UK foreign policy has been based on two big mistakes for the last two decades

UK foreign policy is not fit for purpose. The Uk does not wish to become part of an integrated European Union with government from Brussels. For too long UK government has pretended we are not being dragged into a federal government, whilst the UK has accepted the Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon centralising treaties. Let us hope the Prime Minister’s Bloomberg speech is a radical brak with the past, seeking a new relationship that gets us out of the common government.

Nor should   the UK   be involved in a series of wars to settle the future governments of the Middle East.

The Uk public is largely against both these major preoccupations of UK foreign policy under Blair, Brown and in part under the Coalition. The public wants a new relationship with the EU which allows trade and friendship, but gets us out of common government. The public did not want the Treaties of Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon, but was denied a vote on any of them. The public was not happy about the Iraq war, wants our troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible, and is strongly against any involvement in Syria.

What is odd about UK foreign policy in recent decades is both its continuity under successive governments, and its perversity in going against the grain of history and commonsense of previous centuries. The two main preoccupations of UK foreign policy prior to 1990 were to avoid any single power dominating the continent of Europe, and to intervene in the rest of the world only in support of  UK interests, especially to keep commercial routes open and free trade flourishing. These two preoccupations have been turned on their head, by a policy which has allowed or furthered EU integration under a single emerging EU sovereign, and encouraging UK military intervention where there is little or no national and free trade interest. I wish to explore the question of UK foreign policy in a series of articles, looking at past and future policy directions.

The policy of not allowing a single power to dominate the continent was  pursued for four centuries. In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries Spain was successfully opposed in conjunction with the Netherlands and other Protestant powers. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries France was prevented from military dominance, and in the twentieth century Germany was twice defeated by a grand coalition. The UK played a prominent role in each of these conflicts.

Whilst you can argue that the UK spent too much blood and treasure on preventing a single authority emerging In Europe, it does not make it a good idea to switch from such a policy to actively promoting the emergence of a single governing authority. As Europe continues with its relative decline (in population, in eocnomic and military power) the sensible response is to be relaxed about integrating moves some may wish to make on the continent, but to be clearly against forming part of any such single bloc. We should neither want to beat them nor join them.

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110 Comments

  1. colliemum
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    You write: “What is odd about UK foreign policy in recent decades is both its continuity under successive governments, and its perversity in going against the grain of history and commonsense of previous centuries.”

    It isn’t really odd if one takes into account that the civil servants populating the Foreign Office are ‘permanent’, while the Ministers have been coming and going – and if one accepts that those civil servants have gone through the more or less obviously left-leaning educational system and are thus more inclined to statist and supra-national organisations than to looking after our national interests.

    It is not by accident that, while the FO supports EU policies and interests as opposed to our national ones the mandarins in other Whitehall departments are implementing all and every EU directive regardless of how much damage they do to our economy and general civil liberties. The ludicrous energy policy is a case in point.

    • Jerry
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      @colliemum: “and if one accepts that those civil servants have gone through the more or less obviously left-leaning educational system and are thus more inclined to statist and supra-national organisations than to looking after our national interests.

      Of course these civil servants have gone though the “more or less obviously left-leaning educational system”, or is it, after all the civil service used to be the preserve of the Old Private School Tie syndrome, at least at the higher ranks were policy is advised and made.

      Never mind the fact that many on the left are actually far more inward looking (and when supra-national minded they tend to be quite selective in their choice), it is the Tory wets and Blue Labour who tend to be far more supra-national in their outlook

      The ludicrous energy policy is a case in point.

      Let’s not forget which right-wing PM first took ‘global warming’ seriously, from which all has stemmed and flowed, but of course it was only after the left picked up the AGW baton and really made hay with it that the right-wing started to object, rather than nipping the idiocy in the bud.

      In other words, anything the right (or left) don’t like tends to get blamed on the opposite political dogma…

      • APL
        Posted June 6, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

        Jerry: “Let’s not forget which right-wing PM first took ‘global warming’ seriously, from which all has stemmed and flowed … ”

        My recollection is that Thatcher ( if it were she you were referring to ) conceded catalytic converters and research into lean burn engines and lead free fuel in the face of quiet fierce lobbying from the likes of FoE and GP because at the time the facts were not known, a rather pragmatic position, I would have thought.

        The real problem is the green movement have attached themselves to the tax jugular via the international NGOs & the UN etc. they now command huge income from the tax teat rather than their own membership. Thus cleverly using tax money to lobby for more tax money.

        Reply Mrs Thatcher subsequently changed her mind on these matters, and launched an attack on global warming theory in her book Statecraft.

        • Jerry
          Posted June 7, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

          @APL: But FoE and GP’s protests were due to the pollution caused in the mining of the elements that are used to make catalytic converters, all ‘we’ have done is move the pollution, from the tail pipe to the (often) developing nations.

          Also, on many levels, Lead Free petrol has even greater health dangers, it is quite nasty stuff.

    • matthu
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      These are the Tory MPs who voted in favour of Tim Yeo’s “economic suicide” amendment to the Energy Bill calling for the government to commit to a target to decarbonise completely by 2030 and to remove the “element of uncertainty” for potential investors in the energy industry.

      ■Peter Aldous (Waveney)
      ■David Amess (Basildon)
      ■Peter Bottomley (Worthing West)
      ■Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park)
      ■Jason McCartney (Colne Valley)
      ■Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton North)
      ■Matthew Offord (Hendon)
      ■Plus Tim Yeo himself (South Suffolf)

      Make a note now for 2015.

      Reply I voted against Mr Yeo, and spoke against. I did not vote for the Bill.

      • APL
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        matthu: “These are the Tory MPs who voted in favour of Tim Yeo’s “economic suicide” amendment ..”

        Perhaps it should have been renamed ‘the sustainable subsidy’ amendment.

      • A different Simon
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        Any idea where they were planning on building all those nuclear power stations to provide an alternative ?

        Inside the M25 by any chance ?

        • Jerry
          Posted June 5, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

          @ADS: Hopefully they will get built next to, or very local to, sites that already have nuclear power stations or reactors present, as not only has the location already been deemed to be suitable/safe but also the expert and experienced staff are on hand – also there should be less of the (legitimate) NIMBY types present to object.

        • libertarian
          Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

          How about first not shutting perfectly functional nuclear power stations and secondly building new ones on existing sites such as Dungeness for instance

          • Jerry
            Posted June 6, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

            @libertarian: Please define “functional”, something can be perfectly functional but be so unsafe that it is a death trap in waiting – nuclear power stations are designed to ‘live’ for X number of years, it needs very careful thought before extending such a life-span.

    • uanime5
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      if one accepts that those civil servants have gone through the more or less obviously left-leaning educational system and are thus more inclined to statist and supra-national organisations than to looking after our national interests.

      Either provide evidence to back up your claims or admit that you’re just creating a villain because you lack a real argument.

  2. Angry of Mayfair
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    JR just out of interest how many MPs with your record of seniority share your views? As otherwise I can see its business as usual with Cameron & co. Although Obama seems to show a reluctance to becoming directly involved in Syria and Iran, given a less intelligent president I could still very much see either a Labour or Conservative government (with its Amen Corner at the FCO and MoD too) signing us up to yet another worthless crusade

    Reply There are many MPs opposed to intervention in Syria, and most Conservative MPs are Eurosceptic.

    • lifelogic
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      “Most Conservative MPs are Eurosceptic?”

      Well heart and sole, closet racists and fruit cakes, Cameron, Clark and most ministers are clearly not in the slightest.

      Perhaps at election time they make suitable noises, but as we have seen but their empty words are totally worthless. They are mainly fake green pro EU to a man or woman.

      • A different Simon
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        I think you’ve nailed it Lifelogic .

        The Conservative Party is Eurosceptic .

        Once every five years .

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      Shame we haven’t got a conservative leader who would stick to his promise on a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. The fact it was ratified is neither here nor there. A ‘no’ vote would have given him real bargaining power in a renegotiation.

      I am sure the EU do not want us to leave because, if we do, others may well follow. Not every country in Europe can be governed by idiots.

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        Or his promise on £1M IHT thresholds, even in the absurdly unlikely event that he wins next time.

    • ian wragg
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Your arguing against yourself. A few weeks ago you said there was no majority in parliament in favour of EU exit.
      How many voted for a referendum when Cameroon imposed a 3 line whip????

      • zorro
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        John said that most Tory MPs were ‘Eurosceptic’ although you can forget the government payroll on voting issues so there is no majority as Labour and Lib Dems vote for federalism…….The most that the Tories can muster is 100….

        zorro

        • Jerry
          Posted June 5, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

          @Zorro: Indeed, people seem to forget that without the LDs the Tory party doesn’t have a working majority, even those NI parties that usually vote with the Tory party can’t save the day. It doesn’t really matter who is eurosceptic or europhile, the entire Tory party could vote to leave the EU tomorrow but if the rest of the House votes the other way…

          UKIP might well have won the argument but they failed to get elected and more importantly failed to empower a eurosceptic Tory party, in fact they did the exact opposite in 2010! 🙁

  3. Alan
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    An interesting topic, and I can’t resist giving my opinion.

    The problem with the old policy of not allowing any one nation to become dominant in Europe is that it had catastrophically failed. At the beginning of the 1900s the UK was a superpower. Two World wars reduced it by 1945 to near poverty, with an economy that could not provide its people with a high standard of living. We had been supplanted by the USA.

    Military means having proven too expensive, since 1945 we have had to rely on diplomacy and economic power to try to ensure no one country became dominant. That failed: we became poorer and poorer in comparison to other European nations, and eventually concluded that we too had to join the EU. We could then pursue our policy from within the EU.

    We have had some success with this policy, but I don’t think we have engaged sufficiently in running the EU. We persist in demanding ‘opt-outs’. We don’t send good people to the EU Parliament to pursue our interests. Not enough EU civil servants come from the UK. We don’t make as much use as we could of EU grants to improve our infrastructure. We keep on regarding ourselves as separate.

    Then the failure of our banking system has temporarily put us in a weak position. Instead of working to improve our financial system the Eurosceptics are, in my opinion, seizing this opportunity to damage our EU membership. Instead of furthering our role as the EU’s principal financial centre the Eurosceptics want to complete our separation from EU finances.

    I think that the Eurosceptics will probably not achieve what they want but, once again, they will inflict sufficient damage to ensure we do not get the main advantages of EU membership that we could. They will thereby increase Germany’s economic power and will then argue that we should take less part in the EU because it is dominated by Germany – a result they will have helped bring about.

    • MickC
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Germany does not need anyone else to increase it economic power. It does so well enough by itself-and has done since its creation.

      However, it will now have to carry the corpse of the EU, which should slow it down nicely.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      That is history, or your gloss on it; the contemporary question is whether like you we should desire the extinction of our country as an independent sovereign state in any meaningful sense, or whether despite our decline from being the first global superpower to a more modest status we should insist on maintaining our national sovereignty and democracy in perpetuity.

      I know which side I am on, and it is not the same side as you; therefore I deplore a policy which is apparently designed to unite almost the whole of Europe against us so that eventually a government of whichever party or parties can tell the British people that they have no choice but to surrender and accept legal subordination, subjugation, within a pan-European federation.

      As far as the English are concerned, the last time they were forced into permanent surrender in their own country was in 1066; all those foreign powers which have from time to time attempted it since then have been defeated; but as we have been finding it can be more difficult to defeat the enemies within than those without.

      • uanime5
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        I notice that you ignored how in 1688 King William of the Netherlands invaded England and displaced King James. You also ignored how the Jacobites tried for 57 years to restore King James and his heirs to the throne.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted June 6, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

          William was invited to fill a throne that was about to become vacant.

      • Max unbar
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

        Good points.
        The SNP are very keen to apply for membership of the EU if they succeed in their aim of ‘independence’ for Scotland. This would outflank the rump UK and re-create, in effect, the Auld Alliance which caused such instability in the past. Separate Scotland under the Far-Left SNP would be a very useful bridgehead for many of these ‘enemies within’; and a great deal of damage has already been done.

  4. Ned Kelly
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    Here in Australia it is really refreshing to live in a country which makes up its own laws through its own parliament. The same topics are discussed as they seem to be in UK, but Australians make them for themselves without the Communist/Socialist Junta deciding what is good for the whole of Asia.
    Of course, Great Britain is far too small to do that as everyone who has any sense knows…..

    • alexmewa
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Good point, Ned. Ditto in Canada.

    • Jerry
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      @Ned Kelly: Sorry but do remind us who is the PM of Australia and where she stands, seems to me Ned that you need to start worrying about your own native/adopted country and less about the UK or EU…

  5. Kevin R. Lohse
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    “The Uk does not wish to become part of an integrated European Union with government from Brussels.”

    Maybe so, but Westminster and the Establishment are firmly in favour of such a move, and the latest poll shows a small majority for out well in the margins of statistical error. With a year to go to the Euros. it’s all to play for, and the performance of Conservative sceptic MEP’s and UKIP in 2014 will show the true picture at the ballot box – which is where it matters.

    On European foreign policy, I totally agree with you. In a sane world, the FCO would be leading the effort to open trade links with India, China and the G77 where growth is happening and our dependence on a contracting market could be reduced. Under the Coalition metropolitan elite, there is little chance of that happening.

  6. lifelogic
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Indeed.

    The public, as usually, have proved rather wiser than the governments and prime ministers have. The question is surely why the government ignores them so often, in what purports to be a democracy. Why on earth are we so badly governed?

    I always assume it was due to the fact that, so often the sort of people who seek political power, prove to be so unsuitable to hold it.

    Self interested power seekers, say one thing do the other, expense fiddling, “consultancy” seeking types of the worst order. Meanwhile the few good eggs are usually left on the back benches.

    Just as all those who seek to work at the BBC seem to be slightly dim, lefty, Guardian reading, PC arts graduates, who wave their arms alot while saying nothing remotely sensible.

    • Disaffected
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      It is difficult to reconcile JRs comments when it appears Cameron is gradually building an EU defence force by stealth and siding with France more than it is comfortable to do (ie Mali) when there is a NATO alliance. Was it not the Czech prime minister who was quoted as saying Cameron says one thing to Europe and another to his country?

      The dubious merits of getting involved in Libya and the assassination of Gaddafi should be a dire warning to us all not to trust UK foreign policy or the government (the same is true with Iraq). As for Syria, it is none of our business and the UK should not be funding, helping or assisting any part of it. It is a matter for self determination. The gruesome pictures in the tabloids of a Syrian rebel mutilating a Syrian soldier to allegedly eat his heart should not be supported in any way by the UK or the UK taxpayer. The UK should not be associated with such disgusting behaviour. There are important problems for the coalition to address in this country, like Gay marriage and succession to the throne, before creating other wars around the world. Although some of us would prefer the coalition to focus on the EU, economy, mass immigration, public services, crime and disorder etc to be resolved.

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, but clearly Gay marriage, royal succession rules, more fines for motorists and kicking the EU, Economy and Energy footballs into the long grass, are Cameron’s clear priorities.

    • Jerry
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      @lifelogic: “The public, as usually, have proved rather wiser than the governments and prime ministers have.

      Err, just how have they been so, after all it was the public who voted the government/politicains into their jobs – Duh!

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

        Well the public had very little choice, they chose the least bad option of usually two bad options. Were they asked on each issue separately it would be rather different.

  7. Roy Grainger
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Paradoxically UK foreign policy (in Iraq and so on) is one of the only areas where the UK has operated almost entirely independently of the EU. Whilst we remain in the EU we could usefully say that we will only embark on these foreign adventures as part of an agreed EU policy which, since Germany will be resistant, will keep us out of these foreign wars. The advantage is we achieve this aim while simultaneously being “good Europeans”.

    Given this disconnect between the EU and UK foreign policy it is odd that nowhere in your article do you mention the main driver of the latter: the USA and our relationship with them. I assume this is because you are in generally favour of our relationship with the USA despite their grim effect on our foreign policy.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      So you are relying on the Germans to elect politicians who will keep the UK out of unnecessary, futile and counter-productive foreign wars.

      What about the alternative idea that we elect UK politicians who will do that?

      Or has our national democracy gone completely out of fashion?

      • Roy Grainger
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        No, I’m merely saying that whilst we are in the EU we might as well use it to our advantage by adopting its policies where they suit us.

      • SteveS
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

        This must be the post-democratic age we here so much about – we abandon democracy in the UK and rely on democracy in Germany instead.

  8. Andy Baxter
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    A good succinct analysis of 400 years of political history!

    I cannot believe for one minute though that the past and present leaders and drivers of further integration since 1972 via the Treaties of Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon did not know what the end game was or still indeed is; full political, financial, cultural and economic integration and unity under a centralised controlling executive, given the veneer of legitimacy of an EU parliament.

    Our historic institutions, Parliament, the independence of our judiciary have been hollowed out whilst allowed the shiny outer covering to preserve the myth that we still control our own destiny, while we the sovereign people of this country have been denied a voice either via ‘representative’ democracy (no party truly represents our wishes) nor via referenda.

    The end game is in sight, and although Merkel says recently she has no desire to see further ceding of powers to Brussels, the Commission is patient, its waited over 60 years to get this far so a new treaty will emerge eventually under the auspices of a, or a series of ‘beneficial crises’ to fix the problems largely of their own making from inept economic, legislative and or foreign policy.

  9. Andyvan
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    So you acknowledge that just about every major foreign policy of the UK government is against the wishes of the voters in this country, Mr Redwood. How does the theory of democratic government square with that fact? Does it not indicate that democracy is really a sham? If MPs really reflected the wishes of their constituents we would not be in the EU, not have had several wars and uncounted “peace keeping” adventures, not be sending special forces to Syria to stir more trouble up, not be sending billions in aid to numerous governments to fund their Mercedes limo fleet and we might be minding our own business and setting an example of how a reasonable, tolerant democracy should act.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      I note that JR only goes back two decades, not the four decades since a Tory Prime Minister sold us out with the support of almost all Tory MPs (and peers); and he only condemns the three EU treaties that the Labour government signed and had approved by Parliament, without any mention of the preceding three treaties that Tory governments signed and had approved by Parliament. And it should also be said that negotiations for one of the three later treaties, Amsterdam, were already well advanced when the Labour government took power in May 1997; the Tories under Major had been negotiating it for two years, and left it almost ready to be signed by the new government just five months after it took office.

      Reply Mr Heath’s Treaty of Rome was approved by the British people in a referendum in 1975. THe Conservative governemtn opted us out of the main point of Maastricht, the Euro, and had no intention of signing up to the Amsterdam agenda, which we oppoed as a party.

      • matthu
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        In 1970 Edward Heath claimed in his election manifesto that further European integration would not happen “except with the full-hearted consent of the Parliaments and peoples of the new member countries.”

        Despite this, in 1972, the UK joined the Treaty of Rome in a ceremony in Brussels.

        In 1975, the referendum question put to the British people asked: “Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain part of the European Community (the Common Market)?”

        According to the treasurer of the “Yes” campaign, Alastair McAlpine, “The whole thrust of our campaign was to depict the anti-Marketeers as unreliable people – dangerous people who would lead you down the wrong path … It wasn’t so much that it was sensible to stay in, but that anybody who proposed that we came out was off their rocker or virtually Marxist.”

        In no way did this 1975 referendum sanction the Treaty of Rome any more than the 2010 election sanctioned the Lisbon Treaty.

      • APL
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        JR: “Mr Heath’s Treaty of Rome was approved by the British people in a referendum in 1975.”

        The best case you can make for the ’75 referendum was that it was a post facto sticking plaster.

        Decisions of that magnitude should have been put to a referendum before being implemented.

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        No they were asked:-

        DO YOU THINK THE UNITED KINGDOM SHOULD STAY IN THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY (THE COMMON MARKET)?

        Nothing about the treaty of Rome which no one had even read. The question was taken as being taken as, do you want fewer trade barriers with the rest of Europe? I was about 15 and I am please to say, even then I was for a no. Mainly because the people who wanted out seemed so much more intelligent, rational and addressed the real issues honestly, whereas the pro people just used vague emotive drivel and talked as if they were addressing stupid children – little has changed.

  10. Javelin
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    The wars and the EU are linked. When we pull out the EU we will not have to follow their crazy green energy policies and we can develop our own shale gas industry and not have to invade middle eastern countries to control their oil.

    • uanime5
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      Given that shale gas isn’t a substitute for oil the UK will still be dependent on the Middle East even if we extract shale gas.

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        It can indeed be a substitute for oil certainly for heating houses and for cars/truck if needed.

        • uanime5
          Posted June 6, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

          Since you can’t convert shale gas into petrol and there’s no engine that can use shale gas it currently cannot be used as a fuel for cars or trucks.

  11. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Hague seems to have had little difficulty in toeing the foreign office line in all respects. He is a very diminished figure in my estimation since taking office. His warmongering attitude in the Middle East and North Africa has been alarming. His attitude to the EU, where “we will not let matters rest” following the Lisbon Treaty, has been one of conformity to the prevailing attitude towards federal government, even encouraging it in the eurozone, whilst for home consumption continuing the pretence that it will not affect the UK.
    Do you seriously believe that Cameron will be able to seek a new relationship that gets us out of the common government? I am afraid I have no confidence whatsoever that he would do anything other than try and ensure we are imprisoned in the EU which we know is intent on ever closer union and the end of the nation state.

  12. Nationalist
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, do you actually understand why British governments follow a policy towards Europe which is so far removed from the will of the people? Because I certainly don’t. John Major was almost toppled by his determination to ram through Maastricht. What is the driver for continually kow-towing to Europe? Do they have us over a barrel in some way we don’t know about?

    Reply: Good question. I would love to know the answer.

    • lifelogic
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      People like Cameron seem to think their job is just to read out lines to defend the foreign office line, like a cheap PR actor. Their real job is to set a sensible direction.

      Others are bought by EU grants, promises of travel and expenses, special tax rules for them, big pensions, promotion and a “group think” form of insanity caught like a virus at the international conferences and team building events.

      Like the EMR and EURO insanities.

    • zorro
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      ‘How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?’…….(Sherlock Holmes – The Sign of the Four)

      zorro

    • Peter van Leeuwen
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      How about the US wanting the UK to tow the line on Europe? (EU)

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        Peter,
        That’s rich coming from you. If the USA wanted us to leave the EU you would be up there telling them to keep out of EU affairs. We say to our American friends that we are capable of determining our own form of government without their help as they did over 200 years ago inspite of our opposition.

        • Peter van Leeuwen
          Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

          @Brian: I only stated the obvious, we both know that the US wants Britain as EU member, I didn’t invent that. Maybe you should heed the unbiased advice from your friends across the Atlantic? They have a special and essential relationship with you, they may know what is in your best interest 🙂

          • Brian Tomkinson
            Posted June 6, 2013 at 7:02 am | Permalink

            Peter,
            We can decide our own form of governance without advice from you or the USA thank you very much.

      • libertarian
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

        Peter

        The US doesn’t want us to tow the line on the EU, Obama does and that is a completely different thing

        • Peter van Leeuwen
          Posted June 6, 2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink

          @libertarian: If my memory serves me well, Obama’s predecessor Bush wanted the UK to be EU member and Turkey to become EU member. They both represent whole administration, their opinions aren’t just personal opinions.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Yes. Good question indeed. I am totally at a loss to explain why the leadership of the three main parties over decades have been (and remain) so firmly pro-EU even when it has been clear there would have been an electoral advantage to them in being anti-EU. I guess it is just about explicable for the Lab and LibDems in that the EU will continue to impose socialist policies on the UK even if they themselves are out of office, however for the Conservative leadership to have followed the same line is bizarre.

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        Consultancies and career politicians who like expenses paid travel to the EU perhaps and green conferences in exotic locations perhaps?

    • SteveS
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      My own personal view is that we know we are ‘unpopular’ on the continent, and have no wish to be the country that gets the ‘blame’ for what is surely coming without creating a Federal system : complete collapse of the EU and the Eurozone arrangement. Simplistic yes, but I am sure I’m right.

  13. Electro-Kevin
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I spoke recently to a pro EU CofE vicar who justified the intervention in Iraq on the grounds that we could not allow Sadam Hussain to behave the way he did as such behavior was unacceptable within the international *community.* Something doubtless echoed from the Guardian or the BBC.

    Semantics here again – but when they are able to command the language they are able to command the politics and by this they justify the wars and the interventionism.

    What international ‘community’ ?

    Clearly the European one isn’t big enough for them.

  14. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    If Mr Humprey (in “Yes Minister”) was correct, the UK decisionto join of the EU and the later efforts to enlarge the EU with 10 former East Block countries was in line with the pursuit to keep the continent divided. It even explains the curious British “happiness” about the euro troubles (quite unlike the way the rest of the globe looked at the euro crisis over the last few years.) Mr Humpreys policies don’t seem to have worked very well. Time for a more modest set of UK policies?

    • outsider
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Dear Peter van Leeuwen,
      You may be right. On the Continent, the historic fear has been of land invasion: hence the desire to bind all in a single political unit. In Britain, the historic fear has been of economic blockade, which nearly succeeded three times, starting with Napoleon; hence our desire to enshrine free trade.
      It is notable that the UK Establishment counsels against the UK withdrawing from the EU by waving the threat of the 21st century equivalent of economic blockade. A few in Brussels and elsewhere seem happy to stoke this fear. Is this fear irrational, particularly in areas such as financial services? I hope so.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        @outsider:
        In the very longterm I expect some euro-financial services to increase on the continent and decrease in the UK. That is only natural and, IMHO, unavoidable. There is still lots of time for the UK to diversfy and establish itself again as an industrial giant. Think of manufacturing, using mainly robots, a good way to compete with the emerging countries.

        • libertarian
          Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

          Peter

          The UK is ALREADY the worlds 7th largest manufacturer, robots and advanced medical devices are two of our world leading industries.

          You clearly have no idea about the economics of manufacturing. All the value is in high end, design, IP and complex systems. Nailing the finished product together is either as you say done by robots or outsourced to low cost economies and generates a minuscule return on investment.

          There is no reason what so ever for EU member countries to increase their influence in global financial markets. There is nothing that is on offer that would make it desirable.

          The centres of global finance will remain New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Switzerland.

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted June 6, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

            @libertarian: Fine that the UK is, according to you, already such a world manufacturer (maybe my memories about the declining car industry is outdated and is it just a matter of weakness in exporting). But I don’t expect that the Eurozone (or even the ECB) will want to have all euro-nominated trade remaining outsourced to the UK. That is a matter of minimizing risk, which would come even more into focus if and when the UK were to leave the EU.

    • lifelogic
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      “the curious British “happiness” about the euro troubles”

      We are not “happy” it is a dreadful, pointless, waste, hugely damaging to whole populations and an entirely predicable outcome that all sensible people predicted at the time just like Major’s, self inflicted, ERM disaster but worse.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted June 6, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

        Sorry lifelogic, but I don’t think that the UK is particularly bothered about the condition of other EU members, it is no example of compassion. There has just been typical British hoping for the euro (and the EU) to break down. Which fits nicely with this Humphrey policy to divide the continent.

  15. English Pensioner
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Our modern politicians simply won’t look at the past and learn lessons, they believe that they all know better or that “things are different now”.
    Throughout the history of British India, we always had trouble in the northern frontier territories and Afghanistan. We fought numerous battles in these territories and never had a long term victory. We were involved in Iraq between the world wars, and again had no lasting success. Why do our politicians and the Foreign Office believe that we can achieve things now when we could not achieve them in the past?

    • Backofanenvelope
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Our modern politicians don’t even remember the recent past! The outcome of the Libyan adventure suggests we should steer clear of intervening in Syria.

      Our biggest mistake was to link our fortunes to the French in 1905.

  16. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Yes , I think you have got to the root of the problem Protestantism versus Catholicism in late centuries , but now intertwined with other religions.
    One commentor a couple of days ago linked us to an article stating that Merkel too was nervous about Brussels domination and that she desired to celebrate the individuality of all countries allowing free trade etc.
    I do recognise that John Major thought that the treaty would speak for itself and Europe would not continue an attempt at federalisation.
    I was just recalling my trips to Belgium as a youngster where we ate frites out of a cone and then dad made us at home what he used to call shoestring potatoes , then of course the chips came along .. today with Macdonaldisation they are all fries.

  17. oldtimer
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    In the Blair years a distinct element of moralising appeared to influence (infect?) his foreign policy thoughts and actions. We have seen the same in some of the pronouncements from the Cameron government; they were used to justify intervention in Libya. This seems to reflect a strand of thinking that was especially notable in the 19thC, of the action against the slave trade led by Wilberforce and the widespread activities of the missionary movements. The question is where do you draw the line? What is your justification for imposing your opinions on others? What means do you employ? In the 21stC it is time for a reassessment.

    This is in marked contrast to much of the historical record which, as you say, was dominated by the protection of the national interest, in particular overseas trade and investments. In some instances, the UK government of the day was a reluctant participant in supporting the overseas activities of the more adventurous British businessmen when they got themselves into conflicts with the locals. It cost money, lots of it, it required the maintenance of a huge fleet and soon led to overstretched resources – as early as the American War of Independence; itself a consequence of a failed attempt to raise taxes for the defence of the colonies. Again in the 21stC it is time for a reassessment – I should be interested to read whether you believe that the government`s National Security Strategy was and remains an adequate response. I note in passing that it regarded the failure of the Copenhagen Treaty negotiations to be a strategic setback (1.30)

  18. Gary
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    The foreign policy makes sense if you see our interests as mercantile.

    Merchantilism is where the govt seeks to dominate the terms of trade and securing of raw materials, where necessary, by force, usually on behalf of vested commercial interests that are quasi-governmental. The East India Company was the most famous of these. Lohnro , Rio Tinto and BAE may be more modern equivalents. Colonies were forced to send their raw materials to London to be turned into goods. They were not allowed to manufacture goods themselves. This caused the free market to stop functioning and goods became overpriced and a lack of competition caused manufacturing inefficiencies to develop. The form this takes today is enforced control of the oil fields for petrodollar recycling through London and New York for oil revenues. This masks the dollar inflation that would otherwise become apparent through higher bond yields, otherwise known as the Triffin dilemma. Lately QE has had to be employed to augment this rate suppression. We are on a de facto dollar standard, since sterling collapsed as a reserve currency decades ago, and I wonder how many Eurosceptics are not in fact defenders of petrodollar recycling ?

    The irony is that while Britain never wanted any one country to dominate Europe , we did so that WE could dominate Europe. Divide and rule was the underlying method.

    • uanime5
      Posted June 6, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      Colonies were forced to send their raw materials to London to be turned into goods. They were not allowed to manufacture goods themselves.

      The colonies didn’t have the technology to make manufactured goods. The only reason the UK had this technology because we started the industrial revolution.

      This caused the free market to stop functioning and goods became overpriced and a lack of competition caused manufacturing inefficiencies to develop.

      Actually the oppose happened because the machines were able to create products faster and cheaper than hand-made items. These items were also higher quality than their hand-made counterparts.

  19. MickC
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    An excellent article. it should be read by all MPs-but it won’t.

  20. Atlas
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Middle East interests? – well I suppose, Oil, – given the decline in the North Sea’s output – is still an interest. Yes, otherwise it is craven EU appeasement from the FO. It is as if Lord Halifax is still in charge there.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      But it wasn’t “EU appeasement” to invade Iraq. Or Afghanistan. It was “USA appeasement” – you can’t blame the EU for those two.

      • Gary
        Posted June 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        Roy , get with the program. Everything is the fault of the EU !

  21. Sean O'Hare
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    JR wrote: “The public did not want the Treaties of Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon, but was denied a vote on any of them.”

    Actually we didn’t want the Single European Act or the Maastricht Treaty either. Shame y0u failed to mention them. I wonder why?

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Because our masters knew best.

  22. Sue Jameson
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    You’re beginning to sound as angry as we are! You’re quite correct, we want nothing to do with wars in the rest of the world unless its participating in joint efforts with the UN or NATO. We certainly do not want to be part of a Euroarmy. Many of our service people would leave, they are fiercely patriotic.

    If you are aware of all the above facts, so is Cameron, which means he is blatantly ignoring the will of the people he is meant to serve. When is this Bloomsburg Speech? You know, of course, it will contain the same old fluff, the same old spin. Virtual drivel that says absolutely nothing at the end of it.

    He has made it clear he is not keen on a referendum and would prefer to renegotiate our terms of membership. If he was sincere in this wish, he would know that the only way to do that is to invoke Article 50. The EU have made it quite clear there will be no debate on returning powers otherwise. So why doesn’t he invoke the Article? It would give him the re-negotiation he wanted and he wouldn’t have to give us a referendum and he would undoubtedly win the next election and become the new hero of the United Kingdom! He wouldn’t even lose his place on the world stage, as he would be negotiating new tariffs and terms with the rest of the world.

    He’d get exactly what he wanted and depending on the outcome, of course, so would Britons. The question is, does he intend to take us in deeper? I can think of no other reason why he would keep us tethered to the bloc.

  23. Vanessa
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I would say our foreign policy is Catherine Ashton, Catherine Ashton, Catherine Ashton. Why are we bothering about this when we have absolutely no control over what that woman decides.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      That is just not true. Did the EU tell us to invade Iraq ?

  24. Peter Stroud
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    After the disaster of the Iraq war, and the even now, doubtful outcome of the Afghan conflict; I find it very worrying that our government is even considering arming either side in the Syrian debacle.

    • matthu
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Apparently the government’s idea of repatriating powers from Brussels does not extend to the judiciary, control of our borders, fishery, agriculture, energy or employment policy. Instead we simply demand the freedom to arm civil war participants in troublespots of our choosing.

      Have we learnt absolutely nothing?

      What we have learnt is that we must certainly not permit the Chilcot report (into the Iraq war) to be published before we have entered the Syrian conflict … if we can delay it for another 30 years that would be good.

  25. Mike Wilson
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Given that we cannot solve the world’s problems (we cannot even run our own country with any pretence at efficiency or sanity (borrowing, as we do, 120 thousand, million pounds each year to pay for public services we cannot afford)) – why don’t we simply mind our own business.

    It would be lovely to make the world a fair place – but, as I say, we can’t even run our own country properly. So, let’s keep ourselves to ourselves, put our own house in order, and ensure we can defend ourselves if ever needed.

    Quite why we are spending 7 billion pounds on two monster aircraft carriers with no aircraft to go on them is a mystery.

    • lifelogic
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      “Quite why we are spending 7 billion pounds on two monster aircraft carriers with no aircraft to go on them is a mystery.”

      Well they are incompetent, some politicians have “consultancies” and it’s not their money perhaps.

  26. I stafford
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    The policy of intervention for liberal ideas goes back to Gladstone and the Bulgarian atrocities. It marked the divergence in foreign policy between those seeking to impose British democracy and/or Liberal policies on the world and those who believed in Realpolitik. The latter used to be Tories. Nowadays the party seems to have adopted the Gladstonian view. I do not understand why. The intervention in Libya unsettled the Middle East, but still the view that “something must be done” holds without assessing what direct risk to UK interests Assad’s Syria posed.

  27. uanime5
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    The public wants a new relationship with the EU which allows trade and friendship, but gets us out of common government.

    None of the EU countries are going to give the UK this relationship, so the public has no chance of ever getting this.

    The public did not want the Treaties of Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon, but was denied a vote on any of them.

    The public didn’t want academies, the work programme, NHS reform, the bedroom tax, or the trebling of tuition fees but was denied a vote on all of these. If you want the public to be more involved with politics perhaps you should start giving them the power to block domestic laws.

    encouraging UK military intervention where there is little or no national and free trade interest.

    I believe the reason for attacking Afghanistan was that Jihadists were launching attacks against one of the UK’s trade partner. 9/11 was the second attempt by bin Laden to attack the World Trade Centre.

    Reply Bin Laden was finally tracked down in Pakistan.

    • uanime5
      Posted June 6, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Bin Laden is believed to have moved out of Afghanistan after the 2001 invasion. As his compound in Abbottabad wasn’t finished until 2005 he couldn’t have lived there in 2001.

  28. Martin Ryder
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Were the EU a commonwealth, with a small secretariat serving an EU council of leaders of independent sovereign nations, rather than an empire with an unelected EU Commission that dominates and gives orders to a council of leaders, most of whom have their hands out for money from the main contributor nations, such as the UK, I would vote to stay in, as they are our neighbours. But the EU is not a commonwealth and is fast becoming a centralised socialist empire, I would therefore vote to leave were I given the opportunity.

    However I do not think that I will be given the opportunity, nor I am sure that I would be on the winning side should the opportunity be given. The wording of any referendum will be slanted towards staying in and most of the propaganda churned out before the referendum will be for staying in. The propaganda will be aimed at women ‘are you sure that you want to be left out in the cold’, immigrants ‘why would you want to be a citizen of a small country when you could be a citizen of a large continent’, civil servants ‘why do you want to do your own thinking when we can do it for you’, and so on.

    The history of the UK is barely taught to children nowadays and much time is spent of the evils of the British Empire. (Comment about European history oeft out ed)
    Why do our leaders favour the EU over an independent UK? I have no idea, other than that they like to be members of an exclusive top people’s club and they are too lazy to come up with their own policies – it is much easier to sit back and gold plate the EU Commission’s directives.

    Our dear leader ‘talks the talk’ – his speech about dealing with terrorism the other day was a reasonably good one – but he doesn’t ‘walk the walk’. Does anyone believe that he will do all the things that he said he would? The liberal establishment – both political, academic, police and civil service – will all be coming up with reasons for nothing changing, not that they will do anything anyway, and Dave will fade and give way.

    If I were a betting man I would bet quite a large sum of money that the UK will still be taking orders from the EU Commission in ten years time. Our only hope is that whole rotten empire will collapse under the weight of the Euro, though no doubt we will be ordered to bail the EU Commission out by borrowing even more trillions and no doubt that whoever is in charge will meekly say ‘Yes Sir’. Probably in German.

    • uanime5
      Posted June 6, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      Were the EU a commonwealth, with a small secretariat serving an EU council of leaders of independent sovereign nations, rather than an empire with an unelected EU Commission that dominates and gives orders to a council of leaders, most of whom have their hands out for money from the main contributor nations, such as the UK, I would vote to stay in, as they are our neighbours.

      Well you clearly have no idea how the EU works. The European Council appoints the 27 European Commissioners and these Commissioners have no power over the Council. So you already have what you’re asking for.

      The propaganda will be aimed at women ‘are you sure that you want to be left out in the cold’, immigrants ‘why would you want to be a citizen of a small country when you could be a citizen of a large continent’, civil servants ‘why do you want to do your own thinking when we can do it for you’, and so on.

      You forgot business leaders who will benefit from access to the EU’s market and employees who benefit from all the employment rights the EU gives them.

  29. Bert Young
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    It is a pity that the talented and much respected William Hague has tip-toed his way with Europe . All along I have suspected he is following the wishes from Washington and making sure we are in step with them . Of course we should play no part in the EDF ; it is entirely superficial to NATO causing unnecessary expenditure . The EDF was created as the means to include France who had chosen not to be a part of NATO .As for supplying arms to the Syrian rebels , I am with you . The Middle East has preoccupied us for far too long and there is absolutely no evidence that any of the stances taken have been of benefit to this country . Our best Foreign Policy should be in maintaining the quality and strength of our armed forces ; independence and respect follows – as you say , history cannot be ignored .

  30. muddyman
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Our permanent civil servants with training from Common Purpose and the Agenda 21 indoctrination are unlikely to present any opposition to Global Government, are they?.

  31. Alte Fritz
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    There is a theory that the taste for foreign adventures is Mr Blair’s fault following his first (and only) success in Sierra Leone. Bismarck said of the crisis in 1878 that ‘the happiness of the Bulgarian people is not worth the bones of a Pomeranian grenadier.’ He was quite right. We would do well to remember that it is not Mr Blair’s or other politicians’ sons who are killed in these fights. Can can do nothing for Syrians by helping to demolish their country.

    I suppose a Europhile would argue that by joining the continent we remove the cause for our historic concern, but the same Europhile will just have seen herds of pigs fly past his window.

  32. Julian
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Unlike e.g. the USA or China we do not pursue a foreign policy designed to maximise our interests but one based on going along with the European single bloc idea on the one hand and some kind of politically correct guilt over the empire on the other.
    The US erects trade barriers and is very aggressive in ensuring its corporations get the best deals – it talks free-trade but only does it when it has to. China is busy building a virtual empire with de-faco control of tranches of Africa – again anything to put their country first.

  33. zorro
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    John, it seems that we have some rather anaemic chicken to chew on with regards to EU renegotiation…..Apparently Willie Hague is to propose that national parliaments, such as HoC should be able to overrule legislation proposed by the EC…..(are you ready for this)…..if enough legislatures call for it to be thrown out……The key word here is ‘enough’……Is this the best that they can do?…….Does it float your boat? I doubt it somehow. The words ‘negotiate’, ”paper bag’, and ‘wet’ spring to mind.

    zorro

  34. John Wrake
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Not only does current British foreign policy have no sense because it ignores the past. British foreign policy and every other current government policy has no legitimacy.

    Every Government Minister, every Political Party in the current Parliament is in breach of the English Constitution. The rot which is spreading throughout the nation did not begin with the present ineffectual government, nor with the last Administration, nor with Tony Blair, nor with Edward Heath. It began 100 years ago, when the then Government passed the Parliament Act, which removed the House of Lords powers to amend financial Bills and removed the Monarch’s right to refuse to ratify unconstitutional legislation. The Parliament Act removed at a stroke, two of the safeguards afforded by our Constitution against the misuse of power.

    Ever since 1912, our freedoms have been eroded, gradually and surreptitiously, so as to deceive and hide what is taking place. The nation’s sovereignty has been given away, the laws on treason have been cancelled, the membership of the House of Lords has been changed to increase the influence of political appointments, the attempts to alter the constitution have continued and yet all of those moves, being contrary to our Constitution, have been and continue to be, unlawful.

    Now we have a Government introducing and pushing through ill-thought-out and divisive legislation which, if it is passed, obliges the Queen to break her Coronation Oath.

    One must hold in contempt those so-called representatives of the electorate who support or countenance such actions. If M.P.s cannot stop the flow of this (undesirable power-ed), they should remove themselves from the contamination and thus bring about the change which is needed.

    John Wrake

    • uanime5
      Posted June 6, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      It began 100 years ago, when the then Government passed the Parliament Act, which removed the House of Lords powers to amend financial Bills and removed the Monarch’s right to refuse to ratify unconstitutional legislation.

      Firstly nothing in the Parliament Act prevents a Monarch refusing the Royal Assent.

      Secondly the last time the Royal Assent was refused was in 1708.

      The Parliament Act removed at a stroke, two of the safeguards afforded by our Constitution against the misuse of power.

      How exactly is requiring the approved of unelected lords or a monarch a safeguard against misuse of power?

      the laws on treason have been cancelled

      No they haven’t. Only attacking the Monarch is treason, attacking the state is not.

      the membership of the House of Lords has been changed to increase the influence of political appointments

      How exactly where hereditary peers better?

      the attempts to alter the constitution have continued and yet all of those moves, being contrary to our Constitution, have been and continue to be, unlawful.

      Given that the UK doesn’t have a Constitution how is it possible to determine what’s unlawful.

      Also politicians have the right to change a Constitution.

  35. Randal
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been saying for some time now that we need a root and branch re-examination of our foreign policy, because our post-WW2 Cold War subservience to the US is no longer needed, and the economic reality of our relative economic decline means that we will get ourselves into real trouble if we carry on trying to maintain forces capable of intervening militarily around the world.

    I agree entirely that we don’t want to submerge our foreign policy into that of the EU, but in reality the problem in the past couple of decades has been the subordinating of our foreign policy to that of the US. Given the dangerously strong US influence on our political, business and media elites we will struggle to change that, but doing so is necessary. Iraq and Afghanistan were bad enough, but being dragged into US wars against Iran or China could easily be far more costly than those two were.

  36. matthu
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    The problem with our foreign policy – as with energy policy – is that our actions seem to be dictated more by our pre-agenda than the evidence available to us.

    So in 2003 it seems almost certain we saw the mishandling of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq when the Blair government ignored warnings about the reliability of sources and “sexed up” whatever evidence it thought it did have in order to justify a pre-held agenda of removing Saddam.

    Since roughly the same year we have seen successive British governments basing energy and climate change policy on questionable evidence, dubious assumptions about future oil and gas prices and flawed reasoning about the impact of current green technologies on jobs, CO2 emissions and climate generally.

    In the case of energy policy, the really alarming issue is that the more the evidence has turned against them (temperatures have stabilised, green jobs have either not materialised or have cost us far more than anticipated, the rest of the world has sensibly chosen not to follow where we have tried to lead) the more strident the voices have become, hence Yeo’s mad insistence that we cut our own throats and completely remove all fossil fuel sources from our energy supply by 2030.

    (What benefit would there be from the UK alone following this approach, apart from lining certain investors’ pockets? It would be detrimental to inflation, devastating to jobs and have absolutely negligible impact on climate.)

    Now we have the propect of arming insurgents in Syria. All the evidence (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, rest of Africa) points to this being a bad idea. And yet the West seems wedded to this idea and appears intent on seeking out any available evidence that might support this line of action while failing to evaluate alternative evidence that might suggest different options.

    Who stands to benefit if we massively increase the supply of arms into an a lready volatile situation? And do we have any idea how we manage to remove those dangerous arms once some sort of altered state has been achieved? History suggests that arms will not be safely removed, ever.

    Is it likely that we will need to put people on the ground to provide training in how to use those arms? Or to negotiate with those we are delivering arms to? Or to rescue those who have been kidnapped while carrying out these tasks? History suggests we will.

    • uanime5
      Posted June 6, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      In the case of energy policy, the really alarming issue is that the more the evidence has turned against them (temperatures have stabilised

      The average global temperature has continued to rise.

      green jobs have either not materialised or have cost us far more than anticipated

      Which doesn’t disprove the science in any way.

      the rest of the world has sensibly chosen not to follow where we have tried to lead)

      Except for the EU, Japan, and possibly the USA (depends on the president).

      hence Yeo’s mad insistence that we cut our own throats and completely remove all fossil fuel sources from our energy supply by 2030.

      France has nearly managed to do this by generating most of their energy from nuclear power.

  37. matthu
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Another timely reminder of foreign policy madness, this time led by the EU:

    The European Commission has confirmed its intention to impose duties on imports of Chinese solar panels from Thursday (6 June), triggering an immediate response from China, which announced the launch of an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probe into European wine.

    The European Commission had attempted to tone down the dispute by announcing an initial duty of 11.8%, far lower than the average 47% that had been planned.

    Watch this escalate, as did the attempt to impose taxes on airlines overflying the EU.

    What would the duty have achieved anyway? Higher energy prices for all of us. (Because whether you individually have solar panels installed or not, you are being forced to subsidise those who do. And energy firms are being forced to buy an increasing amount of solar energy, paying over the odds for it. )

    Higher prices generally, because industry generally will be unlikely to absorb the higher energy prices.

    Job losses.

    And fatter EU commissioners.

    I also notice that there was opposition to the imposition of this duty from 18 of the 27 EU member states, including Germany and Britain. So much for our greater ability to influence foreign policy from within the EU.

    (How are the negotiations going, Mr Cameron?)

  38. Martin
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    I disagree. UK foreign policy is based on delusions of imperial grandeur. Mr Hague with his great power pronouncements is an example. France suffers similarly albeit to a lesser extent. Our defence policy is a related mess of Trident and few guards around Buckingham Palace.

    Too many who comment on this forum have forgotten the lessons of Suez where the Americans who held our IOUs told Mr Eden to get out of Suez. The UK’s pile of IOUs has gotten bigger and bigger.

  39. wab
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    “What is odd about UK foreign policy in recent decades is both its continuity under successive governments, and its perversity in going against the grain of history and commonsense of previous centuries.”

    Yes, UK foreign policy was so brilliant in previous centuries. Hmmm, let’s work our way backwards. 1956. Not so brilliant. WWII was the one sensible war for the UK, which is why we get eternal re-runs on TV about this and perhaps this is why some people are convinced that UK foreign policy was so brilliant for all of past eternity. WWI, in contrast, was a complete disaster (and not just for the UK), and it was the beginning of the end of the British empire. One could keep going backwards. The idea that UK foreign policy was perpetually more sensible in the past than now is a fantasy. “Lions led by donkeys” is pretty accurate, and not just for WWI.

    “The two main preoccupations of UK foreign policy prior to 1990 were to …, and to intervene in the rest of the world only in support of UK interests, especially to keep commercial routes open and free trade flourishing.”

    You could easily argue that that is exactly what the Iraq war was about, and a lot of the continuing meddling in the Middle East is still about, so Mr Redwood rather shoots a hole in his own argument. Yes, post Iraq disaster, Mr Blair tried to pretend that it was his deep concern for human rights that led to the invasion. Before the war started we had the propaganda that Iraq could hit the UK with missiles in 45 minutes (or some such nonsense). What it was really mostly about was control of oil.

    It is also interesting how Mr Redwood deliberately mingles discussion of the EU issue with the Iraq war. Needless to say, it was not the EU which got the UK involved in Iraq but instead Mr Blair sucking up to the Americans. Indeed, most of “old Europe” vocally opposed the war, as the Bush administration was happy to repeat over and over again ad nauseum. In the end it was Old Europe 1, the UK and US 0. How many billions of dollars (and pounds) were wasted on that pointless war, eh. And on Syria, it is Mr Hague pushing for involvement, not the EU.

  40. matthu
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Apparently the cabinet is now split about whether Syrian rebels should be armed. Not entirely unexpected, perhaps. But what IS surprising is the nature of the split:
    FOR ARMING
    David Cameron: Believes the British-French move will add pressure on the Assad regime to step down.
    William Hague: Warns that inaction is driving moderate rebels to extremism.
    Philip Hammond: Supports intervention in principle, but worries about the cost.
    Michael Gove: Takes a hawkish approach to foreign policy issues.

    So all of these side with President Hollande!

    AGAINST ARMING
    Nick Clegg: His party is opposed to armed intervention in foreign countries.
    Ken Clarke: The veteran Cabinet minister was a fierce critic of the Iraq war.
    Baroness Warsi: Worries that involvement could complicate Britain’s relations in the volatile region.
    Justine Greening: Argues that the emphasis should be on aiding refugees who have fled Syria.

    OMG! Am I really finding myself on the same side as the likes of Clarke and Clegg?
    Alternatively, can Cameron and Hague really be that much out of touch with the electorate?

    To satisfy my curiosity I found myself researching whether UKIP had any stated policy on Syria and discovered that Godfrey Bloom has previously stated that the Syrian conflict has nothing to do with Britain; it has only ever been under the influence of France.

    Therefore, if France wants to arm the rebels, then that madness has nothing to do with us.

    Bloom also asked “Is William Hague insane talking about sending arms, are we incapable of learning our lessons in Iraq and Afghanistan?”.

    What is almost more disturbing is that CP leaders seem almost incapable of learning from experience. On so many issues.

    “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

  41. Dennis
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Our foreign policy does have a 100% record in one export though – that is its super efficiency in providing fuel to make enemies abroad even into the far future- that’s why we need Trident and its possible successors to continue of course.

  42. Wireworm
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood: as has been said, the US factor has to be addressed. That is, the ancient British policy towards the European continent was inevitably modified when another superpower emerged. It has no interest in preventing the formation of a powerful bloc, in fact favours it. So, egged on by the US, the FCO decided: ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.’ As for Syria etc, the UK is chief lieutenant to the global Pax Americana, to which there is no obvious acceptable alternative and in which we have innumerable vested interests. Inevitably this role imposes certain obligations, euphemistically known as ‘punching above our weight’.

  43. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    Your argument is good up to a point. However, you are still making two errors. Firstly, you still won’t include Maastricht in the list of centralising treaties that we don’t want. Secondly, the acceptability of a continental power block depends on its size and nature. Ten nations with no foreign policy and defence unity would be just about acceptable. Seventeen nations (soon to be 18 if the Latvian government gets its way without popular consent) with a joint foreign policy and defence unity would be a threat. The best practical policy for the UK is to prepare to repeal Maastricht etc unilaterally and encourage the weaker Member States to leave the Euro.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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