ANALYSIS | Britain seeks a new place in the world | By: David Jessop

What global role should a post-imperial, post-Brexit Britain play? Can it reinvent itself in a manner that convinces a population increasingly divided by education, age, race, location, and inequality, let alone the wider world, that it can or should continue to try to punch above its weight?
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The United Kingdom announced on March 11, 2021 that it is delaying the imposition of checks on some goods from the European Union to give businesses more time to prepare for new post-Brexit rules.

POST-IMPERIAL – POST-BREXIT BRITAIN

In his recent book, Britain Alone – the Pathway from Suez to Brexit, Philip Stevens, the director of the Editorial Board of the Financial Times, argues that for the last 60 or so years, Britain has struggled to identify its place. Successive governments, he believes, have been unable to respond objectively and accept that Britain cannot remain “frozen in history”.

This has resulted, he says, in a failure to honestly address its weaknesses, “overreach” and a “consistent refusal to align the perception of Britain’s standing in the world and the diminishing resources it can generate”.

Stevens’ perspective and analysis chart the route from ‘winning’ World War II, through the Suez crisis, to Brexit – an uncertain journey that has brought Britain once again to try to redefine its future, indirectly raising questions about how regions like the Caribbean should respond to a still significant but now much-changed traditional partner.

A few days ago, Britain’s Conservative government published Global Britain in a Competitive Age, a much-delayed integrated review of its future security, defence, development, and foreign policy. The 114-page document outlines how Britain intends establishing a new space for itself in the world, and why it believes this strategy and its values will keep it at the international top table and able to thrive economically.

Setting aside the post-Brexit rhetoric, the document is detailed and forward looking. For the most part, it provides a thoughtful expert-led, high-level overview of how the United Kingdom intends using its now standalone status to develop new initiatives and relationships.

It seeks to divide the UK’s future approach into large areas of geostrategic importance, including the Indo-Pacific, Euro-Atlantic and East Africa, while paying scant attention to the EU27 or the Commonwealth. Instead, it identifies specific countries that it sees as critical in relation to its trade and security interests, naming traditional partners such as the United States, Germany, France, Ireland, Australia, India, Canada, and Nigeria, and others such as Vietnam and Indonesia, nations it regards as being of future importance.

The intention is that the UK will “sit at the heart of a network of like-minded countries and flexible groupings, committed to protecting human rights and upholding global norms”, while continuing to be “the leading European ally’ of the US within NATO, providing collective security resources in the Euro-Atlantic region.

Many of its future preoccupations coincide with those of the Caribbean: the changing geopolitical and economic order, climate change and the environment, sustainability, and security.

The strategy briefly observes in relation to Latin America and the Caribbean that Britain will continue to develop a strong set of partnerships based on “shared democratic values, growth, free trade, and mutual interest in tackling serious and organised crime, and corruption”. In contrast, the Overseas Territories are referenced throughout in relation to shared interests in security, governance, biodiversity, and the environment, suggesting that for the foreseeable future, the UK will remain locked into the region.

In what from a Caribbean perspective should be seen as a precursor to future trade competition in the UK market from large Latin nations including Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Colombia, the document indicates that a closer and multifaceted partnership is envisaged with each.

In this context, UK Prime Minister Johnson went further when answering questions in Parliament on the review. The UK, he said, is looking to build closer trade relationships with Mercosur, the countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and ASEAN, indicating that the Caribbean and other high-cost producers of agricultural and agro-industrial products may in future find it hard to compete in the UK market.

The biggest takeaway in the review involves a turn to Britain’s east and the geographically distant Indo-Pacific region. By 2030, the document says, the UK intends being deeply engaged there ‘with the broadest, most integrated presence in support of mutually-beneficial trade, shared security, and values’.

In this context, it designates China as a ‘systemic competitor’ and ‘the biggest state-based threat to the UK’s economic security’, making clear that the UK has the grand, if questionable, ambition of offsetting Chinese economic assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region to significantly grow its trade.

Other significant changes include the formal recognition that Russia presents the “most acute direct threat” to the UK; a promise to restore eventually, possibly in a more UK-centric form, the £4 billion (US$5.6 billion) Britain recently cut from its aid budget; and an interesting new emphasis on accelerating science, research, and technology to maintain global competitiveness.

It also addresses the real possibility in the next few years of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear terrorist attack and contains a startling and so far unexplained decision to significantly increase the number of nuclear warheads the UK possesses.

What the report is short on, however, is any attempt to explain how this new global ambition is to be paid for. Missing, too, is any consideration of the likely reaction of China, a country with a vastly larger economy and military reach, or how Britain intends strengthening its trade ties there while attacking its democratic and human-rights record.

The document also fails to describe how the UK will balance its turn to the Indo-Pacific against its existing Euro-Atlantic commitments or how Washington might react in either case. Disturbingly, the review says almost nothing about how Britain will relate in future to its neighbourhood, the European Union, given its proximity, importance as a trade partner, and shared strategic interests and values.

For the Caribbean, a region with strong ties to the UK, the integrated review deserves close reading. It raises important questions about how the anglophone and Hispanic Caribbean and the overseas territories should in future relate to a changing Britain and where their own interests lie – questions that next week’s column will explore.

– David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council.Email: david.jessop@caribbean-council.orgTo access previous columns, visit: www.caribbean-council.org/research-analysis

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Comments

  • kamtanblog  On 03/25/2021 at 2:38 am

    Absolute nonsense !
    One cannot reminiss the past or speculate over the future. The future of any nation state lies in its major asset ….its peoples !
    Not unlike Guyana the UK future will determined by its people and the jackasses they elect to lead them.

    Guyana’s future will be determined by its voters
    UK’s future will be determined by its voters

    IMO

    Que sera sera

    Kamtan uk-ex-EU

  • brandli62  On 03/26/2021 at 4:56 pm

    Global Britain is a pipe dream of a nation that has not realised that it has shrunk to the level of a medium sized European power. Its permanent seat on the UN security council actually belongs to India. The UK has nuclear weapons cannot launch them without US missile technology. It has a new air craft carrier but has no money to buy the planes and fund the accessory boats that typically accompany and protect an air craft carrier while on mission….. The Eaton-educated elite running Westminister still believe the empire can be resurrected. Sound to me like the Soviet nostalgia of Putin or the Ottoman mirage that Erdogan is courting. The UK will probably first get realistic once Scotland has left the Union and Northern Ireland begs Ireland for reunification. In closing have a look at the GDP per capita of Northern Ireland, the UK and Ireland:

    N. Ireland: USD 33’000.–
    UK: USD 43’000.–
    Ireland: USD 79’000.–

    Where would you prefer to life? No Irish in his mind would want Ireland to leave the EU.

  • kamtanblog  On 03/26/2021 at 5:15 pm

    Disagree.
    5m Scots can have their “independence”
    Ireland will remain divided.
    The English speaking nations
    will stick togeather…as the Asian tiger
    becomes the worlds economic power
    house again BRICS.
    The EU brand is the pipe dream !
    The USA military might is replaced by the Chinese/Russian one.
    GDP is an economic measurement.
    Political power much more important.

    What is GDP BRICS EU USA ?

    Go google

    K

    • brandli62  On 03/26/2021 at 5:49 pm

      Kamtan, seems to me that you are arguing from the perspective of a flat earther negating the natural laws of gravity. The biggest body at the door step of the UK is the EU. The UK has decided in 2016 that it no longer wants to be part of that body, hence it will become a satellite. You choose what’s the better constellation? Since joining the EU, they have become one of the most prosperous nations in the EU. Something that never happened during the 400 years it suffered under English rule. The Irish are not stupid.

      • kamtanblog  On 03/26/2021 at 6:12 pm

        A United ireland is a stronger Ireland.
        They were stupid to allow British to divide them
        on “religious grounds”. Catholics v Protestants !

        Politics the “red herring” !

        The north south divide .religiously
        Not unlike the east west divide politically

        IMO

        K

  • wally n  On 03/26/2021 at 5:35 pm

    GUYANA has a more promising future than the UK, it has all that is necessary for constant improvement. In so many ways better than all of the Caribbean and most of South America.
    This will never happen, Globalist have already earmarked Guyana for mass immigration, as a matter of fact it has began but in a subtle way.
    The most alarming in the report (hidden)
    “indicating that the Caribbean and other high-cost producers of agricultural and agro-industrial products may in future find it hard to compete in the UK market”
    hoping those idiots stop looking to the UK and get serious with alignment with GUYANA, bad times acoming.

    • Dennis Albert  On 03/29/2021 at 9:31 am

      Yea, like the Spanish people want to live in shacks along the East Bank and get treated as either sex workers, or as criminals by the rum-drinking PPP voters.

  • wally n  On 03/27/2021 at 11:33 am

    Liberals under Andrew Furey win slim majority in Newfoundland and Labrador election (idiots)
    Liberal Leader Andrew Furey steered his campaign away from the dire financial outlook. Instead, he released a series of low-stakes promises, beginning with a pledge to increase community garden grants from $500 to $750.
    This Province is bankrupt….and notice…. prepare to feed yourself.
    This brings me back to the UK and its ability to feed them selves, can they or will there a dependence from an outside source. This is where Guyana is and has always been on solid ground, and with an opportunity to do much more.
    The UK is walking dead, paper shuffling, big dreams totally dependent on others, pie in the sky promises.
    Within a second they will cut former colonies loose,to fulfill their impossible dreams.
    RIP

    • Brother Man  On 03/27/2021 at 1:07 pm

      What do “Liberals” and Newfoundland and Labrador have to do with the above article? The author never mentions Newfoundland or Canada. I guess you can’t control your impulse to control your deep hate for liberals.

      The article specifically addresses Britain’s identity crisis and its struggle to sever from the past when it dominated the world? The article reminds me of a divorce where one spouse is having great difficulty adjusting to their new situation.

      There is a wise saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Every time you come here with your nonsense you remind me of that adage.

      Brother Man

    • Dennis Albert  On 03/29/2021 at 9:30 am

      This is what I don’t get with Guyanese people.

      If it were not for the LIBERALS, Newfoundland would be competing with Guyana for oil, leaving many with dreams of importing Lambos and Ferraris sucking brick and eating rice and salt.

  • wally n  On 03/27/2021 at 1:49 pm

    “This brings me back to the UK and its ability to feed them selves, can they or will there a dependence from an outside source. This is where Guyana is and has always been on solid ground, and with an opportunity to do much more.”Talking about dogs, you brought it up…
    Now you go in a corner and keep licking yourself.

  • brandli62  On 03/27/2021 at 1:52 pm

    From today’s issue of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

    “Newly published figures impressively show how heavily the UK depends on EU factories for the procurement of vaccines. According to the figures, around two-thirds of the nearly 32 million doses now administered come from the EU. In total, the EU has exported 77 million vaccine doses since the beginning of December, more than the 62 million doses vaccinated in the EU.”

    At the same time the British establishment blows the trumpet about all the benefits of Brexit but fails to inform the British public the source of the vaccine. By the way, the UK has to date exported not a single vaccine dose to the EU.

    • Morning star  On 03/27/2021 at 3:44 pm

      Ireland still backward place full of thick Irish people who pronounce three like tree

  • Dennis Albert  On 03/29/2021 at 9:34 am

    Brexit are two-faced hypocrites like the PPP voters.

    The Brexiteers want wealthy money launderers from Arabia and Russia to pay a million Pounds of flesh for a dilapidated house in London near the council, but immigration is an Islamic or African conspiracy to create Eurabia.

    while the PPP voters want a greater fool pay a million American dollars for their “oceanfront” property, but they do not want them to live in the property because they want the oil benefits for themselves.

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