A REPORT by leading diplomats has encouraged the Foreign Office to rebrand, including a new name and modernisation of premises.

Moazzam Malik, former director general at the Foreign Office and one of the authors of the report, said the current building “speaks of our past rather than our future”.

The report from UCL Policy Lab and Hertford College, Oxford, sees leading figures from British diplomacy and international development call for a renewed vision of UK foreign affairs.

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Recommendations include a new name and premises for the Foreign Office, describing the department’s official title – Foreign, Commonwealth (formerly “Colonial”) and Development Office – as “anchored in the past”.

Furthermore, the Foreign Office buildings that feature portraits of colonial leaders were described as “somewhat elitist and rooted in the past”.

The report also suggests the UK should “face our historical legacy head-on”, stating: “Former colonies are making increasingly vocal demands around the need for reparations from colonialism and compensation for the loss and damage arising from historical industrial emissions.”

Malik told BBC Radio 4: “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a different building, but we’re calling for a modernisation of the Foreign Office premises because if you enter the Foreign Office building, it speaks of our past rather than our future.

“There are still many colonial-era pictures on the walls. I came across an incident recently where a senior Irish diplomat was visiting the Foreign Office for a meeting about the UK Food and Nutrition Summit.

“Towering over the meeting table was a portrait of Lord Trevelyan who was famous for wanting to limit the UK’s financial exposure to the Irish potato famine. The significance of that was not lost on the Irish diplomat.”

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He added: “We have a lot to be proud of in our past and some things not to be so proud of, but the point is that we need to look forward to 2040 to look at how the world is changing to think about our role in that world, and really to position ourselves for that future.”

To remedy these issues, as well as other problems in the Foreign Office including short-term strategic thinking, the report recommends clarifying the department’s enduring mission, purpose and objectives, establishing stronger delivery structures and modernise the working environment.

Malik said: “The UK’s place in the world is changing.

“We’ve exited the European Union, power is shifting to the east, geopolitics has become very, very bumpy, the rules-based order is under great pressure, but at the same time, the UK is a very open economy, a very interconnected economy, and our future prosperity and security depend on strong international relations.

“So our call is to do Foreign Affairs slightly differently, to modernise our approach and indeed to look at what we can learn from countries like Japan, Switzerland, Norway, Canada, offshore nations, if you like countries that are linked to big economies on their borders, but also need to look beyond those big economies to their international relations around the world.”

Malik called for a “laser-like focus on the things that will determine the UK’s future prosperity and security”.

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He said: “Things like economic prosperity, security, climate change, development, building up international institutions, so instead of a malleable idea of pursuing national interest we’re calling for clarity of objectives, setting down a bunch of things at the Foreign Office and indeed wider government will focus on and then building capability, skills, data metrics and indeed delivery capacity on those.

“Because the things that affect our future are long-term in nature and all too often our foreign affairs can be pretty short-termist.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (below) has rebuked the idea that the Foreign Office is “elitist” and should remove colonial-era paintings, Downing Street has said.

The National: Rishi Sunak

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I don’t think he would agree with that assessment at all.

"The Foreign Office is doing vital work to protect and promote UK interests abroad and he fully supports the work of the Foreign Office and indeed the Foreign Secretary in achieving those objectives.”

Asked whether the Prime Minister thought the Foreign Office should remove colonial-era artwork, the spokesman said: “No, we’ve previously talked about being proud of the UK’s history and looking forward, the Foreign Office is at the forefront of efforts to promote UK interests at home and abroad.”

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) spokesperson said: “We are maximising the benefits of merging diplomacy and development in the FCDO to better deal with global challenges, as seen in our responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and in the Middle East.

“We are committed to having an even greater impact and influence on the world stage, which is why we recently completed a review across the department to ensure we are effectively directing our funds, streamlining all our international policy work and building our capability for the future.”