The government defines the UK’s interest in terms of two central alliances – the American and the EU. This is old thinking.
It is true that the government has sought to improve and develop the UK relationship with India, and has recognised the growing economic strength of China. We are moving rapidly from a world with one superpower, the USA, to a world where the super power has an important and increasingly powerful rival in China. We will wtiness the progressive relative decline of the EU as an economic force, as the surge of wealth and income generation from the emerging market economies continues.
In such a world the UK needs to reconsider and modernise its strategy. The UK’s interests are not necessarily the same militarily and in foreign policy terms as the USA’s, and the UK’s economic interests are not automatically alligned to those of the rest of Europe. The UK needs a modern foreign policy based on the world as it is and is becoming, not firmly rooted in the world of the last century where the two fixed poles were US military and diplomatic power and EU economic power.
The case for the old strategy was simple. The US is the dominant military and diplomatic power in the world. As an English speaking democracy our best course was said to be to seek to be special friends with the US. The price was supporting the US military endeavours. The gain was US protection during the Cold War and the exchange of military technology and intelligence.
On the economic front the defeatists about the UK who argued and put us into the EEC in the early 1970s believed that the EU economy was livelier and more thrusting than the UK’s. They thought that binding us into EU rules and procedures would let the greater dynamism of Germany and France rub off. Shortly after we joined in the 1980s the UK transformed its own performance for the better. In the 1990s much of the rest of the EU sank into a new big government low growth model. We will examine the problems our twin foreign policy strategy has created for us later this week.