Of course, the EU is not our only trading partner, and at the same time we will be seeking to get agreements with other great trading countries around the world. We are delighted—in the words of US Secretary of State
Toggle showing location of Column 26 Mike Pompeo, when he was here last week—that the UK is now front of the queue for a free trade deal with the United States. We expect to open negotiations with the US and other countries very soon—in that way we can broaden our horizons to embrace the huge opportunities in the rising economies of the future, where 90% of the world’s growth comes from.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade will set out more detail in a written statement later this week, and I will visit Australia, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia over the next two weeks.
At such a crossroads moment, it is fitting and timely that this Government will engage in a thorough and careful review of the United Kingdom’s place in the world, including through the integrated security, defence and foreign policy review.
This review is an opportunity for us to reassess the ways we engage on the global stage—including in defence, diplomacy and our approach to development—to ensure we have a fully integrated approach, because now is the moment to look ahead with confidence and ambition, to signal to our future partners the outward-facing, trailblazing country that we intend to be.
We have a vision of a truly global Britain. The first pillar of our global Britain strategy will be to continue to prove that we are the best possible allies, partners and friends with our European neighbours. We are working closely with our European partners to find a political solution in Libya.
We will continue to stand together to hold Iran to account for its systemic non-compliance with the joint comprehensive plan of action, the nuclear deal. We will work together to tackle shared threats and global challenges, whether it is Russia’s aggression, terrorism, rising authoritarianism, climate change or,
indeed, health crises such as the coronavirus. It was our honour on Friday to bring home 29 other Europeans on the UK-commissioned charter flight from Wuhan, along with the 97 Britons, because we will always look out for our European friends, with whom we share so many interests. I am grateful to the Spanish Foreign Minister for Spain’s help in co-ordinating that effort and to the French Foreign Minister in relation to the flight that came home on Sunday
Bad news for the ‘Global Britain’ Brexiters
The UK’s strategic orientation in the world is rarely the most salient topic of national debate, and it is lost almost entirely in the mostly domestic politics of quarantine. But coronavirus changes the international context in which Britain operates as a power – large by European standards, but not an equal to the US or China.
The world into which Boris Johnson thought he would be launching his country on exit from the EU is not the one in which it is now adrift. Borders have closed; trade is disrupted; blame flies between nations and regions. Tension between Washington and Beijing simmers close to boiling.
Even before Covid-19, UK foreign policy was warped by delusions of national grandeur. Mr Johnson’s plan was for Britain to be a champion of international free trade, thwarting protectionism by the power of its open-market example.
These delusions can be seen in the plan for minimal border checks on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Eurosceptics hailed the recovery of Britain’s seat at the World Trade Organization as if it were a sovereign crown. In reality, that restoration is no compensation for the loss of a seat at European council summits and the surrender of influence over the regulatory architecture of a continental trade bloc.
Whatever the UK can achieve in the WTO will be of second order compared with what it must first negotiate in Brussels and Washington, where it is the smaller, and therefore weaker party.
Ministers will never concede that point. Belief in the “Global Britain” mantra is a requirement for advancement in Mr Johnson’s administration. Pragmatic voices seeking alignment with Europe were long ago drowned out.
David Frost, Mr Johnson’s chief negotiator, takes a maximalist position that sees any accommodation to EU jurisdiction as nullifying sacred principles of Brexit. In that respect, he is more ideologue and politician than diplomat, which makes him ill-suited to the task of brokering a deal.
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic has incinerated old expectations and savaged economic prospects for probably years. It introduces stresses to an already fragmented global trading order that were not foreseen by Eurosceptic ideologues.
It sharpens dilemmas that were already acute. The lone-trade model forces the UK to compromise on two fronts, in parallel negotiations, with little leverage and no allies.
Concessions to the east damage prospects to the west. It is easy to see why the prime minister does not want to admit in public that his choices are constrained, not expanded, by Brexit. But it is a fact to which he must adapt to navigate safely through newly turbulent waters.
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The new year, like all new years, will hopefully herald a fresh sense of cautious optimism, and there is certainly much for us to focus on in 2022 - a volley of elections, myriad economic challenges, the next round in the struggle against the pandemic and a World Cup.
Will Global Britain end up being Lesser Britain, asks Michael Cox (LSE)? In this blog, he points to the high international price the UK will be paying for Brexit. ‘Global Britain’ will be a ‘Lesser Britain’, he concludes.
One of the many claims made in favour of Brexit was not just that it would allow the UK to save a lot of money, take back control and regulate the flow of people ‘flooding into our island nation’, but that it would free Britain from the shackles, which had hitherto been imposed on it by Brussels.
As a result, a newly independent nation would now be able to stride confidently forward and take its rightful place on the world stage alongside other great powers in whose company it clearly deserved to be.
But attendance at a first-year class in International Relations at LSE – IR100 to give its correct name – might have suggested that the reasoning behind all this was deeply flawed. There has been much work done on how Brexit has already impacted the UK economy and will do so in the future, and none of the news thus far has been encouraging.
But of equal importance is the impact it has had, and will continue to have, on its position in an international system that rewards success but punishes mistakes with uncompromising brutality. Great Britain, of course, still possesses some important assets from its military to its universities; it also remains one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, is the sixth-largest economy in the world,
and as British officials constantly stress (more so than ever since the UK left the EU) plays a central role in the NATO alliance. Moreover, unlike all the other EU countries, it is a member of a very special club alongside the Americans to which the EU does not belong: the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
Still, there is no getting away from the fact that having “punched itself in the face” as one American economist rather brutally put it, the UK is now having to live with the consequences. Working on the rather dubious (and contradictory) assumptions that geography no longer mattered in a globalized world – and that the economic future of the world lay outside Europe
– the Brexiteers managed to pull off a major political coup in June 2016 with little thought, one suspects, of the impact this would then have on Britain’s international standing. But as us IR ‘experts’ feared at the time, the very act of the UK removing itself from the EU looked from a geopolitical point of view to be decidedly odd, if not downright counterproductive
– in part, because it reduced the UK’s usefulness to its most important ally and benefactor the United States, in part because it appeared to be premised on the belief that a new deal with the biggest emerging economy in the world (China) would be a cinch, and last but by no means least, because it seemed to bring a smile to the face of those back in a Russia who had by 2016 made clear their hostility to a liberal grouping the UK was itself intent on leaving.
With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement on global Britain, following the Prime Minister’s written ministerial statement today. Last Friday, 31 January, the United Kingdom left the European Union. Before then, for three long years, we had debated the European question. Members on both sides of the Chamber were weary and people out in the country were tired of the wrangling,
so I think there is relief on all sides that the question is now settled. I know that the point of departure is difficult for many people—decent people who love their country and who did not want us to leave—so it is incumbent on this Government to show that leaving marks not an ending, but a bold new beginning. We take that responsibility very seriously.
When we ratified the withdrawal agreement, this Government and this Parliament finally delivered on the promise made to the British people over three years ago. We did that as a matter of democratic principle. We did it to keep faith with and to retain the confidence of the British people. In doing so, we sent a strong signal to the EU and to the world about our ambition and our resolve as we chart the course ahead.
As one United Kingdom, we are now free to determine our own future as masters of our own destiny. We are free to reinvigorate our ties with old allies. We are free to forge new friendships around the world. As we seek those new relationships with friends and partners, the interests of the British people and the integrity of our Union will be the foundation stone of everything we do.
The Prime Minister’s speech this morning and the written statement to the House start us on that journey by setting out the Government’s proposed approach to our relations with the EU in 2020. The most important thing about 2020 is that having left the EU at the start of it, at the end of it we will fully and with absolute certainty regain complete economic and political independence. That is when the transition period ends, and it will not be extended.
We will have a new relationship with the EU, as sovereign equals, based on free trade. Between now and the end of the year, we will work with the EU to try to negotiate a free trade agreement, drawing on other recent agreements, such as the one between the EU and Canada. That should be the core of our future relationship. We will look to reach agreements on other priorities, including fisheries, internal security and aviation.
These will be backed up by governance and dispute settlement arrangements appropriate to a free trade agreement, with no alignment and no role for the European Court of Justice, respectful of our democratic prerogatives. We hope we can agree. If we cannot, we will of course carry on trading with the EU in the same way as Australia and many other countries around the world—as a free country, collaborating where we can, and setting our own rules that work for us.
The next pillar of our global Britain strategy will be the UK’s role as an energetic champion of free and open trade—to boost small businesses, cut the cost of living, create the well-paid jobs of the future for the next generation, provide more consumer choice and to raise UK productivity, which is so important for our “levelling up” agenda right across the country.
The pursuit of shared prosperity has an essential role to play in our approach to development policy, too. As we maintain our 0.7% commitment on development spending, we need to find better ways of making sure it contributes to long-term and sustainable economic growth.
As we demonstrated at the UK-Africa Investment Summit, we believe the UK has a unique and competitive offer to tackle poverty and help poorer nations benefit in a way that benefits us all over the longer term.
Finally, the third pillar of our global Britain will be the UK as an even stronger force for good in the world. Our guiding lights will remain the values of democracy, human rights and the international rule of law, and we will lead on global issues that really matter, such as climate change. That is why this year we will host
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the UN climate change summit, COP26, in Glasgow. We will lead by example and rise to the challenge by harnessing all the British talents in tech, innovation and entrepreneurialism to find creative solutions to global problems. We will champion the great causes of our day, as through our campaign to give every girl access to 12 years of quality education.
We will defend journalists from attack, stand up for freedom of religion and conscience, and develop our own independent sanctions regime to tackle human rights abusers head on. Together, united, we can show that this country is so much bigger than the sum of its parts.
For Eurosceptic hardliners, the priority is a trade deal with Washington, to which end negotiations are under way in parallel with Brexit talks. For the majority of UK businesses, the European side of the equation needs balancing first, since that is where the greater proportion of exports go – around 45%, compared with around 20% to the US. .
The Atlanticists argue that those proportions describe a status quo from which Brexit is the departure point; what matters is untapped markets. Trade economists query the wisdom of betting everything on benefits that don’t exist yet at the expense of those that do..
Brexit ultras also think a deal with Donald Trump will put pressure on the Europeans by demonstrating that the UK has options. But Brussels sees Mr Trump’s nationalistic trade agenda as a threat to the stability of the international order. .
That makes concessions on the European side much less likely. And for some Eurosceptics who share Mr Trump’s wrecking attitude to the European project, maximum damage to relations with Brussels is a goal in itself..
Market access is just one component in this geostrategic contest. Washington wants to dump its agricultural surplus on British consumers (which would ruin domestic farmers), but it also wants the UK to side with Mr Trump in his escalating rhetorical confrontation with China. .
The EU takes a less belligerent stance towards Beijing. Mr Johnson’s China policy is a muddle, warily engaged, but under pressure from many Tories who prefer the US line.