It’s Independence Day for Britain: Now the country needs to find a global role
“You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not – I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will triumph in the Day’s Transaction.” – John Adams to his beloved wife Abigail, in a letter the day after the Continental Congress voted for the independence of the United States, July 1776
As I write, it is 6am on Friday, June 24, 2016, Britain’s independence day. I sit at my desk in the Cotswolds, feeling more moved and exhilarated by a political event than I have been at any time in my life.
My friends in the Leave campaign, many of whom I met in in 1999 in their earlier Business for Sterling incarnation, have achieved the impossible. Following in the footsteps of my illustrious forebears – the American Founding Fathers John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin – they, along with the rest of Britain, have defied all the odds, reasserting their sovereignty and, in doing so, secured their liberty.
But the key factor which made the American Revolution such a success (as opposed to the bloodbath which was the French one) was that the 13 original states were blessed by leaders who were phenomenal statesmen, as they proved in the years after the Miracle of Philadelphia and the declaration of independence. It was their decades of dedication to securing America’s place in the world – wherein the genius Alexander Hamilton constructed the US financial system and the founders maintained a realist foreign policy – that made the revolution the overwhelming success it has proven to be. That is precisely what is called for in Britain now. So in the stirring, if hard-headed, words of Adams that begin this piece, let’s look at how Britain can do just this.
Read more: Sterling suffers historic crash as Brits back Brexit
Britain’s new foreign policy must revolve around global – rather than parochial European – considerations. As this column has long argued, an economically sclerotic Europe in absolute decline will be an increasing side-show over the next generation. Yes, London must begin the process (and that’s what it will be) of gaining as amicable a divorce as is possible from the shocked Brussels elite. However, starting right now, and while the Brexit process with Brussels winds wearily along, Britain must think bigger; it must think globally. This cannot wait for the EU divorce to be finalised; there is no time for such gradual luxuries. It must begin now.
First, Britain’s new Drakean vision must focus on forging a new global democratic alliance of rising regional powers, connecting itself more substantially to South Africa, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and India, among others. The single greatest strategic challenge for the next generation is determining whether the emerging regional democratic powers can be successfully integrated into today’s global order. The key to doing this is to co-opt the powers that are actually economically growing (as opposed to the EU) into our world system as status quo powers, as active defenders of our world.
Read more: Cameron's resignation: Politicos, analysts and business lobby react
This means in policy terms to follow up on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suggestion to revive an informal security network between the West (particularly Britain and America) and its major friends in Asia: India, Australia, and Japan. Such an organisation amounts to a vital first step on the way to creating a viable new network alliance of global democratic allies. Free trade agreements of every sort between the members of this fledgling network alliance will bind it together, and must become a far more central element of British foreign policy.
Britain should also spearhead the reform of global governance institutions (the UN, World Trade Organization, IMF, World Bank) to provide for a far larger role for the emerging powers so that the institutions reflect today’s power realities (and not those of 1945). This will make them fit for purpose in the new era, and increase the chances the emerging powers will choose to become active stakeholders defending the pro-western global order.
Read more: Brexit could spark an EU renaissance if elites recognise their failings
Secondly, London must reinvigorate the Special Relationship, crafting a new joint Anglo-American initiative to successfully integrate the democratic emerging regional powers into the present western-inspired global order. This must amount to a new organising principle for our alliance, as it is the strategic challenge of our age. A trade deal with America (which is not nearly as impossible to achieve as President Obama implied) must be negotiated alongside the EU divorce, so it can come into force as soon as ties with Brussels are loosed.
British defence cuts must be a thing of the past. Instead, defence spending must be substantially increased so the UK maintains its critical full-spectrum military capabilities, as befits great powers. By doing so, Britain, by a long way, must be seen as the second greatest western military power, allowing it to play a strategic role commensurate with this new global foreign policy.
There is little time to celebrate, and much to do. But as the sun shines on me in western England, like Adams I too see the new dawn.