The UK is Winding Down its Soft Power Assets, but the EU is Picking Up some of the Threads.

The British Council is financed by the British government and is an important element in the UK’s so-called “soft power” and at one time was active in over 100 countries. It promotes British culture and English language by providing language classes.

In 2021, Wendy Chamberlain, the Liberal Democrat MP for North East Fife, criticised a series of closures.

She noted that at the peak of the covid pandemic in 2020, the organization had already been forced to close 44 out of its 47 English-language schools and 195 out of 223 test centers around the world. In 2021 this was followed by the complete closure of its Belgian office and by cuts to on-the-ground staff in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Malta, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland. Instead, there will only be online programs available for these places.

Wendy noted, “The British Council was created in 1934 in response to a changing global stage: the UK was losing its traditional forms of influence, extreme ideologies were on the rise around the world and there was a global economic crisis.”

Wendy continued,

“Those problems may not sound unfamiliar to the Minister and others here today as he and his Cabinet colleagues seek to re-establish the UK as a global power outside the EU, respond to extreme ideologies at home and abroad and tackle the economic and social implications of the pandemic and the climate crisis. Clearly, the British Council remains as relevant today as it has ever been.”

On the other hand, with English being an important language for communication in trade, diplomacy and within Europe, the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD), supported by the EU, is filling the gap left by the UK, by supporting local franchises of the international Wall Street English Institute (WSE) – a business English language service known for its classroom customisation and highly effective learning experience.

In Mongolia, English is an essential language for anyone hoping to travel, study or conduct business internationally. And while many Mongolians have an acceptable knowledge of day-to-day English, the proficiency essential for business has been and still is a relatively rare commodity.

The school in Ulaan Baatar is being helped by the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses Programme and the new WSE Mongolia is planning another new school in Kazakhstan.

EBRD supports independent business ventures in countries bordering the EU to improve their economies and stability and develop trade. From time to time they also support a limited number of local state infrastructure projects.