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.