There have been some absurd statements and articles about the way the UK will cease to have influence, now we have decided not to use force against Syria. If anything, the contrary is true. We have a better platform now to influence the debate in the US, and to play a bigger role in diplomacy and peace brokering.
The idea that we will lose influence is based on the preposterous Foreign Office and Chatham House doctrine that the UK only has influence in the world if it agrees with any proposal the USA puts forward, and only has influence in the EU if it agrees with everything the Commission wants. Clearly the authors of this dogma do not understand the meaning of the word “influence”. Were the US Congress now to turn down the idea of military intervention in Syria, that would indeed show the influence of the UK Parliament on world affairs.
If the UK receives a phone call from the USA telling us what they plan to do by way of military intervention, and we agree to help, we have not had any influence over the decision. If the EU tells us we will turn up a discuss a new law on a stated topic when we have no wish for any such law, we have no influence. The establishment insiders confuse “influence” with “inside knowledge of an other’s intentions” which they like to have. It is easiest to get this inside information if you always agree with its impact on you and do not “make trouble” by disagreeing. The UK in the last decade just seemed to give in or go along with anything coming from either Washington or Brussels.
Some of them argue that if we accept the strategic decisions of the US/EU, we can then have some influence over the detail of how it is done. That may be possible, but it also may not work. We are either in the position where we have a little influence over the tactics, but none over the strategy, or in the position where we are simply taking dictation from a superior power.
If we want to have more influence over what happens in foreign policy in the wider world then we need to have our own often distinctive policy, and argue for it through NATO, the UN, with our US ally and the rest. We will have influence when we have a good proposal backed up by good arguments. We will have influence when we command votes at the UN, or support within NATO, or persuade the US to our position.
When it comes to having “influence in and through the EU” that was made extremely difficult by the abolition of many vetoes over policy. It is far easier to influence an EU policy or law if you have a veto, than if you are inside and likely to be crushed by majority voting. The Foreign Office gravely weakened this country and its scope to influence events by so heavily backing Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon. That is why we need to put a new relationship with the EU at the heart of our policy. A new relationship with the EU is the only way to re-establish an independent UK policy.