by John Brian Shannon | August 5, 2016
British Foreign Policy post-Brexit
Now that Britain is delinking itself from the European Union’s foreign policy construct, the country is again free to chart its own course, instead of a foreign policy based on literally hundreds of compromises made to appease EU government and corporate leaders, and EU citizens.
The United Kingdom has an incredibly clean slate having shed its colonial power and responsibilities in the 20th century, and is presently shedding the EU construct early in the 21st century.
Windows of opportunity as large as the sky abound.
Of course, Brexit is a recent development, so we’re in early days yet.
But the possibilities are almost limitless from a foreign policy perspective. The British government could follow any existing foreign policy model or choose to create something novel and fine-tune it over time.
Central to any nation’s well-being is robust international trade. Gone are the days when a nation could survive on domestic trade alone. Today’s world requires an economy that fires on all cylinders — and that means foreign trade.
Nations with a heavy commitment to international trade also have thriving economies. Therefore, it’s mandatory that foreign policy be designed to attract the greatest number of businesses.
However, ‘doing what everyone else does’ in the foreign policy department just doesn’t cut it. Today, foreign policy leaders and bureaucrats must innovate policies that match the strengths of their particular country and sell it on its merits.
I: Strengthening the Business Case for Transnational Corporations to Headquarter in Britain
II: Working to the Strengths of British Industry and thereby Facilitating Massive Trade Surpluses
Convincing transnational corporations to relocate their headquarters (or even a branch operation) to Britain is one thing (and a very desirable thing) but it’s only half the story. The other half of the story is helping to create a massive export-driven economy, exporting billions of pounds worth of goods each month.
If Britain, post-Brexit is to be a success, it will be largely due to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office succeeding at strengthening Britain’s international trade relationships.
And if Britain’s economy fails in the post-Brexit years, most of the blame will land at the Foreign Office.
Read Britain: Between Now and Article 50
Another pillar of post-Brexit foreign policy success is by necessity, security.
Again, the new government of Theresa May has a clean slate upon which to write any policy it chooses. That is a very fine thing, but change for necessity’s sake is good, while change for change’s sake usually involves wasted effort.
III: Continuing the NATO Commitment at the Approved 2% of GDP Level (unlike some NATO partners who typically miss that low target)
IV: Continuing to Support MI4 (GCHQ), MI5 and MI6 at a Robust Level
V: Creation of a British Homeland Security organization parallel to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
For an island nation located in the North Atlantic Ocean, leaving NATO would be the about worst single thing that Britain could do from a security standpoint. Therefore, foreign policy must be directed towards maintaining and improving that institution keeping in mind that it’s a dynamic beast, not some static entity that we throw money at in order to feel safe.
Rather, Britain, as a charter member of NATO must play a lead role in improving that organization, recognizing at once it’s strengths and it’s weaknesses. Proactive leadership within NATO is the best way for Britain to remain a stable, democratic, and secure nation.
GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 are needed now more than ever if Britain is to survive and thrive, and they have proven their worth countless times. These organizations operate in a constantly changing, threat-driven world. The government must proactively support these institutions and recognize that the intelligence business changes every day of the year, decade after decade. It never stops — and it never stops changing. Treating these as static operations would be a terrible blunder.
GCHQ monitors all manner of communications and operates parallel to the United States’ NSA, intercepting suspicious communications and routing them to the appropriate channels, while MI5 maintains a silent presence in the UK in the counter-intelligence environment similar to the FBI in America. The agency of James Bond, MI6, operates everywhere in the world — except the United Kingdom.
But nowhere in the United Kingdom is one super-agency responsible for security where the threat doesn’t come from foreign spies employed by a foreign government.
Back in the day, the local Royal Mail post office was informally charged with reporting incidents that occurred in the public domain, to whichever service it deemed appropriate. Even prior to WWII, each Postmaster or Postmistress in every county had a designated number to call in case of suspicious persons or events.
Now that the Royal Mail is a private company, there won’t be much of that.
All of the security bases in the United Kingdom are covered, except one.
New Scotland Yard for policing and investigations. GCHQ for communications. MI5 to monitor, track, and apprehend foreign (professional) spies and agents provocateurs. MI6 to handle foreign operations.
As truly awesome as all of that is, a gaping hole remains in Britain’s security. Millions of refugees and economic migrants, non-professional agents provocateurs, and even visitors to the United Kingdom (all of them legally allowed into the UK) could stage a multi-county or multi-city or other mega-event far, far, beyond the ability of the local constabulary to prevent or handle.
Mega Attacks, Mega Theft, or Terror Attacks Originating Inside the UK by Non-Professional Agents
We saw how unprepared and vulnerable the United States was during the September 2001 attacks in New York City — a country with a defence budget larger than the next 10 countries combined, and an intelligence budget bigger than many countries’ GDP.
This proposed organization needs a strong military command structure, yet it would operate in the public domain, inside the UK only. All other UK security issues are covered so it’s simply a case of having a Minister in charge (preferably one with a Royal Air Force command background) with a clear and powerful mandate “Protect the United Kingdom from domestic terror and other crimes not easily handled by other police and security agencies”
Each UK military base would need to designate at least 2 armed fighter jets, and a squadron of armed helicopters, and at least 100 personnel per base, on permanent standby. ‘Ready to move within one minute.’
It would also need a strong legal mandate giving it instant and powerful emergency powers, to do such things as; instantly close airports across the country, force aircraft to land anywhere, stop trains anywhere, detain ships entering UK waters, detain and question non-state actors and witnesses. And so much more.
In short, it would be the emergency headquarters for all of Britain.
During times of war, the Prime Minister calls the Minister of Defence.
During times of hooliganism or crime, the public calls the Constabulary.
“But who do we call, when people are flying aircraft into buildings? Who do we call, when people are planning mass attacks somewhere (anywhere) along the country’s transportation corridors? Who do we call when people in large numbers are taking control of entire counties and the police are several thousand officers short-staffed of being able to handle the job? Who do we call when sophisticated, mobile, and country-wide organizations are operating with impunity and the police just don’t have the resources or expertise to handle the onslaught? How many police can scramble and fly a fighter jet or assault helicopter to shoot down an aircraft with a stolen nuclear bomb on board heading towards a major city?”
Who do we call, when the matter is much larger than a policing issue, smaller than a war between nations, and doesn’t involve professional agents from a foreign country?
In today’s world, every UK citizen, non-citizen resident and visitor, must know an easily memorized phone number like #UKSECURITY to call in case of suspicious activity, terrorist or criminal acts — that instantly links the caller to the Department of UK Security where the information can be received, fighter jets instantly scrambled, etc.
Post-9/11, the Americans recognized the need for a Department of Homeland Security and it’s been a proactive and moderate force for good in the United States.
The UK must not wait until after a major event occurs; A parallel agency to DHS must be set up within one year to protect Britons and visitors from at-scale domestic events — events above the level of regular police and outside the mandate of GCHQ or MI5.
Renewing the Anglosphere
Brexit is the time for Britain to lead the re-creation of the Anglosphere as it was originally intended to be prior to WWI, WWII, and the Cold War.
Read The Anglosphere Revisited
Due to some history happening the Anglosphere did not continue to evolve, instead, an artificial construct has evolved.
Now is the time to get that destiny back on track, a destiny where all English-speaking nations work together at creating a free trade and immigration zone within the Anglo nations — combining their strengths to compete with the world’s new economic tigers.
It’s imperative that the UK initiate this move to dramatically step up all kinds of links between the Anglo nations, and to put a recognizable ‘brand’ on it.
The world is changing, and Britain has a unique opportunity to mould the United Kingdom into the kind of country it was originally destined to be, and for Britain to become an even more positive force in the world.
A world where anyone would be proud to live.
Have a comment? Please let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Peter Zeihan (zeihan.com) mentioned that two aircraft carriers are under construction for the Royal Navy. If I understand correctly, the carriers will have fighter capability. If so, one mission comes to mind immediately-defense of the Falkland Islands.
Surprisingly to some, I was never a fan of the Falklands War.
The best strategy in the South Atlantic would have been to make Argentina our best South American ally and a member of the Commonwealth, that way the UK wouldn’t be stretched trying to protect all of it’s ocean and near-ocean interests around the globe.
The Argentine coastline is a long one, and instead of the UK devoting all those resources to patrol the South Atlantic, Argentina (along with other local nations) could take care of it with the Royal Navy acting in a permanent back-up capacity. “Argentina, just call if you need help.”
Which would’ve allowed the Royal Navy to concentrate on Britain’s global interests WITHOUT GETTING CAUGHT SHORT by getting into a conflict with Argentina.
However, nothing is ever completely without merit; During the Falklands War, the Royal Navy found out much about their fleet (aluminum-hulled warships, although very high-performance — exotic, even) were far from optimal in battle as they were so fragile in regards to ‘medium-sized’ warheads such as the Sea Sparrow let alone the Exocet missile, that they were forced to stay hundreds of miles away from the main area of battle and always be hiding and feinting around, so as not to get hit. Making them almost irrelevant to a running battle.
Aluminum-hulled coastal defence ships that never travel any farther than 500 miles from Britain, and are only interdicting drug runners and cargo ships dumping their bilge too close to the coast, could still be a brilliant move by the RN and Coast Guard. Even nowadays.
And the other thing the Royal Navy found out about their ships (after years of leaving practically everything to the US Navy due to economic constraints of that era) was that most of them were too old, too rusty, and too leaky to be sent on real missions (war) and had significant gaps in technology and performance compared to other developed nation navies.
It persuaded Britain’s leaders to begin a serious, long-term navy procurement plan — which has done nothing less than save the RN from total meltdown.
Having said all that, it looks like the two new aircraft carriers are going to sea with far fewer fighter jets on their decks than is safe.
Aircraft carriers are the biggest targets in the ocean and need to be stuffed full of fighter jets, fighter-bombers, recon aircraft, and rescue helicopters.
What has been planned for these two ships, wouldn’t even equip ONE OF THEM properly.
It’s a disaster waiting to happen.
There are too few F-35’s available to Britain at present.
Even if the balance of a 70-80 aircraft fleet (of all aircraft types) are made up of old Harrier jets, or old F-18’s, that’s better than setting off to sea with only 12 to 18 F-35’s per aircraft carrier. It’s so dangerous that any admiral that agrees to put to sea so lightly defended, should be fired before the ship leaves port. If they do sail so lightly protected, you’ll probably find them at the bottom of Dogger Bank when they go missing. (Not far from port)
If Britain needs to buy 60 SuperHornets to properly equip those ships (30 each) that is preferable to losing one or both ships due to a criminally inadequate air defence.
Any real military power with aught against Britain could sink such a lightly-armed aircraft carrier without too much trouble.
However, trying to sink an advanced aircraft carrier that has 12-18 F-35’s AND 30 SuperHornets (or 15 SuperHornets and 15 SAAB Gripen) presents a completely different problem to an attacker.
Only an enemy navy that would agree to lose their own aircraft carrier (a one-for-one proposition) in exchange for sinking the British aircraft carrier, could (possibly) succeed.
It’s a big gamble putting an aircraft carrier to sea as it is. Sending it out there with only 1/3 of the airpower it needs is criminally reckless, IMHO.
(Myself, I would buy 30 SuperHornets (exceptionally capable multi-role fighter-bomber, but relatively expensive per unit) and 30 SAAB Gripens (surprisingly capable for the lowish cost) and each carrier would get 15 SuperHornets and 15 Gripens. The SuperHornets are true fighter-bombers, while the SAAB Gripens are low-operational-cost light fighter-bombers that aren’t overkill in the way the SuperHornets would be in certain roles — like ‘Combat Air Patrol’ (CAP) for one, Recon, for another example)
Thank you for your comment!
Best regards, JBS
I understand that the U.S. Navy has been experimenting with flying drones off of carriers. I can imagine using drones to launch guided missiles at ground targets (like the Predator drones), as well as reconnaissance. At least you won’t lose pilots over enemy territory during a drone mission.
TheX-47B drone seems similar in mission(s) to the Predator. The primary mission is long range reconnaissance/surveillance, and like the Predator carrying quite limited ordinance.
A few years ago the drone was test launched from a carrier by catapult. Of course, an implication is that you could also use the catapult to launch manned fighters.
Just wanted to drop this basic link about the Global Hawk (U.S. Air Force) and Global Surveyor (NASA version) which are a different type of drone, very sophisticated and BIG.
There is certainly a role for these as well, and they have an excellent safety record.
“Northrop Grumman reckons that operating a U-2 to fly for seven hours over Afghanistan to collect 60 high resolution images costs $396,000. The Global Hawk will complete the same sortie for $178,000. It will also fly much farther and for longer. Some versions can even refuel each other.” — The Economist
It is intended that ariel refueling can be used to extend range/duration of the X-47B drone
The Super Hornet can be configured as a tanker, as well as being used as an air superiority fighter or fighter bomber.
Quite a capable combination, especially if you add missiles launched from escort vessels.
There is so much room for potential in the UAV realm that hasn’t even touched their true capabilities — if designed and used properly.
We are at the ‘Wright brothers stage’ who flew the first manned aircraft at Kitty Hawk, NC as far as UAV’s are concerned.
What SuperHornets need is a UAV that is connected to the aircraft that can then be detached at altitude, to fly alongside the SuperHornet (in the ‘wingman’ role) and it could also carry many hundreds of gallons of fuel to refuel desperate SuperHornets they might encounter returning from a mission on ‘bingo’ fuel, and the UAV could also harass enemy aircraft that have bad intentions towards the SuperHornet — even going so far as to launch it’s own missiles at an enemy, or ‘blocking the shot’ when an enemy fires at the SuperHornet.
Such a UAV would look like a Tomahawk cruise missile and ride on top of the SuperHornet, like the Space Shuttle used to ride atop the special 747 that was designed for it.
A UAV can turn at many more G’s than a human pilot can tolerate, and can do all kinds of maneuvers that a human-piloted aircraft can’t do — unless the pilot is willing to risk death or bursting a blood vessel in the brain due to certain high-G maneuvers.
With a UAV flying shotgun, SuperHornet pilots would be many times safer, and could refuel from the UAV if necessary, and be ‘covered’ in the case of combat damage to the SuperHornet that would preclude it from defending itself as it limps back to it’s aircraft carrier.
Not only that, but the UAV could also take pictures of the F-18 from all angles and forward them wirelessly to the aircraft carrier to show the damage extant on the SuperHornet, so that preparations for landing and repair are already in motion when the SuperHornet arrives.
Finally, the UAV itself is a flying ‘bomb’ loaded with fuel and munitions; If a SuperHornet pilot is out of bombs and the radar base (for instance) isn’t quite destroyed, he could return to his carrier and order the UAV to dive and crash into whatever needs destroying.
To my mind, all what I’ve written above, doesn’t even cover 25% of what could be done with Tomahawk-style ‘slingers’ mounted onto SuperHornets. It’s unbelievable that this isn’t the biggest bonus ever on Western nation aircraft carriers — or maybe it is, it’s been a long time since I’ve stood on an aircraft carrier deck.
Really appreciate your great comments!
Found the price tags listed for the different F-35 variants:
F-35B, the STOVL version, is $102.1 million per plane.
F-35C, the designated carrier variant, is $132.2 million per plane.
In an attempt to make a super plane, the product has become almost unaffordable for even the richest countries.
I’m thinking that if you want a VTOL fighter…maybe include a few Harriers?
I couldn’t agree more.
A small number of F-35’s aren’t enough for an aircraft carrier, up to 40 Harriers or SuperHornets should be deployed on each carrier — in addition to the F-35’s.
Not only that, an aircraft carrier needs 12 general duty aircraft that don’t cost thousands of dollars per hour to fly/support, such as the low-maintenance and low operational cost, high performance SAAB Gripen fighter jet or the F-16 derived Lockheed/Martin T50A.
Tasks considered for naval UAVs:
Yes, it is expected that drones will take over the tanker role from the Super Hornet.
Number 3, strike, is considered the most difficult role.
Under development are smaller drones that can be launched out of tubes. With multiple small drones, swarming tactics become feasible. For example, simulations indicate that swarms of such (carrying explosives) could quickly overwhelm the defenses of an aircraft carrier, with a few slipping through defenses.
Useful for sea control.
The idea is to launch from smaller warships, though it occurs to me that a larger aircraft carrier could carry a larger swarm.
Northrop Grumman has been developing a VTOL (Verticle Take Off and Landing) drone that can operate off of frigates and destroyers. The TERN project will have missions/capabilities similar to the Predator.
I came across mention that the British will are trying to develop their own drones. So I expect the Royal Navy to expand its air power.
I’m glad the Royal Navy will have their own drone programme.
The problem with buying drones from another country is that if they ever get ‘hacked’ every copy of those drones worldwide, are thenceforth useless until the problem is fixed.
During peacetime, drones should be easy to maintain by the ship weapons maintenance staff, so as to get the most amount of reuse out of them.
Also, drones must be cheap, as drones may survive only one hour in an actual combat situation — effectively making them recon drones first (and if discovered) kamikaze drones.
Each aircraft carrier should have hundreds of relatively cheap drones, each one about the size of a telephone booth.
Thanks for all the great comments! JBS
The U.S. Marine Corps has begun to fly the F-35B. Came across an online article which suggested that these USMC planes fly off the Royal Navy’s new carriers. The article also suggested that the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft might also fly off these carriers.
I can imagine other allied countries operating helicopters off the new ships.
Which makes sense if several allied countries see a convergence in their goals-forming a large, loose trading group. And since this grouping would span oceans, control of the sea is important.
I’m guardedly open about USMC jets flying off of Britain’s carriers — but here’s the problem (and it’s a big one) if those jets are ever needed to defend American land-based interests like US military bases around the world — or even an US Navy ship that is being attacked — those USMC jets will all leave the Royal Navy carrier in less than five minutes (they have to put their interests first, obviously) and that will leave the biggest target in the world’s oceans (an aircraft carrier) with only the jets that Britain brought along.
Which might only be enough to protect the RN carrier long enough for it to scurry back to Portsmouth — or it may not. Depending on who is mad at the UK that week.
Even if an enemy or a competitor nation (as they’re now called) threatens to blow up a $2 billion RN aircraft carrier that can’t defend itself, without actually blowing it up — that country is then in a strong position to demand anything it wants from the UK government. “Stop patrolling the (South China Sea, or the Russian arctic, or the Persian Gulf, etc.) henceforth, or we’ll sink her!”
Could be easily done.
I could easily forsee an enemy attacking a US Navy capital ship in order to draw several hundred miles away the USMC jets based on the RN carrier — leaving a lightly-defended RN carrier. Ten SU-27’s could do that job, or even one, if their goal is only to knock out the carrier’s command centre.
Because there is only so much space on an aircraft carrier, I would agree to 10 fighter jets from NATO or other allied nations, but any more than that will leave the carrier in serious jeopardy should those jets be suddenly called away. And it happens! The naval tasking environment is perpetually fluid.
I’m in agreement with it, just sounding a cautionary note.
Best regards, JBS
One conceivable project is a long range recon drone, operating off the new carriers. If I recall correctly, back in the ’60s there were recon drones that flew on their own-an autopilot was programmed with a flight plan. At a certain point, the cameras were switched on.
When flying in this mode, a drone would be resistant to hacking or jamming.
The information would be used for targeting.
Indeed, one online article said that carriers would have a future as eyes of the fleet.
Another role carriers might retain is anti-submarine warfare (ASW).
And anti-ASW (shooting down the other sides ASW aircraft).
On the other hand, projecting power ashore is becoming more and more problematic. Not only have air defenses become more and more formidable, but China’s new anti-ship missiles have a range of 900 miles. So carriers will have to pull back from shore. (Which brings up a question-do your combat aircraft have enough range?) Large scale amphibious operations are even more problematic than carriers, if even possible.
I agree with the long-range drone idea, wholeheartedly.
They do take up a lot of space, but for a few extra R&D dollars a carrier could leave port with (for example) two long-range drones, and if one or both were lost in combat, two new ones could be dispatched from the UK to land on the RN carrier autonomously — or dispatched from any UK forward base, or even fly direct from the manufacturer’s hangar in the U.S. or from any Commonwealth nation, to land on the carrier while at sea. (This could be done even in the midst of battle)
The trouble with ASW is that a carrier is already the biggest target (prize) in the sea for enemy commanders, adding ASW to a carrier is dangerous.
The reason we have different kinds of ships, is so that if we lose one, we can still function.
The same is true with aircraft. For instance, a US Navy carrier would never sail one mile with SuperHornets alone (no matter how great those aircraft are — and they are amazing figher/bombers) in case of a no-fly order from the manufacturer due to a fault being discovered, or a sudden weakness to foreign navy hackers.
ASW must always be a number of non-capital ships (frigate sized) per task force, as they are usually the first ones that are targeted by the enemy.
Even moreso with refueling tankers (which are the 2nd-largest targets in the sea) minesweepers (3rd) in the naval environment.
Most modern fighter/bomber aircraft have a combat radius of 1500 miles, although they can fly continuously as long as you can get them to an airborne fuel tanker. Some combat zones are too ‘hot’ for flying gas cans with 212,000 pounds of fuel onboard (KC-46a) so that must be factored-in.
China’s new anti-ship missiles are formidable, perhaps the best in the world at this point. They are a game-changer, just as the Exocet missile was in it’s day.
There are places in the world’s oceans that you would never take an aircraft carrier — one of those places is anywhere near Silkworm or Exocet missiles, and another is a bay or inlet (a fjord) in any competitor nation waters that has only one escape route.
Interesting thread here!
Just posting this link here, some relevant info on NATO-member nation spending…
You will find more statistics at Statista
Foreign policy concepts outlined:
New Internationalist Blog
A Foreign Policy for Brexit?
by Dan Smith
Thanks! I’ll check it out.
John, you may want to check out an online article, “Obama, Trump, and Jacksonian Foreign Policy”.
Iraq/Afghanistan is a manifestation of Neo-conservatism, which has been described as a liberal in wolf’s clothing.
Thanks for the information!
Best regards, JBS