How should the UK develop a European foreign policy?

The UK will need clear and well defined relationships with the EU and with Russia. All the time there are some powers for independent action, especially militarily, amongst the EU states, we will also need good links to Paris, Rome, Berlin and Madrid as well as to Brussels.

The aim of the relationship with the EU will be one of friendly collaboration. If we leave with a deal we will be continuing free trade with them as well as many close workings over Intelligence, defence, policing, trading standards and the like. If we leave without a deal and the EU decides to impose some barriers on our access to the EU markets, then the UK will have to retaliate with tariffs against their food, cars and other items attracting tariffs under WTO rules. This might then lead to a change of heart by the EU, who may wish to enter talks about how to remove those barriers again. The UK should be willing to do this, though there is no need for the UK to be desperate to do it or to give ground to secure such a change.

More difficult is our approach to Russia. I have no more time for Russia’s military adventures in eastern Europe than the western governments or NATO. I do, however, think there is a chance that Russia could be a better world citizen if the west collaborated more and resorted to sanctions and condemnations less. The west should of course keep up its guard and be aware lest Russia does resort to aggressive and illegal actions, but should not go looking for trouble. The West through the EU and NATO intervened in Ukraine in ways which provokes a mixture of anxiety and aggression in Russia, fearing for the security of its warm water naval base. Whilst this did not justify the illegal annexation of Crimea, the west did not facilitate a peaceful solution to this problem by allowing a referendum, for example, to let the people decide where they wished to belong as the UK has recently done in Scotland.

The UK has intervened too much in past centuries in continental politics and wars. Whilst the West did have to engage to bring Hitler down, it is more difficult to see what national interest the UK pursued in the First World War. The main aim of our foreign policy should be to keep out of continental rows and conflicts. The UK has sold the pass on the old idea that we need to stop a single power dominating the continent. It is now Foreign Office policy to encourage and allow the consolidation of power on the continent under the EU. In that case we need to be global in reach, have partners around the world, and keep out of the EU’s more contentious issues.


  1. Bryan Harris
    August 21, 2017

    How should the UK develop a European foreign policy?

    Simply by being independant and thinking for itself – rather than follow lemming like the attitude of the blinkered majority of countries that have an agenda.

    If the UK can rise above the lunacy that says we always have to do what others are doing, then it might work….

    As for Russia – I agree, we should work more closely with them to bring sanity to the world – it wasn’t Russia that sparked the conflict in eastern Europe, it was mostly the idiots in the EU trying to force a “Russian Spring”.

    As for the EU, we should back off a little, politically, and let them get on with things, their way, we shouldn’t tie ourselves to them at all… limited cooperation at most


    PS – JR, my comment from “Inequality of power versus inequality of income” is awaiting moderation.

    1. agricola
      August 21, 2017

      So is mine. It must have been far too pertinent to be acceptable even though it was not long, or libellous, just exposing the insanity of PC which is fast becoming a streaker.

    2. Mitchel
      August 21, 2017

      If the UK is going to become truly “independendant and thinking for itself”,it needs to a)turn away Saudi gold and b) become detached from NATO which,following the end of the Soviet Union serves no purpose other than to further US foreign policy-the countries of the EU could easily afford a defence force which would deter Russian aggression in the Baltics should any such intent actually exist.

  2. Richard1
    August 21, 2017

    I can’t see how the UK could have avoided WW1 without breach of the 1839 treaty with Belgium had she not gone to Belgium Belgium’s defence after German invasion. Also the 1904 entente cordiale with France I suppose.

    If we don’t like the obligations of treaties we need to leave them – can’t just renage on obligations.

    Reply Yes, you do need to renounce Treaties that are dangerous, or not sign them in the first place

  3. eeyore
    August 21, 2017

    If there’s one thing everyone knows about Britain’s traditional foreign policy, it’s that our consistent aim has been to keep Europe divided and the ports of the Low Countries in friendly hands. JR observes that the FO has now abandoned the former, presumably because it feels confident about the latter.

    Insofar as Britain always does worse when facing east toward Europe, and better when looking west to the ocean and the wider world, I hope the FO has got it right. But it’s a bit of a gamble. We’re normally rather more wary than that.

    By the way, those who fought in the First World War knew exactly why they did so. It was to prevent Britain and its empire being conquered, overrun, raped and plundered by a savage and bullying Kaiser and his very unpleasant armies. An excellent reason for going to war, if you ask me.

  4. Simon
    August 21, 2017

    There is absolutely no evidential basis for believing the EU is remotely interested in friendly relations with us now or in the future. If they were serious the negotiations would already be completely different. The EU is already in immense difficulties in every single one of its relationships with all its near and intermediate neighbours anyway – see Norway, Switzerland, Ukraine, Turkey and Russia.

    They do not appear to have any mechanism for dealing with any country on pragmatic terms unless that nation is an accession state and willing to bend the knee. Like the Romans they treat everybody else as Barbarians still awaiting the EU “civilization”.

    1. Mitchel
      August 21, 2017

      I read recently that the best estimate for the number of “barbarians” in the period of the Barbarian invasions(the Volkerwanderung as the Germans call it-they would,wouldn’t they!) of the fourth century is 750,000 .That is all it took to totally destroy the (western) Roman Empire and completely dissolve Roman identity,as the will -and the means -to resist disappeared.The Eastern Empire took a different line and survived a futher 1100 years-shades of today’s Eastern Europe!

  5. Pragmatist
    August 21, 2017

    The UK Foreign Office should be abolished. Its duties shared out amongst other ministeries. A position on Ukraine!!! A…position..on..Ukraine????? It is 29 hours driving time away and the internet so wonderfully dead-pan expressionless says it is via the A4

    In fact Ukraine is 1, 634 and a half miles away. We know UK Government Ministers, some of them, have large gardens but it is doubtful that one thousand six hundred and thirty four miles is the extent of their backyard even including the cabbage patch.

    A rather more adult and considered foreign “policy” is required. Ministers should take some kind of medication on an evening and have a peaceful sleep and dream of countries like Ireland as being foreign enough. In truth, the Foreign Office cannot cope with the foreignness of Ireland can it, so better stick to what Ministers are still not quite up on yet. They’ve only had 500 years of anglo-irish history to get their heads round. They could try Diversity as favoured by Mrs May. “It might just work” as they say in all the old cowboy films.

  6. Denis Cooper
    August 21, 2017

    “If we leave without a deal and the EU decides to impose some barriers on our access to the EU markets, then the UK will have to retaliate with tariffs against their food, cars and other items attracting tariffs under WTO rules.”

    As I understand we could decide not to retaliate against the EU, but then in the absence of any specific trade deal with the EU countries we would have to give equal treatment to all other countries around the world with whom we have no specific trade deals.

    And according to Patrick Minford that unilateral abolition of all trade barriers would be massively beneficial to the UK, as well as to the other countries.

  7. Denis Cooper
    August 21, 2017

    “The UK has sold the pass on the old idea that we need to stop a single power dominating the continent. It is now Foreign Office policy to encourage and allow the consolidation of power on the continent under the EU.”

    Well, I think that’s a stupid policy which we may well come to regret, but on the other hand I also think that just now it would probably be a very bad diplomatic move to announce that we want to see the EU broken up.

    They’ve already been backing themselves into a defensive “We must make sure that no other member state will ever dare to leave” corner without us making it worse.

  8. William Long
    August 21, 2017

    Sadly you must be right that the FO no longer sees a virtue in seeing that no single power dominates Europe, though it would even now probably try to argue that the EU is an economic rather than a military alliance. Therefor the maintenance of the balance of power within Europe that lay behind our foreign policy for most of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries must turn to the balance of power round the globe. In that context our relationship with Russia becomes extremely important because she is one of the main factors within that balance along with the USA (still coupled with NATO), and China. The EU is not there yet and will remain on the periphery for as long as its members are reluctant to spend on their defense.
    In the latter context, if we are to have any influence at all to back our foreign policy, our own defence expenditure will have to undergo a sea change.

    1. Mitchel
      August 21, 2017

      Absolutely right.All the key geostrategic theories of the past 100 years or so-Halford Mackinder,Brzezinski doctrine,Kissinger doctrine,Aleksandr Dugin-and experience going back to the days of the Mongols,recognise that the Eurasian heartland occupied by the Russian state in it’s various guises is the key to world domination-or the blocking by Russia itself of another state achieving that level of world control-which is why the neo cons and globalists have been so keen to have Russia broken up.Fortunately,that train has clearly left the station.

  9. David Cockburn
    August 21, 2017

    If we are happy to have a consolidated power in Europe we will need to ensure that we have a friendly power across the narrow seas. That’ll mean continuing to be a valuable customer to them, helping them protect themselves and avoiding stirring up trouble by being seen to encourage other countries to leave the EU.
    Hopefully they in turn will not feel tempted to foment trouble in Britain by actively supporting divisive elements.

  10. Monza 71
    August 21, 2017

    Our foreign policy needs to be positioned equidistant between the EU 27 and the USA – our traditional role – but with much closer links, as now, on military and intelligence cooperation with our main allies in that field, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. They EU will then be looking to the UK to provide information that they cannot obtain themselves making cooperation with the UK essential to them. Our permanent seat on the Security Council is also an important factor for the EU.

    As far as the military is concerned, we should be looking to keep totally detached from the proposed EU military planning structure as it’s almost certainly going to be paralysed by the inability of the 27 to agree on anything. They will need to greatly increase expenditure in this field without being to rely on the UK. That would be a major step forward both for NATO and us.

    Finally, we will need to reinforce our already excellent diplomatic service, reversing the ill-advised cuts under Blair and Cameron. In decades to come it will need to be bigger and better than it was in its heyday. Again, this will be a valued asset for EU members who will often turn to the French and British diplomatic service to find our what is really going on rather than rely on the EU “External Action Service which is always going to push the Brussels view of everything.

  11. Terry
    August 21, 2017

    Indeed, Russia should be encouraged to join in. However, they will be reluctant to do so while the EU continues to further its Imperialism towards the Eastern European Countries. Those are the protective buffers for Russian and Russia, rightly, is very wary of and very protective of its borders. It would not surprise me to learn that Mr Putin is more concerned over the EU than he is with NATO.

    I doubt the Crimea would have been invaded had the EU not tried to support the over throw of a democratically elected leader of the Ukraine. More especially so, given the History of that country and the Crimean Peninsular in particular. Their ignorance and arrogance knows no bounds, yet they stand agog and bewildered when someone challenges their diabolical actions. We too should be concerned over their totalitarian actions even post 2019.

  12. lojolondon
    August 21, 2017

    My priorities are :
    1. Commonwealth-centric – Ex-British colonies should enjoy better and more favourable access and terms by every measure
    2. Definitely befriend Russia. For too long the West has wanted to hide from the Russian Bear – Trump is absolutely correct – Putin will win from working with us too, we need to make it easy for him

  13. Monza 71
    August 21, 2017

    One vital strategic matter for us is energy.

    Merkel has led the EU into a dangerous dependency on Russia for energy, principally gas.

    This has been immensely foolish and as soon as there is any hint of trouble, Putin will ensure that supplies are interrupted for “technical reasons.” That alone will be enough to bring Merkel to heel.

    We need to become self sufficient in energy as soon as possible. We cannot rely on the cross-channel interconnectors because France will need all the energy it can generate for its own electric car programme and will always put the power needs of fellow EU member ahead of the UK when they inevitably fail to builds enough new capacity.

    To do this we need to rebuild our lost ability to develop and build our own nuclear power stations. ( It’s shameful to think that we once led the world in Nuclear energy).

    It cannot be beyond our ability to resurrect the business and if the Government is serious about banning new cars with Internal Combustion Engines from 2040, we are predicted to need ten new Nuclear stations for road transport alone.

    Wind and tide will not be anything like sufficient : we probably need 15-20 nuclear stations to meet our forecast medium term demand. That is enough to resurrect and maintain our own Nuclear industry.

  14. Tabulazero
    August 21, 2017

    Brexit means leaving the table where problems get sorted on the Continent.

    While being independent has its advantages, it is hard to see how Brexit will enhance the UK’s influence on Continental affairs.

    Theresa May being made to leave the room at every single EU meetings is a good illustration of that.

    It is unrealistic to think you can have it both way.

    1. ChrisS
      August 21, 2017

      We had next to no influence before voting for Brexit because the outcome of almost every decision made in Brussels, or rather Berlin, is now dictated by whether it is good or bad for the failing Euro project and its member states.

      Being independent offers huge advantages – an end to pressure to follow reluctant member states into a European superstate and to join the Euro are just two.

    2. Denis Cooper
      August 22, 2017

      “Theresa May being made to leave the room at every single EU meetings” is not “a good illustration of that”, it is just a silly invention on your part.

      UK withdrawal from the EU involves negotiations between the UK and the rest of the EU. It’s bleedin’ obvious that we do not expect the UK representative to participate in their discussions of their negotiating strategy, any more than we would expect the British cabinet to be joined by a EU representative for its discussions. Of that does not exclude the possibility that some members of the British cabinet, and some British civil servants, are in fact on the side of the EU, but that is something that the Prime Minister should sort out.

Comments are closed.