Sunday, October 24

The UK seeks its place in the world after Brexit



Last week, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom announced with great fanfare the signing of a new three-way military strategic pact called Aukus, an acronym for the English names of the three signatory countries (Australia, United Kingdom and United States). The objective? Broadly speaking, guaranteeing the security of the Indo-Pacific region and curbing China’s expansion as a great eastern power.

The news fell like a bucket of cold water in the Asian giant, which accused the three nations of having a “Cold War mentality” and demanded that Australia respect the agreements on the use of nuclear weapons in the area, after it became known that the country canceled a multimillion dollar contract with France for the purchase of a dozen conventional submarines to order US-made nuclear-powered submarines instead.

Back stab

French anger was swift: the Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, considered that his country had received a “stab in the back”, claimed to have been a victim of “lies” and President Emmanuelle Macron removed his ambassadors from Washington and Canberra. It did not do the same, however, with the London one. A full-blown snub, which Jean-Yves Le Drian himself took it upon himself to explain, saying that on the other side of the English Channel they are used to the UK’s ‘permanent opportunism’, country which he considered “the fifth wheel” of the carriage, that is, insignificant, a minor partner in the agreement.

The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, displaying a mixture of diplomacy, a sense of humor, and perhaps also a certain amount of cynicism, was quick to calm the spirits with a simple phrase dedicated to his neighbors, historically famous for their romanticism: “Our love for France is indestructible.”

Los ‘Five Eyes’

However, the relationship between the British and the European Union was not indestructible, a divorce that was consummated on December 31 of last year, after an agreement was finally reached between both parties, although one of them did not want to separate. The Twenty-seven, however, are still together, while the United Kingdom is enjoying a new independence and, in turn, seeking its place in the world after a Brexit that, in the words of the British Prime Minister, is the first step of the longed for ‘Global Britain’, that is, a strong country but integrated with the rest of the world and with a strategic approach to free trade and security alliances such as the one it has just signed with its Anglo-Saxon allies and that it probably wouldn’t have been possible if it was still part of the EU, although it was for a long time within a group on the sidelines, the so-called ‘Five Eyes’ (five eyes), which complete the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

But let’s go back to ‘Global Britain’. Its outlines are contained in the Integrated Review of Security, Defense, Development and Foreign Policy, entitled ‘A global United Kingdom in a competitive era’, which is the most comprehensive analysis of British foreign policy since the Cold War. Released last March, although the latest revision is from a couple of months ago, and produced under Johnson’s direction, it sets out the UK’s international strategy for the next ten years. «Our exit from the European Union offers a unique opportunity to reconsider many aspects of our internal and external politics», Reads the text, which speaks of building together« with existing friendships, but also looking further afield ». “We must exploit the freedom that comes with greater independence,” believe from the Johnson government, which believes that “our ability to cooperate more effectively with others, particularly like-minded partners, will become increasingly important to our prosperity and security in the next decade. ‘

Just a couple of days before the Anglo-Saxon powers announced the Aukus, Vernon Bogdanor, a professor at the Center for British Politics and Government at King’s College London, the University of Oxford and the New College of the Humanities, was speaking to ABC of the need for an “entente”, that is, an agreement that would allow “the United Kingdom and France to unite with other threatened democracies, for example India or Australia, to develop a new security doctrine.” Such a new security doctrine arrived, but without France. “Perhaps the idea of ​​a league of democracies has some traction?”, The professor wondered aloud, who considers that “relations between the United Kingdom and France are now not marked by closeness, but by hostility, due in large part to Brexit, but also to the vaccine war, migration disputes in the Canal and fishing rights off the Jersey shore. ‘ And now also, because of the defense.

A strong and liberal EU

According to Bodganor, “Among the principal states of Europe, Great Britain and France enjoy the longest parliamentary and constitutional traditions” and both “They have a deep interest in the survival of a liberal political order in Europe” and “Britain is a vital part of liberal Europe.” In an article published in the newspaper ‘The Times’ just before the Afghan crisis broke out last month, which returned to focus on the United Kingdom for having had to leave the country due to a practically unilateral decision by the United States, the Professor explained that “despite Brexit, Britain is interested in Europe being strong and liberal. Before 1914 and 1939, Britain had tried to distance itself from the continent. That led to disaster. The failure to transform the agreement with France into a firm alliance before the two world wars almost cost both countries their national existence.

Understanding essential

In the current scenario, and with the United Kingdom free to establish alliances with whoever it wants without the permission of Brussels, it is still necessary that “any European defense policy be of an intergovernmental nature”, explains Bogdanor, since “There can be no European defense policy without the UK” nor can one “build a strong Europe” without it, so an understanding is “imperative.” And what happened in Afghanistan, says this expert, “in my opinion, reinforces my argument.”

But the waters are churning. Newly appointed British Foreign Minister Liz Truss sees the ‘trilateral’ alliance as symbolic of Britain’s willingness to be ‘stubborn’ in defending its interests in the post-Brexit era, even if that means France is furious about Australia’s breach of contract on the submarine issue and that it has been excluded from a geopolitically significant deal, the repercussions of which could even reach NATO. Truss, precisely, was released in office in the middle of this diplomatic contest, after his predecessor, Dominic Raab, was left without the portfolio, one of the most important after Brexit, after his much criticized handling of the Afghan crisis.

In light of the events of recent days, the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, accused London of not having thought about the future from a strategic point of view, which has forced, according to his point of view , to have to return to the American lap. But Lawrence Freedman, emeritus professor of war studies at King’s College London, sees the agreement as not a surprise, as there are “established patterns of cooperation” in the intelligence exchange network between the ‘Five Eyes’. In fact, the press on both sides of the Canal, citing anonymous sources, has revealed that the agreement was discussed privately between US President Joe Biden; British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the G-7 summit last June in the English town of Cornwall, while other European leaders were with their heads on the “sausage war »(The impediment of entry of unfrozen meats from Great Britain to Northern Ireland), one of the pitfalls of Brexit.

France’s response

Anand Menon, professor of European Policy and Foreign Affairs at King’s College London, and director of the academic ‘think tank’ ‘The UK in a changing Europe’ considered, in conversation with ABC, that “Although the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States knew what they were doing, they did not expect such a strong response from France” and regretted that this added to the fact that the relationship between the UK and the European Union is probably “not going to be the same” after divorce. In addition, he noted that “the role that London served as a bridge” between the Twenty-seven and Washington is now vacant. Of course, according to Menon, despite good relations with the North American country, currently “there is some concern in London after what happened in Afghanistan.”

Precisely this Tuesday, the organization that he presides and the School of Security Studies of King’s College, launched the report ‘Global Britain: views from abroad’, on the perception of said slogan post Brexit-its implicit intentions – all over the world. According to the document, which assesses the reaction of other major capitals to changes in the British position and its agenda for the coming years, ‘Global Britain’ is the term given to the UK’s post-Brexit foreign policy ambitions. and whose critics consider “nothing more than a rhetorical device designed to give the impression of an international influence that is largely illusory.”

Shaping attitudes

But “foreign policy is a two-way street. The success of the UK’s strategy is based not only on what the government does, but also on how the political and business communities in Tokyo, New Delhi and elsewhere receive and react to it ‘, associations that’ require consent at least two parts, and perceptions of what the UK means by its’ Global Britain ‘will help shape attitudes around the world’, and that in countries like India or Japan, for the moment, they are positive.

Gesine Weber, a researcher at King’s College London who participated in the presentation of the report, considered that the fact that the United Kingdom ‘no longer remains a member of the EU forces to redefine »their position in the world, however, it will always be marked by its geographical position as a neighbor of the EU countries: “‘Global Britain’ needs ‘Global Europe'” he said. And also vice versa.

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