The need to make and grow things at home – national resilience

The UK fought  two massive and bruising wars in the last century. On both occasions the UK state declared war on Germany without having the military resources in place to be able to defeat German armies on the continent. The story of each war was the same. Initial disasters for the expeditionary forces, skilled and brave  but outnumbered, had to be followed by a massive scaling up of commitment. Vast citizens armies had to be recruited and trained. The UK had to rely on and build alliances to assist in victory. On both occasions getting the USA involved was particularly important. On both occasions the government had to transform our economy, turning much production over to a war footing, to make sure we could produce the guns, ships and planes needed to sustain major conflict from our own resources in our own factories, and growing enough food to avoid starvation. In each war the German strategy of trying to cut off our overseas trade by lethal submarine and surface raider attacks proved difficult to contain and threw us back on to more and more domestic self reliance.

The fact that we started each war with a professional military which could expand and change under the need to build a  citizen army  helped. We could also  create,  train and equip a much larger airforce, from scratch in 1914 and from  a small one in 1939. The fertility and relatively clement climate for growing temperate foods also helped, with flower gardens and parks being tilled for vegetables. The excellence of UK technology, with leads in several fields for both wars also assisted. As we study those events today we should of course redouble our efforts to make sure we do not need to plunge into such  vast conflict again. We should also learn the crucial lesson, that you cannot defend your country unless you have sufficient production capacity to supply and replenish a war machine in wartime conditions. It is no good relying on imports, licensed technology controlled by others and basic foods from abroad if you need to win a serious war.

In 1914 and 1939 we had our own coking coal, steel furnaces, tank, gun and ship designs and chemical  factories to make explosives. In 1939 we had some great private sector aircraft designs which could be built at speed and scale. Many factories making discretionary consumer items could be flipped to war production. Furniture factories could even make the wooden Mosquito plane to add additional numbers to the airforce capability.  In a remarkable drive the UK reached output of 26,000 planes a year in 1943 and outproduced Germany in planes over the war as a whole, whilst the US ramped up from 2141 planes in 1939 to a massive 96,318 in 1944.

Today when planes and ships are more complex and expensive than in the 1940s we struggle to produce more than a handful. Procurement is very dependent on overseas supplies, and NATO action rests on interoperability and shared capacity with allies. The UK needs to have plans for how it would cope were one or more of our allies to fall into hostile or unfriendly hands, and have plans on how the UK would sustain herself in war conditions. That requires ensuring we have control of the main technologies which we could use for ourselves if needed, and control over sufficient production capacity with raw materials or access  to them. It also means remembering it is good to be able to feed yourself to a sufficient standard as part of national resilience.

Having sufficient control over wider technologies, raw materials and skilled labour is also helpful in less stressful times, when the wars are fought with words and laws over trade issues with tariffs, export bans and the like. As the world trends towards more national self reliance, the UK should look more  to herself in important areas so we can cope in adverse circumstances.


  1. Lifelogic
    February 3, 2021

    Indeed we do and for this we need cheap on demand energy, some local coal for steel production, far, far less red tape, sensible employment laws, a far smaller state sector, simpler and quicker planning, some fracking and sensible tax system. These are essential not as we have now, the highest and most complex tax regime for 70 years. Combined with very poor and often totally misdirected public “services”.

    Plus we once again have a Conservative government with a broken & socialist compass and full of greencrap. We also have the disaster of Northern Ireland being slowly cut off from easy trade with the UK thank to the Boris stitch up. Not even a seed potato to pass.

    Tory governments, for almost all of my life, Ted Heath to Boris Johnson have been rather a disaster with the only partial exception of Mrs Thatcher (admittedly rather less of a disaster than Labour, Libdims were). I did however once write to Ted Heath (after he had said something particularly stupid even for him). He did however kindly reply very promptly and in some detail. He even addressed directly the issue raised. He was of course still wrong but at least he replied.

    I have written to two ministers and some JCVI members pointing out that they are clearly killing many extra people (by totally failing to adjust vaccine priorities for the fact that a 60 year old men have the same covid risk as 65 year old women). None have sent me so much as a holding letter or email. Boris, Hancock, Zahari seem far more concerned about the sad death of one 100 year old man than saving the easily save lives of hundreds of far younger people. Even HMRC used to reply fairly promptly, intelligently and efficiently to letters before about 2000 I recall. No longer.

  2. DOM
    February 3, 2021

    ‘The UK needs to have plans for how it would cope were one or more of our allies to fall into hostile or unfriendly hands’

    It’s not every day a politician speaks the truth but this reference does contain an element of that most rarest of commodities.

    The 5 Eyes (9, 14 eyes) is more important today than it has ever been though now we have people in the Whitehouse who are openly hostile to western democracy and freedom, it does beg the question who exactly are our friends now?

    The enemy is now within and without, spread across all UK parties, the hatred expressed for free speech, a robust democracy and anyone who dare question the divine authority of the political State is there for all to see

  3. Sharon
    February 3, 2021

    I agree, Sir John, we need to be far more self sufficient. And in particular, far less dependent on China for so much is made there.

    The world is currently in a very fragile place with socialism and globalism threatening the west like never before. And nation states are beginning to resist. So who knows what the future brings, but definitely, we must be in a position to feed and protect ourselves.

    1. Everhopeful
      February 3, 2021

      That does not seem likely since our present situation has been entirely dictated by China. Nor since many of the agricultural policies proposed by this government of occupation come straight from a similar source and which actually unravel thousands of years of productive farming practice.
      I fear that we are being strung along with promises of freedom.
      You noted that we were told to “slow down” on the vaccine roll out to let other countries catch up?
      Does that foreshadow crop allowances?

    2. Ed M
      February 3, 2021

      Problem is this is heading into the direction of government interference in consumer choice / market forces. I agree to a degree, but what is needed far more, is government plan, with wise capitalist investment about how it is going to help private enterprise thrive in the High Tech industry so that we can create great brands that we export abroad. US government helped Silicon Valley. Israeli gov helped turn Tel Aviv into a world class hub for High Tech sector.

      The UK was at war with Nazi Germany. Who are the real threats today? Russia and China. Any war with them would end in some kind of nuclear fallout (God forbid). Rather than focusing on food, we need to focus more on establishing stronger alliances with other countries to prevent such a war ever happening – the Nazi bombs on London would be like fireworks in comparison.

      Lastly, St Joan of Arc went to war in self defence but it was never a war that would lead to the destruction of France – but the deaths of a few thousand men and the destruction of some castle walls and so the war was justifiable. But any future war Britain was involved with, with a serious enemy, could lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands to millions, with our cities decimated from one degree to another like a wasteland.

      1. Ed M
        February 3, 2021

        Sovereignty is important but not at any cost (there are many other profound moral issues a country had to deal with – we can’t idolise sovereignty and at great danger to our people and their longterm future) and then it brings into question the whole question of The British Empire where we took away many countries’ sovereignty. I am a supporter of both the British Empire (although not 100% – and during which are Parliament was built at Westminster) and of Sovereignty but we have to get balance right and not over-egg sovereignty which can be dangerous and lead to other moral concerns about our nation being neglected.

    3. ian@Barkham
      February 3, 2021

      Socialism and globalism are out of the same ‘Gang’ mould – neither likes competition, but instead prefers to remove it. As such it inhibits society evolving for the betterment of all

    4. Hope
      February 3, 2021

      JR, correct. Your effing govt had four years to achieve the aims you say without being able to make trade deals. Hence EU thought they had the U.K. Over a barrel.

      Hitchens’ Phoney war chronicalises the failings of U.K., France and others.

      Instead of considering leaving by repealing the 1972 act it went along with the process the EU dictated so it could only ever agree to whatever terms the EU stated. A bit like Czechoslovakia in the last world war!

      Worse, food clearly being a national security issue Johnson gave away our fisheries with punishments so bad never to be regained! Johnson not only allowing EU army but is willing to pay for it and allowing EU to tender for U.K. contracts! He is utterly bonkers. Dishonest KitKat policy with bells. Cut all ties including ECHR. We voted to leave not be a junior subservient associate to the EU. He can jump and wave his arms like he won the cup but we know it is like Chamberlaine waving his piece of empty paper.

      Your first job is to oust Johnson, second job ensure food security, third job revoke ECHR so we leave the EU in its entirety 15 days thereafter as we voted.

      1. London Nick
        February 3, 2021

        I completely agree with your comments about Boris Johnson. He has been an appalling disappointment. I voted for a Brexit which ‘took back control’, not his BRINO surrender to an EU that wants to destroy us.

        Boris has to go. I will not vote Conservative again while he remains leader. I will vote Reform UK, and if that lets in Labour, so what? Starmer could not be any worse than Boris the surrender monkey.

  4. Jim
    February 3, 2021

    Let us be clear Sir John, the UK will not be fighting any wars, we would not last five hours. No one is bringing home big industry or jobs. Our workforce is too expensive and made so by very high housing costs and poor industrial infrastructure. Unless you are thinking of a ‘bowl of rice a day’ kind of economy you can forget any kind of 1939 industrial structure.

    The reality is that any sane capitalist will be using the brains and sophistication of the UK’s middle classes to develop products and services to be made and sold overseas. That same capitalist will be doing everything possible to keep the profits out the hands of you wasters in Parliament.

    So cut the jingoism, it cuts no ice with those who create wealth. We will need to extend our bright middle class downwards to exploit a so far undeveloped talent pool. More and better education. But this will take us 15 to 20 years, so you had better do some smart thinking and taxing between now and 2036.

    1. London Nick
      February 3, 2021

      What defeatist, histrionic drivel. We have plenty of large manufacturing plants, in the automotive and aeronautical industries, for instance. And we could have more of these but only if the government actually started pumping in the necessary state aid – as the EU is doing. The car industry of the future will be electric (the politicians have decided). So the EU has 16 battery gigafactories either already under construction or planned. Meanwhile, Boris the moron has failed to provide funding for a single one. Electric car factories will be positioned near the supply of batteries, so unless Boris gets his thumb out of his arse then all the car factories will be in the EU, rather than here. But it need not be so! Sir JR is right [as usual :-)] but unfortunately he is whistlng in the wind as his prime minister is too stupid to understand what needs doing.

      1. Fedupsoutherner
        February 3, 2021

        I think JLR has plans to develop a battery facility in the Midlands.

      2. Ed M
        February 3, 2021

        There are huge problems with electric – but it took 50 years for to get from The Wright Brothers to Jet Aeroplanes. Anyone arguing against electric is barking up the wrong tree. It’s like (but far worse) Americans trying to protect their gas guzzling cars from the 1980’s and before. The debate’s over, whether people like it or not – Electric Cars are here to stay. They’re the future.

        The debate now is how does the UK make as much profit as possible form this emerging market, increasing high skills / productivity and potential for large exports? I don’t know. But we got to challenge our government on this more and more.

  5. Bryan Harris
    February 3, 2021

    One hopes the government understands the above. It is imperative for our survival.

    With world-wide lock-downs we need to be as self sufficient as we can possibly be. Eventually most imports will run dry. How can that not be true unless restrictions are being bypassed?

    It would be good to know what commodities are still being imported by sea, and where shortages will come easily. Indeed, are we still exporting at a rate large enough to pay for our imports?

    We should know how much reserves we have of vital components, raw materials, for it is no use in having many new factories if there is nothing, or not enough, components to complete finished items.

    The bottom line is that with lock-down very likely to be imposed for years to come we need to reconsider how we survive it, and what our home grown strategy should be.

  6. MiC
    February 3, 2021

    Resilience is not just about supplies and materiel, it is about institutions, expertise, national systems, staff and the knowledge culture needed to face challenges as they arise.

    This cannot be left to short-term, for profit only entities, with limited social responsibility – the private sector.

    In other words, no country built on the socio-economic model with which John’s party is completely fixated can be resilient against threats such as pandemics.

    That requires a properly functioning state, a society which understands itself, and whose people grasp what their responsibilities are.

    As a matter of ideology, Tories and their media have worked tirelessly for decades to erase these.

    1. Ed M
      February 3, 2021

      ‘a society which understands itself’

      – The Western World is in close to complete mess. Politicians really don’t have that much power – except trying to exert too much and then ruining things. Society can only understand itself, far, far more by huge changes in Education, The Media, The Arts and so on.

      Trump thinking he could make America great again is bonkers. America was great in the past because it was made up of people who were willing to work HARD. Who had much better family and neighbourly relations than Americans today. And a much more sane society back in the past. Again, if America wants to be great again, then its society has to change dramatically – like the rest of The Western World.

      Looks like China will take over the world pretty soon unless we can change our society – dramatically.

    2. a-tracy
      February 5, 2021

      What a load of rubbish MiC? Private companies operating for-profit like Supermarkets that have kept us all fed throughout the last year without stopping. Bakers that have kept the bread on our tables. Toilet roll manufacturers that have kept us supplied. All those small convenience stores open all hours. Oooh all terribly bad people in your mind. Our electricity and gas hasn’t gone off. Our water hasn’t gone off. But there are plenty of public sector services that have stopped and we are still demanded to pay for them.

      “a properly functioning state, ” like our local Council who has cancelled services left right and centre. Libraries shut because all the children off school don’t need books but the parents can go and buy bread and butter! No-one has anything to do so they’re gardening, cutting down overgrown shrubs and trees so the Council cancel the second week waste collection (for NO GOOD reason). The streets and roads were not swept clean regularly resulting in tar chips from the uncleaned roads hitting people on their daily walk (the only exercise they can take now) and causing a slip hazard with all the wet leaves left on the pavements for months on end when icy they were deadly I saw a chap trying to navigate with his walking sticks trying to get back with his shopping from the local private sector convenience store and ended up walking on the muddy grass.

  7. Mike Wilson
    February 3, 2021

    I find this article literally incredible. Yesterday we’re singing the praises of free trade – with its catastrophic effect on our manufacturing industry, today we are bemoaning the fact that if we had another war we couldn’t build the arms we would need. Mr. Redwood – you must see the two are connected. You can’t have it both ways. Happy to see our steel industry unable to compete with cheaper steel from China, then moaning that we don’t produce enough of our own. Seriously!? You can’t have your globalisation cake and eat it.

    Reply Both say the same thing – freer trade through balanced negotiations.

    1. Ed M
      February 3, 2021

      The only way the UK can really grow in strength economically is if we focus on The High Tech / Digital Industry and Service companies related to The High Tech / Digital Industry (basically creating a UK Silicon-like Valley) and produce great British-brand cars like the German ones (as the world market sees these cars). Leading to big increases in skills, productivity, wages, R&D, Exports and the rest.

      And the reality is that both the USA’s Silicon Valley received smart, capitalist-like support from the US government as German car industry does from the German government.

    2. Mike Wilson
      February 4, 2021

      Reply to reply: It is self evidently not working as you appear to think. We couldn’t build a Spitfire a year these days. Where would we get the steel from? The one remaining plant?

  8. Alan Jutson
    February 3, 2021

    Indeed a different time and a different World with different attitudes.

    People soon worked out what was important to both them and the Country, and gave priority to the basics for sensible survival and enjoyment. There was a sense of community, and for the most part of one spirit.
    The government swept away many minor regulations in order to reach a much larger goal, and the people responded in a similar manner, the only people taken to Court were thieves, Black market racketeers and those who sought to frustrate the common effort.
    Life was far more simple then as time was not taken up prosecuting petty technical offences, hurt feelings and the like, production all necessary items rose drastically, as did employment, innovation was never so productive.

    If only we could re-create some of that spirit to some degree now, instead of worrying about gender equality, Tv licences, parking fees, Chlorinated Chicken and the like.
    Children’s education was disrupted for a few years then as well, but was it a real problem that required months and months of discussion to resolve ?

    The Government needs to get its priorities in order, and the people need to wake up to what’s really important.

  9. Newmania
    February 3, 2021

    The young heroes who defeated the Fascists, voted in their millions for a better world, and a better Europe .In the UK , for the famous Attlee Government, and unfortunately a generally misguided agenda , but with magnificent intentions and we did get the NHS. They would have hated Brexit.
    If Germany can unite without France objecting , within the EU , I think we are unlikely to come to blows about a few old buffers wagging their walking sticks about furriners in drizzly Britain.
    When you look back at the 20th century two conclusions are quite impossible .1 That socialism works ,2 That we need more aggressive ethnic Nationalism.. and yet here we are ….
    The State is swelling, debt ballooning , dog eared excuses for protectionism exhumed ( see above), subsidising lame ducks for the sake of a headline.. et al . Worse still it all rests on the ever tempting lie that all our troubles are to be blamed on immigrants.
    ..and its raining again

  10. Iain Gill
    February 3, 2021

    Re “need to make and grow things at home” then you need to change the approach to anti pollution measures and intellectual property as two obvious examples.

    In anti pollution measures we should aim to be in the bottom quartile least polluting nations per specific industrial process, not the very least polluting. Plus multi lateral action rather than driving our own industry abroad.

    In intellectual property we need a radical rethink of what we regard as national IP, and how we protect it.

  11. Wil Pretty
    February 3, 2021

    How can we produce more?
    Our energy prices are destined to become the highest in the world due to our expensive renewables leadership.
    No sensible entrepreneur will choose to invest where the future is negative due to out of control cost inflation preordained.
    In addition the regulatory environment is uncertain as the government is hostage to every activist lobby.
    The smart money is in harvesting government subsidies for renewable energy.

    1. Timaction
      February 3, 2021

      We are also reliant on EU energy. They have already threatened to turn off the inter connectors. What is our Government doing to ensure we’re self sufficient, and not reliant on windmills?

  12. Sir Joe Soap
    February 3, 2021

    We are fortunate to have realised the transformation to being able to take our own decisions about such things, albeit 4 years lost to the delaying tactics and obfuscation of May. Quite how that happened and should have been avoided should be a case study for historians.
    Now we need to primarily look after ourselves to the maximum degree but also act in mutual support of those with a natural inclination to partner with us. The real family. Australia, NZ, Southern Africa, Canada. Then near relatives-Ireland, Switzerland, Scandinavian countries, the United States, Singapore, Malaysia. The dirigiste Continental culture is not for us. Sometimes it works well, sometimes appallingly, as per last weekend. Eventually Ireland and Scandinavia will see it’s not for them, either.

  13. turboterrier
    February 3, 2021

    When living Scotland the next door neighbour was a fisherman and had gone from deep water to coastal for harvest shell fish.
    His constant complaint was that his catch was sold into Europe and then imported back to be bought by Trump Turnberry and he claimed that they could not sell direct. Sometimes you can have a good product but it is the wholesalers they have such a hold they dictate the end price.
    Boiler manufacturers cannot sell direct as they have to enter into an agreement with the merchants if they wish to have their appliances stocked. Seems it’s the old 50s/60s mind set carried over into the 21st century. My customers in Scotland could purchase identical oil boilers from Ireland for 40% less.. They did not care that the warranty was null and void more than prepared to take their chances.
    There are plenty of areas that could be looked into to make manufacturing more competitive. But (always a but) is there the will to do it?

  14. Mr Ian Kaye
    February 3, 2021

    One question I think is does the UK concentrate on things it is good at, the obvious one at the present time being vaccine development; or does the UK spread its net more widely? For example why doesn’t the UK become the world leader in developing induction charging for electric vehicles, so the inside lane of the motorway wood inductively charge vehicles up to a speed of 50 miles an hour an hour, why should the UK allow South Korea for example to monopolize this new technology. This is surely an area where government the private sector and universities should all be talking to each other

  15. Translator
    February 3, 2021

    Is it because we have become a “regulatory nation” outsourcing everything to quangos and private companies? In the times you refer to, the government was made up of knowledgeable people with mettle and was in control of all decision-making to lead the country through the wars.
    It’s time to change and take back control and command of the UK, and achieve these goals.

  16. None of the Above
    February 3, 2021

    Some who contribute regularly on this Blog will leap on your words about the 1st and 2nd World Wars and will, no doubt, attempt to ridicule your post as nationalistic and ‘old Churchillian’ but they would be missing the point. The hard lessons learnt in wartime are important enough to remember in peacetime.
    What we learnt in those times reminds us of what we are capable of as a people and we should not forget how resourceful we can be. We should, as a Nation, extract the digit and roll up our sleeves, stop whining about difficulties encountered at the borders and find a workable solution.
    Perhaps The Chancellor could consider grants for Market Gardeners to renovate and modernise the underused glasshouses? Perhaps DEFRA could help to create purification plant nearer to ports of departure that can be used by Shellfish exporters en route to their customers? Certainly, Government needs to consider sustainable solutions to the problems thrown up by the discredited NI Protocol.
    I look forward to the Budget Speach.

  17. ian@Barkham
    February 3, 2021

    Sir John

    As usual I agree with your thought process.

    A modern more up to date perspective would with the state of play with regards pharmaceutical manufacture. With the battle against the Covid-19 virus we started late and it has come as a greater cost. In part was the removal from the UK of the facilities to manufacture the much needed products.

    This was also one of those close shave moments in that Pfizer in a purely speculative move tried to buy AstraZeneca in recent years, seemingly for no other reason than to remove competition.

    Competition is everything – no competition no virus vaccine.

    1. Caterpillar
      February 3, 2021


      No propoganda, no unpreparedness, no metabolic health focus, no restricting alternative viable treatments, no guaranteeing market, no legal indemnity then no (so called) vaccines.

  18. Mark Parker
    February 3, 2021

    We now know that the geographic location of drug factories is important because other coutries will ban exports if they need the drugs as well. I hope the government takes note.

    1. Timaction
      February 3, 2021

      Big Pharma and other Corporations will have taken note. Where do you think they’ll relocate or invest?

  19. ian@Barkham
    February 3, 2021

    ‘Procurement is very dependent on overseas supplies’. Only because of government indifference to protecting its citizens.

    Sir John, I among many others that contribute to your discussions I am still ‘smarting’ at the abandonment of ARM by the UK Government. That single entities loss will cost the UK taxpayer more and damage the UK more than the whole of this pandemic.

    Having an Arts & Crafts Government means they just do see beyond today.

    1. Ed M
      February 3, 2021

      Well said. The loss of ARM has been / is detrimental to the UK High Tech industry as a whole.

  20. Iain Moore
    February 3, 2021

    There is little chance of us being self sufficient in food when the British state is intent on cramming millions of people into our country.

    We also have the problem of the British state having a laissez faire attitude to our industry and technology base. Well it is worse than that , they are actually playing an active role in denuding our country of its technology and industry, from Labour giving away Rolls Royce jet engine technology to the Russians, Blair choosing Man trucks made in Austria for our military, rather than trucks made by LDV, not chosen for quality but to be a good European, Cameron and Osborne being besotted with China and allowing them a foothold in our critical infrastructure , and British steel production flogged of to Chinese interests at a knock down price under Boris , a company which was producing technical steels for our military.

    If we are ever going to amount to anything again, I believe we first need to get rid of the British establishment, that is where our problems start.

  21. ian@Barkham
    February 3, 2021

    Having an Arts & Crafts Government means they just do see beyond today.

    There is a clue as to what’s been going on in the UK over the last generation.

    First class satellite engineering sold to the EU. Developed and paid by the UK taxpayer money

    Plane making sold to the EU.

    The EU financing the removal of UK manufacturing to mainland Europe, while denying the UK taxpayer the option of the same support. As in Jaguar Land Rover production moved to the EU with loss of UK jobs. Paid with UK taxpayer money

    Mainland EU subsidising steel production with UK taxpayer money while denying similar in the UK.

    UK fishing waters opened up to be shared, now the UK is denied the use in its own territorial waters.

    On and on goes the list and every time the UK taxpayer has to pay more than twice to enjoy the benefits both in money terms and job loses.

    1. Ed M
      February 3, 2021

      ARM Holdings was sold to Japanese.

      There is also a culture now in the UK of just sell-sell-sell as soon as you can – whether to the Europeans, yes, or in ARM’s case, the Japanese – but to other countries as well: USA (Cadbury, Walkers – even poor old Worcester Sauce ..) and more. But the real big deal here is ARM.

  22. ian@Barkham
    February 3, 2021

    The UK armed forces in perspective. The number available for action, at rest, and in training couldn’t fill Wembley Stadium. So it is always amusing when Governments say the will call in the Army to do this that or the other.

    1. Ed M
      February 3, 2021

      Really will be Dad’s Army when the Chinese begin to flex their muscles, militarily, more and more over the next few years – and they don’t forget easily, the Chinese – Hong Kong, in particular (not forgetting the humiliating Opium Wars).

      We need friends.

  23. a-tracy
    February 3, 2021

    On 31 December 2006, Britain made a final payment of about $83m (£45.5m) and thereby discharged the last of its war loans from the US. By the end of World War II Britain had amassed an immense debt of £21 billion. Wiki.

    Economic warfare is the new weapon of choice. The government had four years to prepare.

    1. Hope
      February 4, 2021

      ATracey, not quite correct. UK suspended, aka stopped, payments to US in June 1934 for the First World War. Hence why it was very reluctant to support Second World War until two ship loads of gold plus relinquishing ports to US etc were given first. While U.K. Made payments until 2006 with Ed Balls claiming he signed the last Chequers. Some say U.K. Has never fully paid back the US what it owed and the Second World War cost us more than financial ruin but our standing in the world ever since.

      1. a-tracy
        February 4, 2021

        Interesting, thank you.

  24. The PrangWizard of Engalnd
    February 3, 2021

    I am in full support – we are under undisguised attack from close quarters.

    We must indeed learn again to be more self reliant and self sufficient at all levels, and as individuals we could start by scaling back our belief and challenging globalist promoters that things foreign are better and more glamorous than home produced items, and market our products here and overseas far better. We have for years been mesmerised by their marketing. We need better branding for ourselves.

    At a simple level I was a regular visitor to the Netherlands and as far as food is concerned when I went to the supermarket there were no English products and frankly the choices of what they did have were very limited. Cheeses for example there are boring and ours are far more attractive and tasty.

    Other countries are far better than we are at product placement. US cookery programmes regularly mention Italian or Greek foodstuffs; lets stop making light of our ourselves and allowing others to make fun of us in such matters.

    And as for branding generally particularly in manufacturing we must return to ‘Made in England’ and promote it.

  25. Christine
    February 3, 2021

    Talk about raising Corporation Tax is a knee jerk reaction and should be resisted. We cannot tax our way out of a recession. We need to grow our export market and take advantage of the trade deals we now have in place. Seafood processing plants need to be built to take advantage of the lucrative Asia markets. Money should be made available to rebuild our glasshouse industry. If the Dutch can have a viable horticultural business why not us? We need to reduce the cost of energy and wean ourselves off expensive subsidies. All these nice to have virtue signalling green initiatives need to be shelved until we are in a position to afford them and technology has produced viable solutions.

    1. Mike Wilson
      February 4, 2021

      We need to forget exporting and importing and become as self sufficient as possible in the production of food , energy and manufactured goods.

  26. MikeP
    February 3, 2021

    It’s perhaps not a bright idea to be so reliant on France and China for building our much-needed nuclear power stations or France for undersea power cables then? As we take our first, hopefully bold steps outside the EU orbit, “wars” of a sort have indeed already started, firstly over the NI border that was always going to end in tears, then all sorts of misinformation over the AZ vaccine, and now – despite unfettered access to our scallop beds – they’ve put a permanent ban on our shellfish being exported in exactly the same way that it’s been shipped for years, with potentially fatal impact on Scottish fishing companies. Has this been raised in Parliament yet, it seems quite an aggressive, anti-competitive move by the EU, though sadly all too typical ?

  27. No Longer Anonymous
    February 3, 2021

    We have the resources to be a lot more self sufficient than we are but we won’t use them. That’s a political choice (that few voted for: Tory, Labour or abstainer) and not a practical one .

  28. Ian Wragg
    February 3, 2021

    We must be far less reliant on the EU. They are not our friends as recent events have shown. Fair play to the citizens of Northern Ireland kicking off against partition.

  29. dixie
    February 3, 2021

    I came across a quote of Thomas Sowell recently that seems appropriate to this and recent events;
    “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

    This apparently comes from his 1993 book “Is Reality Optional”, a collection of essays I have just started reading. I have also reviewed some youtube videos of him and been greatly impressed. I had not heard of him till recently and having listened and read some of his uncommon sense I can sea why mainstream is not interested in him.

    To scarcity – the population of consumers wanting the same scarce resources we are accustomed to has grown and continues to grow dramatically. And the recent vaccine “war” demonstrates that money doesn’t buy or guarantee you everything you need. So we need to start thinking differently .. perhaps a more local and circular economy to reduce raw material dependencies, an energy capability that doesn’t depend on digging holes in someone else’s land …

  30. Original Richard
    February 3, 2021

    I completely agree that we need to become more self-sufficient to make us safer and at the same time reduce our balance of payments, particularly with the EU where we have a £100bn/YEAR trading deficit.

    Other large EU countries have been pursuing this policy for years, some in quite subtle ways, others more brazenly, such the French who in 1982 cut off the supply of Japanese made video recorders by routing all such imports through a 9 man customs depot in Poitier and by allowing French farmers to burn trucks of live Welsh sheep or destroy tankers of Italian wine.

    But we must not fall into the trap of not buying and using the best technology available particularly where health is concerned as the French did in 1984 and 1985 when they knowingly distributed blood products contaminated with HIV to haemophiliacs and caused a multinational outbreak of HIV and Hepatitis because they were not prepared to buy the necessary testing machines until they had developed their own French machine.

    And I suspect the EU fiasco on Covid-19 vaccines is also partly because the French wanted to develop their own for the EU.

  31. acorn
    February 3, 2021

    Why does the UK import Strawberries from Spain (pre-brexit), when Strawberries can easily be grown in the UK; because they are cheaper and that includes the trucking. Vegetables are compulsory in our house and my favourite is peas from Lincolnshire; but, my cauliflowers are from Spain. Apparently, the UK climate is good for peas but tricky for Cauliflowers.

    The UK imports 40% of its food, how much of that is based on price, fads or domestic availability, I don’t know. It is reckoned that by 2050, 50% of the worlds population will be heavily dependent on imported food. The UK needs a significant increase in cropland and agri-food productivity. It needs a Ministry of Food and Water. Public money for “public goods” sounds good but how much of those public goods will we be able to eat?

    Reply Both the UK and Spain need investment and assistance to nature to grow strawberries out of season and to grow various vegetables. A lot of Spain needs irrigation, the UK needs polytunnels or glass houses to extend growing seasons. The Dutch with a similar climate to the UK have done more of this so far. I have been buying English cauliflowers for many months, but the most recent strawberries came from Jordan. Plenty of good English veg, apples, pears, tomatoes etc

    1. Mike Durrans
      February 3, 2021

      Lets have more protected cropland , force housing development onto BROWN field sites or rein in new build and give priority to renovation

  32. London Nick
    February 3, 2021

    Sir John, I completely agree with the broad thrust of your comments. I did, in fact, post a reply yesterday to your post on international trade which dealt, inter alia, with the issue of national resilience. It was (I thought) a well-reasoned response with interesting historical references. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, you chose not to publish it. I would only be repeating myself were I to post it again, so I won’t. If you want to publish it, you have it.

    Good luck in your efforts to get the government to clean up the mess they made on Northern Ireland and fisheries, but until you and your like-minded colleagues start rebelling they will continue to ignore you. Perhaps when Conservative MPs representing seats with fishing communities start seeing their vote evaporate and transfer to Reform UK, they might grow a backbone. But even then, I doubt it.

  33. Mike Durrans
    February 3, 2021

    I agree with you, I always advocate buy local fruit and veg in the markets and farm shops. The supermarkets have got too used to dishing out of season veg from eu countries.
    Lets restart the Buy British campaign and enjoy food with low foodmiles and a lot fresher.

    1. Fedupsoutherner
      February 3, 2021

      Sainsburys are selling a fair bit of British fruit and veg and very good it is too.

      Reply As are other supermarkets. They often wrap the UK produce in a pack with the flag on it to help identify them. Never see EU, Spanish and Dutch flags on produce.

      1. Mike Durrans
        February 3, 2021

        Yes , lets give due where its worth, Morrisons are the same, with lots of boxes wrapped in the Union Flag, but they all could do better as my old school master used to say

  34. Mark B
    February 3, 2021

    Good afternoon.

    Yes, we had world beating industries back then but, over successive decades those industries have suffered directly as a result of government intervention. Whether it be through forced amalgamation, nationalisation, cancellation of world beating designs / engineering or through mad taxation, all to support a Welfare State.

    Now our kind host wishes that government get involved to recreate that which it destroyed – No thank you, you’ve done enough damage !

    1. Mike Wilson
      February 4, 2021

      No, those industries have been decimated by the free trade you are so in love with. How do we compete with countries that pay wages less than a 20th of those paid here?

  35. Ed M
    February 3, 2021

    Now we’ve come out of Europe, need to make still have to ensure we have strong Security (and Cultural and Trade) ties with Europe.

    Don’t forget how Putin sent a big naval ship past Britain last year to intimidate us. The closer Security ties we have with Europe, the less Russia, a semi-rogue nation, armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, will bother us.

    Same for China

    1. London Nick
      February 3, 2021

      Hahahaha – you’re having a laugh! The EU help to protect us??!! You haven’t got a clue. It is WE that are protecting the EU – even though we should refuse to do so, given that they have now declared themselves (trough their deeds) to be our ENEMIES.

      The EU’s fighting ability is best understood when you realise that, under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen as Defence Minister (yes, she who is now that oh-so-effective EC President) the German army had to practise with broomstick handles instead of guns, as these were in such short supply!

      1. Ed M
        February 3, 2021

        I wasn’t talking about the EU but about countries in Europe who happen to be in the EU (or not). And I wasn’t talking just about military power but diplomatic power.

        Not saying it’s a life saver. But it’s better strategy to have as many friends around as possible when you have a semi rogue state like Russia sending naval ships down our coast and Communist China getting stronger and stronger. And the threat of Islamic terrorism and mass immigration from Africa hasn’t gone away either.

        Yes, to being out of the EU now. But no, to turning our back on Europe in terms of having healthy relations in Security (as well as Trade and Culture). Let’s be sensible / balanced here. That’s all.

  36. Ed M
    February 3, 2021


    – And we need to be careful with China.
    The Chinese are a proud people and Hong Kong (and even the Opium Wars) has been a humiliation to many on mainland China. As China gets more and more powerful over the coming years, they’re going to be flexing their muscles more and more – in every sense.

  37. L Jones
    February 3, 2021

    It’s about time building on good productive farmland was banned. There are plenty of brownfield sites that could be used – though a nice clean flat, well-tilled field is obviously more attractive than something that has to be cleaned up first.

  38. a-tracy
    February 3, 2021

    Boris today “75% of our medicines come into our country from Europe, 45% of our food, 250,000 businesses rely on imports. It is not practical to completely lose off this country”.

    People aren’t suggesting closing off food and medicine imports,aren’t drivers asked for a negative covid test anyway like France demands from the UK? If not why not? Our drivers have to pay for their private tests. They’re talking about stopping people returning from Africa, Dubai and other countries that may not be testing, identifying strains, or even being honest with their covid testing on death.

  39. DavidJ
    February 3, 2021

    An excellent article Sir John; one that Boris needs to take note of and act accordingly. I trust that you will be bending his ear at every opportunity. Sadly he is no Churchill despite his apparent knowledge of the man.

  40. Mark
    February 3, 2021

    Our top concern should be energy. On January 8th, ENSTO-E suffered a major grid incident when overloaded transmission lines in Croatia, Serbia and Romania led to power blackouts and a division of the grid between NW and SE Europe, leaving a shortfall of some 6.3GW in the NW that forced interruptible demand reductions of at least 1.7GW in France and Italy because the reserve power available was insufficient, with conventional generation running close to maximum because of very limited wind and solar. Meanwhile, in SE Europe, power stations as far away as Turkey had to switch off to deal with the overload caused by the loss of export routes. It is frightening to think that France was effectively relying on Turkish generation.

    These problems will get much worse as dispatchable coal and nuclear capacity is closed across Europe: there will be less than nothing to spare when there is cold weather and little wind and solar. We should not be depending on it via increasing reliance on interconnectors to keep our lights on. Already, the new IFA2 from France interconnector tripped out just after 6 a.m. on 29th January when it was supplying about 900MW to the UK.

    1. steve
      February 3, 2021


      “It is frightening to think that France was effectively relying on Turkish generation.”

      Oh I dunno, actually quite amusing.

  41. Malcolm White
    February 3, 2021

    Dear Sir John,

    I also agree that we should be come more self sufficient. The Government should incentivise investment in technology and manufacturing, so that inventions formulated in the UK are manufactured in the UK. Too many in the past have had to go abroad to find investment to manufacture their products.

    We also need to build resilience into the NHS, so that it’s not overwhelmed every winter, by reversing the decrease in the quantity of beds available. A decrease, I understand, of 160,000 to 120,000 in the last number of years. Also by making it easier to mobilise retired doctors and nurses without the nonsense paperwork, that has slowed the deployment of qualified volunteers. Perhaps, something akin to the Territorial Army Reserve used by the military in times of stress.

  42. IanT
    February 3, 2021

    I have a feeling that your views will not be popular with some Sir John but they very good sense me.
    Unfortunately, our political leaders (of all strains) have found it easier to kick the difficult and expensive problems down the road and leave them for their successors to sort out when they actually occur.

    It has been fashionable to believe that we can never have a global conflict again but unfortunately there can be no guarantees of that. The speed with which Brussels forgot all about the Good Friday Agreement when their interests (or was it pride?) were threatened was absolutely staggering – and there are far greater stakes at risk going forward…

  43. kzb
    February 3, 2021

    Sir John, I do agree with your posts on greater self-sufficiency, as I suspect, would 90% of the population.
    But what has caused this conversion since the time you were a senior member of the Thatcher government? At that time, it was better to import and close down our own industries. That government destroyed far more UK industry than the xxxxxx ever did. Why is it that so many politicians see sense only after they have left office?

    Reply Just not true. The policy work I did for Mrs T was all about creating more jobs at home and attracting major new investment – e.g. big increase in car output by attracting new makers.It is true we lost a lot of steel/car/coal/rail etc output under Labour in the 1970s and their inflationary hangover led to a sharp recession at the start of the Thatcher period which was most unwelcome and predated my work for her.

  44. Scorpio
    February 3, 2021

    We need self sufficency in all strategic areas including fuels, water and basic foods. We must stop sub-contracting the supply of these to foreign companies who are often financed directly or indirectly by their own governments. It may take time to reverse the undermining of our independance caused by our mistaken membership of what is now the European Union – but it must be done. The question is does the United Kingdom have the national will and ability to do this? Where are the planners?

  45. Lynn Atkinson
    February 3, 2021

    Of course you are right and we need to be self sufficient in the basics, including armaments – remember the French refusing to sell us arms for the Faulklands war?
    Of course we are still on our bellies begging to be allowed trade within our own borders – ‘UK asks EU for Brexit grace period extension to 2023’ so it’s possible we will always be subservient and never need a gun. What is the difference please JR, between a ‘transition period’, an ‘implementation period’ and a ‘grace period’?

    1. dixie
      February 3, 2021

      I believe it was the Belgians who refused to sell us ammunition whereas France did provide UK support with access to West African ports and information on weapons.

      1. None of the Above
        February 3, 2021

        I think you are right but an awkward situation arose between the UK and France because the Argentine Airforce used ‘Mirage’ and ‘Super Etendard’ Aircraft armed with Exocet missiles and with some success.
        The Argentinians were brave pilots but they struggled against our ‘Sea Harriers’.
        Essentially we were on our own because the UN did not support our military response but that doesn’t matter too much if you have the political will, public support and the correct equipment being used by well trained people.

        1. dixie
          February 4, 2021

          Agreed, things always get awkward and messy. We need the same attitudes of resolve and gumption that formed that expeditionary force and saw things through, today.

  46. Original Chris
    February 3, 2021

    Sounds as though you should join/form a new party of real Conservatives, as your ideas do not seem to chime with those of the current Cons Party leader who is a globalist through and through, zealously pursuing the global communism model dictated by UN Agenda 2030 which will cripple our country and enslave its population.

  47. steve
    February 3, 2021

    Oh what an interesting topic !

    “Today when planes and ships are more complex and expensive than in the 1940s we struggle to produce more than a handful.”

    Our only military aircraft business, BAe, actually has never designed an aircraft of their own. Any aircraft BAe ever made was pinched, usually from Hawker Siddeley.

    We don’t have a military aircraft industry, thanks to corrupt governments doing the bidding of countries that wished to see ours weakened.

    Thousands of highly skilled craftsmen from this country’s former defence industry were thrown on the scrap heap, replaced by cheap East European labour and by young graduates with no practical experience whatsoever.

    You think this country should be rebuilding it’s defence industry ? Well you won’t be doing it with our help.

    Our skills aren’t for hire mate. We were treated worse than shit by successive traitor governments, and unless you’re going to punish each of the bastards that did it to us you’ll find yourselves whistling.

    Next thing you’ll be asking miners for their help to rebuild the country. Or maybe the foundry workers, eh.

    Skills shortage ? Not our problem. Should have treated us better.

  48. Fedupsoutherner
    February 3, 2021

    Off topic. It’s brilliant to see Birmingham is setting up cameras to catch fly tippers and encouraging people to name and shame. The council will then publish names of offenders. Can they do this for dog fouling too?

  49. rick hamilton
    February 4, 2021

    Much as I applaud most of JR’s comments on this issue, it is a bit late to be talking about being self-sufficient in manufacturing. Since WW2 our political class has stood idly by as vast swathes of British manufacturing, and their long-established brands, distribution and market share were sold off to foreign ownership often for peanuts.

    Thatcher did her best to sort out the mess of union-crippled industries but her ‘free market fundamentalism’ shot us in the foot in many ways. The City actively encouraged large groups to flog off divisions which didn’t fit their ‘core competences’. Never mind the skills, experience and intellectual property that were lost as long as somebody got a windfall profit. The younger generation have no idea what has been lost and it pains my generation to remember the enormous list of British companies that no longer exist, because of laisser-faire policies that were never embraced so foolishly by the French, Germans, Italians and other Europeans.

    Sadly, our governments only show interest in manufacturing when there’s a war. Perhaps there is now a war, not a shooting one but cyber and financial conflict with China, and we are far too dependent on them. British governments must learn to admire and promote engineering , science and technology and stop believing that financial services – aka playing with other peoples’ money – are the answer to everything.

    Start by scrapping the woke tosh in our schools and get the kids working on the hard stuff of maths and science. Believe it or not, they are not pathetic snowflakes scared of their own shadows, but are up for the challenge if the leadership is there.

  50. Original Richard
    February 4, 2021

    Since the EU hs now banned indefinitely the importation of live Class B bivalve molluscs from the UK for purification in the EU, should not our government use this as a fantastic opportunity to assist the UK fishing industry and provide additional jobs and export businesses by setting up our own seafood processing treatment plant to depurate large quantities of live bivalve molluscs for export to the EU and elsewhere?

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