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It can’t be emphasized enough that the United Kingdom is an island nation and that without a respectable sea power component, the country would have missed becoming one of the greatest powers in history. All that success was accumulated courtesy of the unprecedented level of trade from 1546-onward with virtually every nation on the planet. (1546 was the year the Royal Navy was created)
Not that the UK should become a militaristic country, far from it. But because it relies on free trade for its survival (and that means keeping the sea lanes open, no matter what) Britain must always stand ready to defend its territory and its legitimate economic interests abroad. If the UK ceases to do that; that will be the day it’s no longer a sovereign country. That’s what’s at stake for the United Kingdom.
Other countries may have the luxury of being located on continents with many other countries to buy from and sell to, and could, if required, source everything they need from that continent and sell all of their exports within that same continent. But for the UK, that option doesn’t exist.
Therefore, the UK must have the best-trained, best-equipped, and best-led navy in the world. There is simply no alternative.
Two More Aircraft Carriers, Please!
By 2020, both of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers (HMS Queen Elizabeth ‘R08’ and HMS Prince of Wales ‘R09’) will have joined the fleet and the navy’s only other aircraft carrier HMS Ocean ‘L12′ will have been retired; leaving the UK, a country completely dependent upon seaborne trade, with only two aircraft carriers. (Which makes for a nice peacetime aircraft carrier fleet — but if war strikes, it would be 4-years before even one aircraft carrier could be produced!)
It should be noted that pink slips will be handed to almost everyone who worked on the two carriers by July 2018 now that construction on both R08 and R09 is nearly complete, with only sea trials left to perform before both ships enter full-time service. Thousands of engineers, electricians and labourers will no longer be required.
What really needs to happen is that two more Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers need to be built, and high on the list of reasons to build them must be to keep a continuous production line operating until more destroyers or frigates are required (and don’t kid yourself, they’re required now, just that the government isn’t yet convinced of the need) and the proposed ships could fulfill different roles than R08 and R09.
R10 could be fitted-out as a helicopter carrier / humanitarian aid / hospital ship — with 15 fighter jets for self-protection because R10 itself could be attacked and must be able to instantly defend itself.
R11 could be sold to India which would buy one very quickly(!) as its navy has the formidable task of policing an Indian Ocean that’s only slightly smaller than the Atlantic.
The selling price (to India) of such a carrier would pay for the construction of the proposed R10 for the Royal Navy (not including the aircraft) and require millions of person-hours to construct both R10 and R11. Seems a no-brainer, doesn’t it?
From a jobs and economy perspective, the UK needs to build two more aircraft carriers — only one of which it needs for itself — while the other is sold to India.
That’s how to afford a world-class navy in the 21st-century!
Keep it Going!
Next on the agenda must be new Type 45 destroyers that are fitted-out for UAV duty in addition to the other duties the Type 45’s perform.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles need to become a major part of RN destroyer operations as the future of naval warfare will be tilted toward UAV’s for surveillance, for Combat Air Patrol duty (to protect the naval task force at sea) and to drop munitions on targets that are very heavily defended — too heavily defended to risk losing a multi-million pound sterling aircraft and its pilot.
Not only can UAV’s do that, the UK’s new UAV’s in development for the Royal Navy should have a refuelling version with the ability to fly up to 500 miles to refuel fighter jets — instead of those jets having to return to the aircraft carrier to refuel, or having to fly large fuel tankers near the combat zone — which is dangerous as they’re manned by live pilots and carry tens of thousands of gallons of fuel.
Also, by having UAV refuelling units accompany fighter-bomber jets, it can extend the range of the bombers (bombers use astronomical amounts of fuel when they’re carrying thousands of pounds of bombs) and UAV’s can be programmed to refuel any type of jet (en-route or returning) at a predetermined location allowing them to make it all the way to the target and all the way back to the aircraft carrier which may have moved hundreds of miles in the meantime to avoid enemy submarines.
Aircraft carriers can’t always remain in one place waiting for their jets to return and other factors can come into play in a conflict situation such as ‘Country B’ suddenly withdrawing permission to use their territorial waters to launch and recover UK aircraft. That’s just how war goes.
Keeping warbirds of all types in the air longer and with plenty of in-flight refuelling availability close by removes the need for them to fly all the way back to the aircraft carrier for fuel, resulting in a huge increase in the efficiency of man and machinery. Unprecedented efficiencies await!
Ten More Type 45’s with the UAV upgrade, Please!
The UK needs four more Type 45’s and all existing destroyers must be upgraded to the UAV standard — and other Commonwealth nations need Type 45’s too.
Australia, Canada, and India could put those extremely capable destroyers to good use and retire their obsolete and expensive-to-maintain destroyers.
By building more destroyers than it needs, six Type 45 destroyers could be sold to Commonwealth nations which would allow the Royal Navy to afford four more destroyers at no cost to the RN, while providing millions of person-hours of work for Britain’s workers.
When the UK shipbuilding and submarine building industry measurably adds to UK GDP, you know you’re doing it right!
There is a difference between ‘just getting by’ and ‘succeeding’.
‘Just getting by’ means continuing to do things the way it’s been done in the postwar era, while ‘succeeding’ means building a modern Royal Navy and substantially adding to the capabilities of Commonwealth of Nations member countries by using a sustainable economic model that keeps thousands of workers in the UK shipbuilding industry permanently employed.
What could be more important for new-ish UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson than protecting the UK (#1 priority) strengthening the Royal Navy (#2 priority) and recreating a thriving shipbuilding industry model (#3 priority) that measurably adds to Britain’s GDP and helps Commonwealth partners to succeed?
Few things are as useful to countries as membership in a progressive organization with business links around the world.
For the 53 Commonwealth of Nations members meeting in London this week it’s a chance to discuss ideas, policies, united positions on global or regional affairs, to learn from the experiences of other member nations, and to pursue trade opportunities.
As Britain leaves the European Union by April 2019, Commonwealth of Nations members will discover evermore trade opportunities throughout the United Kingdom. And that trade must work both ways. Countries that allow the UK to export to their country should be encouraged to sell their goods and services to the United Kingdom; making Brexit a ‘Win-Win’ for all Commonwealth member nations.
After Brexit, two-way trade between the UK and EU is expected to drop by a few percentage points (this is normal and not to be feared) however, Commonwealth nations should expect to receive all of that two-way trade availability — and every expectation is that UK and Commonwealth leaders will surpass that low-ish standard.
Further, with restraints removed, the UK will be positioned to negotiate bilateral trade deals with every member of the bloc which should result in a surge of economic activity for every member nation.
Long before it was fashionable for world governments to support equality between people and groups in a society, Commonwealth leaders created the Commonwealth Charter with its sixteen shared principles which include democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, sustainable development, and racial and gender equality, together forming the foundation of the Commonwealth’s constitution.
Prior to 2012, the London Declaration guided the Commonwealth and proved that nations with different capacities and capabilities could work together for mutual benefit, simply by agreeing on shared goals and principles.
Going forward, member nations continue to improve standards and adherence to their principles thereby setting a unique example in national social dynamics to the world.
Like many developed nations, UK companies require plenty of low-cost labourers to harvest crops, to work on production lines, and as general labourers on construction projects.
After Brexit, the UK will be able to source a much larger percentage of labourers from Commonwealth nations as the customs agreement with the EU expires.
This could provide tens of thousands of opportunities annually for citizens of the Commonwealth who want to travel and work in the UK — even if it’s only during specific times of year that farmers require additional labourers — who would then return to their home country with their earnings at the end of the season.
During a period of massive construction projects, the same applies; Tens of thousands of workers could relocate to the UK to work in the construction industry and receive a temporary worker permit allowing them to stay in the country and pay taxes for as long as the contractor requires them. At project conclusion those workers could return to their country with thousands of pounds sterling in their pocket.
Such foreign workers should be required to provide a letter from their local police proving they aren’t wanted on criminal charges, a letter from their bank asserting they have sufficient funds to purchase a return airfare ticket (so they don’t get stranded in the UK when their employment ends) and they should be required to pay the Home Office £100 for every year or portion of a year they stay in the UK.
London is the financial capital of the world and is the ‘go-to’ stock exchange for IPO’s, for mature industries with financing needs, and is the most prestigious exchange on which to list Commonwealth companies.
Once Brexit occurs, billions more in FDI should be flowing from the UK to Commonwealth nations, which should always be the first choice for UK foreign investment.
Special arrangements should be made for individuals and businesses in Commonwealth nations to access UK banks within their home country prior to travelling to Britain.
I will use ‘Barclays’ to make an easy example:
- Barclays (a global bank headquartered in London) should be required to maintain at least one branch in every major city throughout the Commonwealth, in exchange for a reasonable tax advantage.
- For workers wanting to work in the UK who must first apply for a worker’s visa, who must first pay the £100 annual fee to reside in the UK, who must first obtain a letter of credit from the bank proving they have sufficient funds for return airfare, and who must first attach a criminal records check letter to their application to the Home Office — such workers should be able to do it all at the Barclays branch and have all the information electronically transmitted to the appropriate Home Office desk and receive confirmation from the Home Office in the time it takes to sip a coffee.
- For companies that want to import from or export to the UK; the commercial side of the Barclays branch should be set up to enthusiastically assist business owners with every aspect of importing or exporting anywhere within the Commonwealth. Such business owners need only visit a Barclays branch with the idea in hand, and should expect to leave the branch an hour later with every single step completed and be fully informed on every relevant regulation and practice so they can begin importing or exporting the very next day.
- Companies that need financing within their own Commonwealth country — regardless of whether they intend to import from or export to the UK at that exact point in time — should feel that Barclays is always their first choice for financing, for assistance to list on the LSE, or to go public with an IPO offering. Every related thing must be easily done at Barclays in the absolute minimum timeframe — before that business walks out the door, possibly to a non-UK bank, and possibly for good.
- If non-Commonwealth banks offer better personal or business financing, better import and export assistance, better stock exchange listing expertise, better IPO experience and support, then the UK economy and banking sector will suffer by not being in the right place at the right time with the right tools to capture that business. And that would be deeply embarrassing for the United Kingdom — a developed nation with deep and historical roots across the Commonwealth of Nations.
The UK has much to offer the rest of the Commonwealth especially when it comes to mutual aid; whether military aid during internal or external conflict, or civilian aid during natural disasters, and by working together, individual member nations can be more successful than trying to accomplish such operations alone.
Royal Navy ships for example, could automatically become available for sale to Commonwealth nations at any time past the 6-year mark — at a significant savings when compared to purchasing new ships of equal size and capability.
During national emergencies in member nations, the UK should deploy significant resources to aid those nations. India too, has a sizeable military that could work joint operations with the Royal Navy to assist Commonwealth nations in peril.
Working together on military missions and aid projects, member countries will be able to prove with clearly defined examples of mutual aid, how synergy is the most valuable aspect of membership.
The Commonwealth in the post-Brexit timeframe should become 100-times more dynamic than it has been.
For as long as the UK has been shackled to EU regulations it’s been a tough go for the bloc, but much has been accomplished. Yet, there is so much potential!
With 2.5 billion citizens living in Commonwealth nations, most of whom are young and will need to purchase many goods and services throughout their lifetimes, it’s an exciting time for the UK to be re-engaging wholeheartedly with the rest of the membership.
“Sixty percent of the Commonwealth is under the age of 30.” — HRH Prince Harry’s address to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, April 16, 2018.
The reinvigorated Commonwealth is going to out-succeed every country and bloc (and not only in combined GDP growth) but in Trade, Social Issues, Immigration, Investment, and importantly, in Mutual Aid — serving to showcase the kind of synergy that’s possible between nations for the balance of the 21st-century.
A civil war has been raging inside Syria since 2010 — a conflict with roots back to the Western-backed ‘Arab Spring’ which left all those countries in MUCH WORSE CONDITION and if you believe the press reports, great atrocities were perpetrated by some or all sides in Arab Spring nations and continue to occur in the Syrian conflict.
No surprise there. There hasn’t been a civil war in history where heinous crimes haven’t been committed and they are often committed by more than one side. Syria is nothing special in that regard.
Not that we should ignore those events. Far from it!
But most Western politicians are of the mind that when such atrocities are committed they should be countered with an appropriate military strike directed against the suspected perpetrators of such attacks — to act as a deterrent to prevent future heinous attacks. Except that it doesn’t work.
It’s a very human response that is typical of non-military minds to think that a military counter-strike will accomplish anything, but combat-experienced military people know that war isn’t over until it’s over, and that never happens until there’s a clear winner.
Less than twelve months ago, the United States used cruise missile strikes to punish those Syrians who purportedly used chemical weapons in an attack against combatants, non-combatants, and any civilians who happened to be within range of the chemical bombs dropped by helicopter and here we are again contemplating a Western-backed missile attack against Syria for its suspected use of chemical weapons.
Which proves that occasional cruise missile attacks by the United States against the Syrian military and against non-state actors in Syria, doesn’t work. Because as soon as we turn our backs they’re at it again. Check that timeline link above and remember that timeline only covers the chemical attacks we know about.
Parallels With the Vietnam War?
Prior to the United States becoming involved in the Vietnam conflict, heinous acts were suspected to occur and was one of the reasons used to justify American intervention.
As usual, it wasn’t long before every side — including the Americans — were receiving bad press for purported wartime atrocities during the Vietnam War. It was a war that lasted exactly 10,000 days and during that time every side was lambasted by the world media for certain usages of force.
‘Agent Orange’ (a chemical defoliant used to strip the leaves from trees and plants to allow better ground surveillance) was used by the Americans and it’s plausible that enemy combatants could have been in the area during spraying and may have received lethal doses of the stuff — yet the chemicals used by the other side were even worse for plants, jungle life, and humans alike.
In the end, the Vietnam War, like any other war, wasn’t over until it was over — counter-strikes for chemical weapons use notwithstanding.
Which is a different way of saying that occasional military strikes prior to full involvement by the Americans in Vietnam did nothing to prevent suspected chemical weapons use and other wartime atrocities perpetrated by the North Vietnamese Army and its sidekick the Viet Cong militia group, but neither did full engagement.
What’s the UK’s Role in the post-Brexit World?
It certainly isn’t policing Syria. Nor is it patrolling or intervening anywhere in the Mediterranean Sea region which by definition is in the EU’s sphere of influence as it’s the dominant superpower in the region. And other than helping to protect longtime ally Israel, the Americans have no legitimate business in the Med either.
Launching into nebulous encounters with Syria, Russia and China over suspected small-scale chemical weapons attacks in Syria is begging for trouble. The kind of trouble that gets shiny new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers sunk for no good reason.
The UK’s role in the world is changing and it must evolve ahead of the curve, not behind it.
First and foremost must be the protection of the United Kingdom, which has thrived under both NATO and EU protection. And thanks to the UK’s longtime relationship with the United States, if things had got past the point that the UK and EU acting together couldn’t handle a particular threat, the Americans would’ve come to our rescue. Thank you again, America!
But in less than 352 days the UK can no longer count on EU protection (nor should it expect any special treatment from the EU) and with America turning away from the world, it’s well past the time to take a full spectrum view of UK defence and capabilities.
And before you can do that, you need to define the role the military is expected to play.
- Protection of the land, sea and airspace, over, in, and around, the United Kingdom.
- Protection of and mutual aid agreements with; Norway (because of its proximity to the UK) with NATO countries (still close to the UK) and with all Commonwealth of Nations members.
- Mutual aid agreements with *potential* Commonwealth nations.
- Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK *has* bilateral trade agreements.
- Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK is *exploring* bilateral trade agreements.
- Humanitarian assistance operations approved by the UN.
In short, just like a policeman, every country has its own ‘beat’ — the territory it needs to defend.
The UK’s beat in the post-Brexit era must be limited to operations and mutual aid to partner countries in the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific Ocean, otherwise the UK will need to purchase more aircraft carriers and other capital ships and severe UK budget cuts would be required to afford all that extra warfighting capacity.
I respectfully posit that protection of the UK, Norway and other NATO countries, and the Commonwealth of Nations is a sizable enough beat for the United Kingdom now, and will remain that way for many years to come.
Making 2018 the year to drill down to find what is, and what isn’t, of the utmost importance to the United Kingdom’s future.
Parts of the world that have only a passing socio-economic or military interest for the United Kingdom must remain off-limits, unless British taxpayers want to fund a military that is comparable to the U.S. military in size and scope.
Let the superpowers and the countries closest to the world’s various conflict zones assist those nations in crisis — Britain can’t be everywhere, cleaning-up everyone else’s messes.
Taking care of the UK, the Commonwealth, and upholding NATO commitments will be more than enough to keep the UK occupied for the balance of the 21st-century.