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A sea-change is upon the United Kingdom whether some have come to that full realization or not
The relationship between the UK and the rest of the world is beginning to change as the UK exits the European Union. Not only that, but the relationship between the UK and the other Commonwealth countries is changing. And while all of that is occurring, it is also a time of change in the postwar international order.
These changes are coming and we have no ability to stop them. What we do have though, is the ability to choose whether these changes are ultimately negative or positive for Britain.
The days of ‘Win-Lose’ politics are over
When every second country (seemingly) has WMD weapons, suddenly Win-Lose doesn’t work anymore. Do we really want to solve every issue between nations with nuclear weapons? Because eventually, that’s what it will come to.
It’s great if you ‘Win’. But then you ‘Lose’ because the fallout from large nuclear explosions travel around the Earth a few times per season and nuclear particles continue to exist in the environment for decades (some isotopes linger for 20,000 years) and as everyone needs to breathe the air, eventually you will inhale and, well, (do I really have to tell you this?) your lungs will filter the radioactive isotopes out of the air.
The ‘Winners’ of a WMD conflict will also become ‘Losers’ of that conflict within months. It’s nonsensical to consider nuclear war in the 21st-century.
All of which means, that in the final analysis, international hot points must henceforth be solved by the cool hand of diplomacy.
The days of fighting for Market Share are over
More than any other country, fighting for market share no longer makes economic sense for the UK, because every other country/corporation is likewise fighting for market share.
Larger countries with serious export expertise and fully developed and long-term foreign client relationships have a distinct advantage over a born-again United Kingdom re-entering the exporting world. Fighting for market share against far superior marketing superpowers like Germany and China is like paddling upriver in a hurricane, and good luck with that.
Rather than fighting for Britain’s slice of the pie, the UK should be the one country in the world that works to make the pie bigger for everyone! wherever free markets exist.
In that way, whatever global growth occurs will benefit all exporters equally — including Britain’s born-again export economy, because the UK will have as good a chance as any to capture some of that growing pie — as opposed to fighting companies well entrenched in foreign markets and trying to steal tiny percentages of their total market share. See the difference?
“Don’t fight a battle if you don’t gain anything by winning.” — Erwin Rommel
Rommel was right. And to adapt his truth to Britain’s new place in the world, fighting for market share in countries that are already well-served by European and Chinese exporters will gain British exporters very little and could create trade frictions between Britain and the European Union which is still the UK’s largest trading partner in the 21st-century. We don’t want that.
‘Win-Win and Growing the Market vs. ‘Win-Lose’ and fighting for Market Share
Win-Win political thinking and growing the global market is the best prescription for Britain’s economic future.
Countries with rapidly growing economies like the BRICS countries and many Commonwealth nations are the best places for Britain to concentrate its export efforts. By helping those countries to succeed more than they would have without the UK’s assistance, Britain can grow its export base by selling to people in rapidly growing developing nations enjoying their newfound discretionary income.
It’s all about rising Disposable Income in Developing Nations
The example of India is most poignant, because in that country the average discretionary income of citizens is doubling every five years; All Britain’s leaders must do now, is to work respectfully with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers to the end that British exports to India are welcome and that Indian exports to the UK are just as welcome. (It helps if both countries aren’t manufacturing and selling the same items, of course) If India sells toasters in both countries then Britain should sell kettles in both countries, if you take my meaning. The less overlap, the better.
A few years from now, when a larger percentage of India’s 1.5 billion population can afford to buy a new car, perhaps Indian companies will offer tuk-tuks, small cars and farm trucks for sale in India and the UK, while the UK sells family sedans and Landrovers in India and the UK.
Any other method of working to each country’s strengths — without stepping on each other’s toes — would also be profitable for companies of both countries. What matters is that whatever method is chosen works for companies in both countries.
With the right approach to rapidly growing countries and some standardized and respectful trade rules, the UK could help to grow the global pie, dramatically increase its own exports, keep good relations with exporting superpowers in Europe, China, and America, and be seen as a ‘White Knight’ to developing nations by playing a pivotal and ongoing role in helping them to build their economies.
That future is so much better than bickering over fractions of market share with other (and economically superior) exporting nations — the very countries that Britain depends upon in many ways.
Here’s to ‘Win-Win’ paradigms and growing the global economic pie; A plan that will work for the United Kingdom more than almost any other country — while preventing harm to Britain’s present and important trade relationships.
At this moment in UK history, more money is needed to fund the NHS, schools, roads, railways, airports and other national infrastructure, Trident, foreign aid — and to fund 500 million sterling worth of renovations to the House of Commons.
Money is certainly the problem, as more money would solve all of those issues and many more.
Unfortunately, some governments ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ but with little change in the total amount of revenue actually collected by the government.
- In some cases, a socialist (Labour) government will raise more revenue by raising taxes. Let the wailing begin!
- In other cases, a conservative (Conservative and Unionist) government will cut expenditures via fiscal and budgetary belt-tightening. Groan!
Which is why governments everywhere are always on the hunt for more money.
But are they? Are they really on the hunt for money? Are they really trying to increase revenue? Or do they automatically hit their default mode every time a budget crisis looms?
Some observers think that governments dismiss attempts to increase revenue via increased trade with other nations too quickly and move to their particular default mode.
Where Could the UK Find 1.3 Billion Consumers Wanting to Buy British Goods?
Well, India, for one. And they’re a Commonwealth nation. Ta-Da! See? It’s sooo simple.
All the UK government must do is to reach out to India’s leaders (especially post-Brexit, but nothing stopping them from getting started now!) in the interests of ramping-up trade by at least one order of magnitude.
Why should India purchase trillions of rupees worth of goods from non-Commonwealth nations when they could purchase them from the UK?
Why does India purchase their aircraft carriers from Russia, their fighter-bombers from Russia, other significant navy ships from Russia, and billions worth of goods from China, the southeast Asian nations, and the United States?
A century ago, Great Britain’s trade relations with India were booming. Shipyards couldn’t build ships fast enough to keep up with the annual increase in trade.
Who dropped the ball?
Heads should roll for allowing that relationship to falter — a relationship of prime importance to both the UK and to India!
Never Mind Playing the ‘Blame Game’ There’s No Time!
We need to get a piece of that rapidly growing and rapidly modernizing economy, and thereby add five per cent to Britain’s annual GDP.
Yes! More money will solve all of Britain’s spending problems… but it isn’t going to fall out of the sky and land in the Treasury building by itself!
Someone! Anyone! Perhaps the Prime Minister or the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary (or both) along with the Queen should invite Prime Minister Modi of India and his high officials to London, for an unprecedented and long overdue re-look at the macro relationship between the two countries to see how increased trade could improve the economies of both nations, and how each nation can play to their own strengths and work to offset each other’s weaknesses.
Instead of UK Government Departments Fighting Each Other for Funding – Increase the Available Revenue Pool for All Departments
Companies fight over ‘market share’ because that’s what companies do. And it is often a vicious competition.
However, governments have an unparalleled advantage here because they can increase the overall size of the market — which, using this metaphor, relates to UK GDP.
By dramatically ramping-up trade with India the government could increase GDP by five per cent, easily meet the spending requirements of all departments and still have the economic clout to run balanced budgets indefinitely.
This so badly needs to be done that Brexit is a side-show by comparison, although without Brexit it would be difficult to enter into new trade arrangements with any non-EU country.
In summary, Brexit is merely the means to an end — an end with a much stronger economy for both Britain and India, and a stronger Commonwealth partnership.
A conversation has begun in the post-Cold War era about whether Britain and other countries should continue their nuclear missile programmes.
In the United Kingdom, the Trident missile delivery system is up for discussion along with modernized warheads.
In case you haven’t heard, the Trident missile system is favoured by the government to replace the Royal Navy’s Cold War era nuclear-tipped missiles.
They don’t last forever. In fact, nuclear materials deteriorate at a steady rate and if you leave them for too many decades they can self-detonate. Yes, the Royal Navy stays on top of this, that’s why we’re having the discussion now as opposed to having it in Heaven…
If nuclear materials deteriorate beyond a certain point and detonate aboard a RN submarine in the middle of the Atlantic, it would be a very sad day indeed.
Which is why nuclear weapons aren’t something to play around with — and that includes playing politics.
Only properly informed people should be involved in this decision but it doesn’t hurt for members of the public to read about and understand the nuclear deterrence rationale, called ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ or MAD. (Fitting, isn’t it?)
But no matter the name, the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction has worked to prevent nuclear confrontation since 1945.
Under the MAD terms, no sane leader would use nuclear weapons against another country as it would bring an equally devastating nuclear response from the attacked nation.
Although leaders of countries have become furious at each other in years past in regards to trade disputes, SR-71 overflights, or attempts at regime-change — their knowledge that a nuclear strike / counter-strike could occur if the dispute gets out of hand, such incidents are automatically self-governing due to the horrific consequences attached to nuclear weapons use.
And it works! Nuclear deterrence has performed flawlessly since 1945 to prevent major conflict between nation-states.
Why Would We Need MAD in a post-Cold War World?
This rationale is a cobra snake disguised as a dove, for it says; ‘The Cold War is over, everything is fine, we live in a largely stable and peaceful world — so why do we need nuclear weapons as a deterrent?’
Just as the people who said prior to World War I; ‘We live in a largely stable and peaceful world, why bother having a national military that costs millions to maintain?’
Those words were barely uttered before World War I arrived.
And similar occurred in the interwar period between 1919 and 1939. People thought there could never be another World War as the consequences of the First World War (‘The War to End All Wars’) were still too horrible to contemplate.
But World War II did arrive and in many ways it was more horrific than WWI due to the advanced firepower of the era.
Then came the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Soviet/Afghan War, then the 1990 Gulf War in Iraq, and in 2003 the second war in Iraq which we call the Iraq War, along with the 2003 Afghan War. Not to mention the almost countless brushfire wars that have occurred in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America and Central America during the postwar era.
In every case, the public consensus was that the previous war ‘had to be the last war’ because ‘war is too horrible to do’ and thenceforth only peace would reign on Earth.
We see how wrong they were…
Prepare for War, but Always Plan for Peace
Every combat-experienced Admiral will tell you; ‘Prepare for War, but Always Plan for Peace’ for they know better than anyone that war is simply an extension of human psychology.
Eventually, diplomacy will fail and the military had better be up to the task of defending the country — or they and their fellow citizens won’t have a country.
It’s no Coincidence the Best-armed Countries have Fewer Wars Thrust on Them
With a strong military a country can decide to take part in a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ for example.
But very few countries with a powerful military get invaded. Not that invasion is the only type of warfare, but that’s the primary reason nations divert precious resources to fund a viable military.
Certainly, nuclear-armed nations aren’t subject to invasion, nor will any potential conflict go far, as the world’s nuclear powers police not only the world but each other as well.
The UN Security Council permanent members are all nuclear powers and each of them has an outsized say in world affairs. It would be naive in the extreme to think that the UK could stay in the UNSC should it decide to give up its advanced nuclear weapons programme.
Having a viable nuclear weapons system is one thing, but having a say in global affairs at the highest level is on the shortlist of things that identify the United Kingdom as a Top Ten political power.
It isn’t always about GDP and Productivity
Sometimes it’s about defending the interests of your country and like-minded countries, even if that means continuing with an expensive Cold War programme that was designed from the outset to make war far too costly to contemplate.
And, the most important point of all? It has worked perfectly, every day, since 1945.
In the discussion between Strategic Hope vs. Strategic Deterrence, my heart is with those who believe that one day the human race will mature to a point where war is left behind in the dustbin of history (as it should be!) but in the meantime, my mind favours what has actually worked over the past 72 years. Poseidon’s trident must remain.