China over AI and semi-conductors. Climate change presented a domain for strategic cooperation between the US and UK science but also with China. For the US side, there was realisation that an integrated pan-Allied strategy would be necessary for future relations with China. From this perspective, Britain was seen to have capabilities across cyber and the AI infrastructure to contribute. The UK position as a separate voice in the world could, it was suggested, be helpful in the context of a wider approach to China and the power of the City of London to raise capital also provided leverage.

A summary of action points (ideas shared, not consensus) might include:

  • Develop a shared understanding of threats to democracy.
  • Share analysis on how to address inequality.
  • Improve understanding of migration and the scope of collective international measures
  • Build capacity for and strengthening the rule of law internationally.
  • Support media freedom, strengthening independent journalism and the BBC.
  • Support civil society initiatives to promote democratic governance.
  • Tackle tax evasion and support efforts to create national tax bases and prevent corporate profit shifting to avoid tax (OECD initiative).
  • Coordinate on international development spending.
  • Develop a detailed strategy towards China (Hong Kong and Taiwan).
  • Open up a ‘Ditchley for business’ forum on futures for capitalism and other models of globalisation.
  • Re-establish leadership within state institutions.
  • Share a radical agenda for improving competency in public policy making and effective administration.
  • Follow up with a series of discussions on a positive narrative for the UK, the US and the future of democracy, liberalism and capitalism.

This note reflects the personal views of the director on the discussion and no participant is bound by its conclusions.


The Rt Hon. Douglas Alexander

Senior Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School; Director, Consequitur Limited; Visiting Professor, King's College London; Chair of Board of Trustees, Unicef UK; Senior Advisor, The Rise Fund; Senior Advisor, Pinsent Masons; Senior Advisor, EY; Member, UK Privy Council; Member, European Council on Foreign Relations; Trustee, Royal United Services Institute; Senior Advisor to Bono on investment and development in Africa and beyond. Formerly: Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (2011‑15); senior UK Ministerial positions (2001‑10), including: Minister of State for Europe; for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs; Secretary of State for International Development; for Scotland; for Transport; Member of Parliament (1997‑2015); former UK Governor, World Bank; A Governor, The Ditchley Foundation.

Mr John Alty 

Director General, Trade Policy and Negotiations, Department for International Trade (2016‑). Formerly: Chief Executive, Intellectual Property Office (2010‑16); Director General, Fair Markets Group, Business Department (2006‑10).

Mr Miles Celic 

Chief Executive Officer, TheCityUK, London (2016‑); member, Department for International Trade  Trade Advisory Groups on Financial Services and Professional Advisory Services; Board member, UK Finance; Board member, Financial Services Skills Commission. Formerly: Director of Group Strategic Communications, Prudential; Director of Group Public Affairs & Policy, Prudential; Head of Political Engagement, HSBC.

Dr Alexander Evans OBE 

Adviser, Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street (2020‑); Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service (2003‑). Formerly: Director, Cyber, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) (2018‑2020); Deputy High Commissioner to India (2015‑18) and Acting High Commissioner (2015‑16); Coordinator, Al Qaida/Taliban Monitoring Team, United Nations (2013‑15); Senior Fellow, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale University (2011‑13); Henry A. Kissinger Chair, Library of Congress (2011); Senior Advisor to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. Department of State (2009‑11); FCO Policy Planning Staff; Gwilym Gibbon Fellow, Nuffield College Oxford.

The Rt Hon Jo Johnson 

Non‑Executive Chairman, Tes; Senior Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School; President's Professorial Fellow, King's College London; contributor, Financial Times. Formerly: Member of Parliament (Conservative) for Orpington (2010‑19); Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation (2019, and 2015‑18); Minister of State for Transport and Minister for London (2018); Minister of State for the Cabinet Office (2014); Head of the Downing Street Policy Unit; Chair of the Policy Board; Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet; The Financial Times (1997‑2010): Associate Editor; Editor, Lex Column; South Asia Bureau Chief, New Delhi (2005‑08). A Governor of The Ditchley Foundation.

Sir Julian King KCVO, CMG 

Distinguished Fellow, RUSI; Visiting Policy Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute. Formerly: Commissioner for the Security Union, European Commission (2016‑19); Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service: Ambassador to France (2016); Director‑General, Economic and Consular, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (2014‑15); Director General, Northern Ireland Office (2011‑14); Ambassador to Ireland (2009‑11); Head of Cabinet to Commissioner for Trade, European Commission (2008‑09); Ambassador to the EU Political and Security Committee (2004‑08).

The Rt Hon. Sir David Lidington KCB CBE 

Chair, Royal United Services Institute (2020‑). Formerly: Member of Parliament (Cons) for Aylesbury (1992‑2019); Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (2018‑19); Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Chancellor (2016‑17); Secretary of State for Justice; Minister of State for Europe (2010‑16); Shadow Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (2007‑10); Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (2003‑07).

Mr Samuel Lowe 

Senior Research Fellow, Centre for European Reform, London; co‑founder, UK Trade Forum; Visiting Research Fellow, The Policy Institute, King's College London. Formerly: Member, Department for International Trade's Strategic Trade Advisory Group (2019‑20).

Mr Mark Malcomson CBE 

Principal and Chief Executive, City Lit, London (2011‑). Formerly: Director of Executive Education, London Business School (2007‑11); President, New York Institute of Finance.

The Rt Hon the Lord Mandelson 

Life Peer, House of Lords; Chairman, Global Counsel LLP, London; Chair, board of trustees, Design Museum (2017‑); Chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University (2016‑). Formerly: First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council (2009‑10); Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (2008‑09); Commissioner for Trade, European Commission, Brussels (2004‑08); Member of Parliament (Labour) for Hartlepool (1992‑2004); Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1999‑2001); Secretary of State for Trade & Industry (1998); Minister without Portfolio, Cabinet Office (1997‑98). A Member of the Council of Management and a Governor of The Ditchley Foundation.

Mr Paddy McGuinness CMG OBE 

Senior Adviser on Crisis, Resilience, Cyber Security and Geopolitical Risk, Brunswick Group. Formerly:  UK Deputy National Security Adviser for Intelligence, Security and Resilience (2014‑18).

The Rt Hon. Michael Moore 

Director General, British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (2019‑); Advisory board member, Edinburgh Business School, Heriot‑Watt University; Chairman, Borders Book Festival (2015‑). Formerly: Senior Advisor on Brexit and Devolution, PwC UK (2016‑19); Member of Parliament (Liberal Democrat) for South East Scotland (1997‑2015); Secretary of State for Scotland (2010‑13). A Governor, The Ditchley Foundation.

Sir Nigel Sheinwald GCMG 

Visiting Professor, King's College London; Non‑Executive Director, Royal Dutch Shell, Invesco Ltd and Raytheon UK. Formerly: Chairman, UK‑US Fulbright Education Commission (2015‑20); UK Special Envoy on international data sharing (2014‑15); Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service (1976‑2012): Ambassador to the United States of America (2007‑12); Foreign Policy and Defence Adviser to the Prime Minister (2003‑07); Ambassador to the European Union, Brussels (2000‑03). A Governor and a member of the Council of Management, The Ditchley Foundation.

Ms Georgina Wright 

Senior Researcher, Institute for Government, London (2019‑); Visiting Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States, Brussels/Washington, DC (2020‑). Formerly: Research Associate, Europe Programme, Chatham House (2014‑19); Policy Assistant, Directorate for Central and West Africa, Directorate General for International Development Cooperation, European Commission (2014); Policy Intern, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (2012).


The Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP PC 

Member of Parliament (Conservative) for Bournemouth East; Chair of the Defence Select Committee. Formerly: Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (2017‑19); Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) (2014‑17); Parliamentary Private Secretary to Minister of State, FCO (2011‑14); Parliamentary Private Secretary to Secretary of State for Defence (2010‑11); Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport (2007‑10); Opposition Whip (2005‑07); Senior Business Manager, London Stock Exchange, British Army (1991‑96).

Dr Fiona Hill

Senior Fellow, Center on the US and Europe, Brookings Institution. Formerly: Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs, National Security Council (2017‑19); Senior Fellow and Director, Center on the US and Europe, Brookings Institution (2009‑17); National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia, National Intelligence Council (2006‑09); Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies, Brookings Institution (2000‑06); Director of Strategic Planning, Eurasia Foundation (1999‑2000); Associate Director, Strengthening Democratic Institutions Project, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (1994‑99).


Mr Michael Abramowitz

President, Freedom House; member, Council on Foreign Relations. Formerly: Director, Levine Institute for Holocaust Education, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; The Washington Post: White House correspondent, National Editor; fellow, German Marshall Fund; fellow, Hoover Institution; board member, National Security Archive; member, Human Freedom Advisory Council, George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Mr Peter Bass 

Chairman and CEO, Quberu; Chairman & CEO, Ember, Inc. Formerly: Managing Director, Promontory Financial Group, LLC, Washington, DC; Executive Assistant to the National Security Adviser, The White House; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy, Sanctions and Commodities; Senior Adviser, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of State; Vice President, Chief of Staff to President and co‑COO, Goldman Sachs & Co.; Treasurer and Trustee, Freedom House. Treasurer and Director, The American Ditchley Foundation.

The Hon. John Bellinger III 

Partner, Arnold & Porter LLP, Washington, DC; Adjunct Senior Fellow in International and National Security Law, Council on Foreign Relations. Formerly: Legal Adviser to the U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC (2005‑09); Senior Associate Counsel to the President and Legal Adviser to the National Security Council (2001‑05); Counsel for National Security Matters, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice (1997‑2001); Of Counsel, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (1996); Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence (1988‑91). A Member of the Board of Directors, The American Ditchley Foundation.

Ambassador (Ret) Nicholas Burns 

Harvard Kennedy School: Goodman Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations and Faculty Chair, Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship and the Future of Diplomacy Project; Executive Director, Aspen Strategy Group and Aspen Security Forum; Senior Counselor, The Cohen Group; Formerly: Member, Secretary of State John Kerry's Foreign Affairs Policy Board, U.S. Department of State (2014‑17); Under‑Secretary of State for Political Affairs, U.S. Department of State (2005‑08); U.S. Ambassador to NATO (2001‑05); to Greece (1997‑2001); Spokesman, U.S. Department of State (1995‑97); Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Affairs, Special Assistant to President Clinton and Director for Soviet Affairs in the Administration of President George H.W. Bush, National Security Council (1990‑95). Chairman, The American Ditchley Foundation.

Ms Wendy Cutler 

Vice President, Asia Society Policy Institute (2015‑) and Managing Director, Washington, DC office. Formerly: U.S Diplomatic Service and negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), latterly Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative.

Ambassador Kathleen Doherty Ret 

Chief Strategy & Retreats Officer, The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, Washington, DC. Formerly: U.S. Diplomatic Service: Ambassador to Cyprus (2015‑17); Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy, Rome; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs; Director, Office of European Union and Regional Affairs; Counselor for Economic Affairs, U.S. Embassy, London; Economic Counselor, US Embassy, Moscow.

Dr Karen Donfried 

President, German Marshall Fund of the United States (2014‑); member: Council on Foreign Relations and American Council on Germany. Formerly: Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs, National Security Council; National Intelligence Officer for Europe, National Intelligence Council; Executive Vice President, German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF); Senior Director for Policy Programs, GMF; Europe Portfolio, Policy Planning Staff, U.S. Department of State; Director of Foreign Policy, GMF; European Affairs Specialist, Congressional Research Service. A Member of the Board of Directors, The American Ditchley Foundation.

Mr Steven Erlanger 

New York Times: Chief Diplomatic Correspondent in Europe, Brussels (2017‑). Formerly: London Bureau Chief (2013‑17); Paris Bureau Chief (2008‑13); Berlin Bureau Chief (2001‑02). A Governor of The Ditchley Foundation.

Ambassador Anthony L. Gardner 

Senior Adviser, The Brunswick Group; Senior Counsel, Sidley Austin; Managing Partner, Brookfield, Private Equity; Board member, Iberdrola; Member of the advisory boards of the Centre for European Reform and the European Policy Centre; U.S. Ambassador to the European Union (2014‑17); Managing Director, Palamon Capital Partners (2007‑13); GE Capital (2002‑07); Director of European Affairs, National Security Council (1994‑95). Author of "Stars with Stripes: The Essential Partnership between the European Union and the United States," Palgrave MacMillan (2002). A member of the Board of Directors, The American Ditchley Foundation.

Ambassador Mark Green (Ret)

Executive Director, McCain Institute for International Leadership (2020‑); Formerly: Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) (2017‑20); President, International Republican Institute (2014‑17); Board of Directors, Millennium Challenge Corporation; member, Human Freedom Advisory Council, George W. Bush Institute; co‑Chair, Consensus for Development Reform; Board Member, WorldTeach; member, Council on Foreign Relations; President and Chief Executive Officer, Initiative for Global Development (2013); Senior Director, US Global Leadership Coalition (2011‑13); U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania (2007‑09); Congressman for Wisconsin's 8th District, U.S. House of Representatives; Assistant Majority Whip.

Ms Ayaan Hirsi Ali 

Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; founder, AHA Foundation; member, Council on Foreign Relations. Formerly: Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School; member of the Dutch Parliament (2003‑06).

Mr Rik Kirkland 

Senior Advisor, McKinsey & Company (Sep 2020 ‑); former Partner and Director of Publishing, McKinsey and Company (2008‑20); member, Council on Foreign Relations. Formerly: Fortune Magazine, including as Washington editor, Europe editor, International editor and latterly Deputy Managing Editor and Managing Editor.

Dr Charles Kupchan 

Professor, International Affairs, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and Department of Government, Georgetown University (1994‑); Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations. Formerly: Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs, National Security Council, The White House (2014‑17); Director, Mortara Center for International Studies, Georgetown University (2004‑05); Director for European Affairs, National Security Council (1993‑94).

Ms Yael Lempert 

U.S. Foreign Service: Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the United States of America to the United Kingdom (2019‑). Formerly: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Egypt and North Africa (2017‑18); Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Levant, Israel and Egypt, National Security Council (2014‑17); Deputy Principal Officer, U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem (2011‑14); U.S. Embassy in Libya (2009‑11), including as Acting Deputy Chief of Mission; Director for Iraq, National Security Council (2004). A member of the Programme Committee of The Ditchley Foundation.

Ambassador P. Michael McKinley Ret 

Senior Counselor, The Cohen Group. Formerly: U.S. Diplomatic Service (1982‑2019): Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State; U.S. Ambassador to Brazil (2017‑18); to Afghanistan (2014‑16); to  Colombia (2010‑13); to Peru (2007‑10); Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d'Affaires, U.S. Mission to the European Union (2004‑07); Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Migration and Refugees (2001‑04).

Ambassador Victoria Nuland 

Senior Counselor, Albright Stonebridge Group; Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; Board Member, National Endowment for Democracy; Distinguished Practitioner in Grand Strategy, Yale University (2017‑). Formerly: CEO, Center for a New American Security (2018‑19); U.S. Department of State: Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (2013‑17); State Department Spokesperson; Special Envoy for Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (2010‑11); faculty, National War College; United States Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (2005‑08).

Professor Karthik Ramanna 

Professor of Business and Public Policy and Director, Master of Public Policy Programme, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford; member, International Advisory Board, California Management Review; member, Panel of Economic Advisors, IPPR Commission on Economic Justice; author, 'Political Standards' (University of Chicago Press, 2015); co‑editor, 'Accounting, Economics & Law' journal. Formerly: faculty, Harvard Business School; Henry B. Arthur Fellow in ethics, Marvin Bower Fellow; visiting fellow, Kennedy School of Government; awarded Case Centre's Outstanding Case‑Writer prize (2017 and 2019) and now leads a case‑writing institute at Blavatnik School.

Dr Amanda Sloat 

Robert Bosch Senior Fellow, Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC; Fellow, Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship, Harvard Kennedy School. Formerly: Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean Affairs, U.S. Department of State (2013‑16); senior advisor to the White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf region, National Security Council (2013); senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs (2011‑13); senior staff, U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee (2007‑10). A Member of the Board of Directors, The American Ditchley Foundation.

Mr Emanuel Yekutiel 

ESY Strategies (a donor advising and political consulting practice), San Francisco; Manny's (building a new kind of large civic/social gathering space), San Francisco. Formerly: White House Office of Public Engagement (working on President Obama and Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaigns); Chief of Staff, FWD.us (Mark Zuckerberg's political advocacy group).

Guest speakers:

Ms Baillie Aaron

Founder, Principled Leadership (2020-); Consultant, Baillie Aaron Consulting (2019-). Formerly: Founder and Chief Executive, Spark Inside (2012-20); co-Curator, World Economic Forum community of Global Shapers, London Hub (2018-19); Advisor, Code4000; Policy Fellow, Ministry of Justice (2016-18); TEDx Speaker; Founder, Venturing Out (2008-14).

Sir Simon Fraser GCMG 

Managing Partner, Flint Global Ltd; Deputy Chairman, Chatham House. Formerly: HM Diplomatic Service (1974‑2015): Permanent Under Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) (2010‑15); Permanent Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (2009‑10); Director General Europe and Globalisation, FCO (2007‑09); Head of Cabinet to Trade Commissioner, European Commission, Brussels (2004‑07); Director for Middle East and North Africa, FCO (2004); Director for Strategy and Innovation, FCO (2002‑04); Political Counsellor, British Embassy, Paris (1999‑2002); Deputy Head of Cabinet to Vice‑President, European Commission (1996‑99). An Honorary Governor, The Ditchley Foundation.

Mr Nick Gardham

CEO, Community Organisers, Warminster; advisor to various government departments on citizen participation and community organising; member, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government Communities Partnership Board; Democracy Ambassador for Cabinet Office; TeachFirst Ambassador.

Mr Charles Grant CMG

Co-Founder and Director, Centre for European Reform (1996-); international advisory boards: Moscow School of Civic Education; EDAM; Terra Nova. Formerly: Board Member and Trustee, British Council (2002-08); Defence Editor and Brussels Correspondent, The Economist. Chairman of the Programme Committee (2012-), a Member of the Council of Management and a Governor, The Ditchley Foundation.

The Rt Hon. the Lord Hill of Oareford CBE

Life Peer, House of Lords; Senior Advisor, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (2017-); Independent National Director, Times Newspapers; Senior Adviser, UBS; Senior Adviser, Deloitte; Trustee, Teach First; Board Member, Centre for Policy Studies. Formerly: European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union (2014-16); Leader of the House of Lords and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (2013-14); Undersecretary of State for Schools (2010-13). Chairman of the Council of Management of The Ditchley Foundation.

Professor Rana Mitter

Director, University of Oxford China Centre, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China and Fellow of St Cross College, University of Oxford; author, "Modern China: A Very Short Introduction (2008, new ed. 2016)".

Mr Charles Parton

Senior Associate Fellow, The Royal United Services Institute; London Director, China Policy (2017-); specialist advisor on China, Foreign Affairs Committee, House of Commons; Founder, China Ink; trustee, Chinadialogue. Formerly: Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service (1979-2011); First Counsellor, EU Delegation in Beijing (2011-16).

The Hon. Kevin Rudd AC

President, Asia Society Policy Institute, New York (2015-); Chair, Sanitation and Water for All (2015-); Chair, International Peace Institute. Senior Fellow, Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School; Distinguished Statesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Distinguished Fellow, Chatham House and Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago; member of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization's Group of Eminent Persons; International Advisory Board, Schwarzman Scholars program, Tsinghua University. Formerly: 26th Prime Minister of Australia (2007-2010, 2013); Foreign Minister (2010-2012).

Dr Tony Sewell

Chair of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (2020-); Founder and Director, Generating Genius, London. Formerly: Chair, Mayor of London's Enquiry into Education (2012-13).

His Excellency Joâo Vale de Almeida

European Union Ambassador to the United Kingdom (2020-). Formerly: European Union Ambassador to the United Nations (2015-20); European Union Ambassador to the United States (2010-14); Director General for External Relations, European Commission (2009-10); EU Sherpa for G8 and G20 Summits (2005-10); Head of Cabinet for European Commission President José Manuel Barroso (2004-09); Deputy Chief Spokesman of the European Commission.

Dr Yu Jie

Senior Research Fellow on China, Chatham House. Formerly: Head of China Foresight, LSE IDEAS; management consultant, specializing in Chinese state-owned enterprises investments in Europe and Chinese market entry strategies for European conglomerates, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, London.