I am an American. But I have always been an anglophile and have always greatly admired Great Britain. To me, the history of Shakespeare’s “sceptered isle” is the greatest story ever told. Britannia brought the world Parliamentary Democracy, individual rights guaranteed in law, Capitalism, free trade, and the abolition of the slave trade. She has stood down and defeated sinister tyrannies ranging from Philip II of Spain to Napoleon to Kaiser Wilhelm II to the even more evil Hitler and the USSR. It is from Great Britain that we have the literary greats: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Dickens and Rowling. It is from Great Britain that we have the philosophy, economics and science of Locke, Newton, Adam Smith, Darwin and Mill. It was Great Britain that gave the world intellectual property, the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, the vaccine, and the internet. Her empire, even though it had occasional flaws, spread virtues across the world. Because of her former empire where “the sun never set”, we have the United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the world’s largest democracy, united India . Her language is now the considered “the world’s language”, with an estimated 1.5-2 billion people speaking English. It is a pretty impressive past for a small island… but what of her future? Is there a role for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the 21st century?
My answer is a resounding yes. I have been blogging on British politics for two years now and wrote a thesis on Thatcherism while attending university. In that short amount of time, just like throughout the nation’s history, it is amazing how many “forks in the road” the UK has come to. Luckily, when the big decisions have come, the British people have made the right decision.
The UK was a declining nation on the brink of irrelevance when Thatcher came to power, but when she left the nation was economically and militarily strong again. When the Conservatives came to power in 2010, the nation was again on its knees economically, but under the sensible leadership of Cameron, the UK has rallied back and is currently the fastest growing economy in the G7. The UK has had bumpy rides but they have been managed to right the course. For instance, the nation brilliantly hosted an Olympics, Scotland voted to stay in the United Kingdom, and the voters gave the Conservatives a majority- a majority which gives the nation a say on European Union membership. So, what is that British global role in the future? Much of it hinges on the European question.
The world is an increasingly volatile place. There are great opportunities and great dangers. A European political union stunts Britain’s potential to better the world as it “boxes” Britain into accepting disadvantageous trade deals, skews which immigrants it can take, and needlessly focuses her economic attention on a stagnant, declining Eurozone.
The United Kingdom is currently doing much to influence the world for the better. It is the only nation to spend 2% of its GDP on defense and 0.7% on international aid. The UK is the 5th largest economy in the world and usually ranked as the world’s 5th greatest military power. The Economist ranks the UK the world’s leading “soft power” nation. But for all the influence and strength of the United Kingdom, it is perplexing and maddening that it allows itself to be ordered around in many areas by a declining weak Eurozone economy-based European Union.
Previously almost two-thirds of British trade was with the European Union/EEC. The old common market comprised 30% of the world’s economy in the 1970s, although now the EU accounts for just 17% of the world’s economy. It made sense back when Britain was the “sick man of Europe” to agree to a few tradeoffs, such as a European Court, to be a part of this market. After all, Britain was at her lowest point in the 70s, handcuffed by trade union militancy and old fashioned nationalized industries. But today, Great Britain is a booming economy. London is the world’s top financial center. Now the majority of British trade is with the rest of the world and not the EU. Her Commonwealth allies, such as India, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Canada among others, are emerging as world leaders while the Eurozone is economically suffocated by its MAD currency. Yet, the United Kingdom is not allowed to sit on the WTO or make its own trade deals because of the EU. It is nonsensical that the nation that first introduced free trade should have to wait around for corrupt, unappointed European bureaucrats to make trade deals. In order to have the greatest economic impact, Great Britain must make its own trade deals and the EU must accept them or the UK must leave. It is not like the UK needs the EU to trade freely with Europe- the EFTSA which includes Norway and Switzerland among others, trades with the EU freely.
Furthermore, the UK needs to set its own immigration and justice policies to have the strongest impact on the world. Luckily, Great Britain is able to set its own system on accepting economic migrants and asylum seekers. But the current EU set-up hurts Great Britain’s ability to have a global reach by making its immigration system unnaturally titled towards Europe. Instead of accepting desperately needed English speaking doctors and teachers from the US, Australia and India, Great Britain has had to fill its immigration quota with low-skilled Romanians, Bulgarians, and Portuguese who often can’t speak English. This European free movement of people rule hampers the UK’s ability to bring in the world’s greatest talent and frustrates her ability to engage with other non-EU nations.
Furthermore, the EU’s maddening “human rights” laws burden the British citizens and taxpayers. It makes no sense at all that Civil Law nations where life sentences do not actually “mean life” should tell a Common Law nation that it has to not deport criminals and suspected terrorists from its nation. Great Britain gave the world Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights of 1689- it makes no sense that this nation should be clinging to the European Convention on Human Rights rather than having its own Bill of Rights. Luckily, the Conservatives are to introduce a British Bill of Rights. But if the British courts have to submit to Strasbourg, the UK may be continued to be blackened by the reputation as a nation that is weak on terror suspects.
Don’t believe that the UK has a reputation for being weak on terror? Well they do, but it is a vicious and untrue rumor as the government’s anti-terror laws are tough. Because the likes of Abu Hamza got to stay in the nation for a long time, many Americans, and I’m sure other nationalities, believe terrorists roam the streets of the UK. (Though I will caveat that statement by noting that London is the world’s most visited city– this statement generally concerns other parts of the UK, especially in the north). Remember the Fox News “no go zone” reports- this resonates with some people, which possibly harms the UK’s economy. There are other reports of hate preachers in the UK that are often not deported, and the UK will have this reputation with many people. Get Strasbourg out of the equation and deport and prosecute more terror suspects, people will see the UK for what it really is– tough on terror.
While an EU-free UK (or reformed EU/UK) would strengthen Britain’s position in the world, she has to be prepared to be a world leader in the 21st century. China is selfish, despotic and untrustworthy. Russia is belligerent and unpredictable. The Middle East continues to be a powder-keg. The US can no longer be relied upon as it once could, as its current “establishment” favors slowly withdrawing from the world and demagogues are on the rise in its political system. Currently, Republicans are being seduced by a xenophobic megalomaniac (Donald Trump) and the Democrats have an isolationist socialist (Bernie Sanders) strongly in contention. These men would worsen American global leadership even more so than Barack Obama. The UK must take a global leadership role with the US and persuade the US to remain an effective world leader while the UK strengthens ties with her Commonwealth allies. For instance, in this century India is certain to be a world power. The UK and its Commonwealth allies must work to channel India’s influence towards a positive direction rather than watching India ally with the likes of China and Russia. It is good that Britain bombs and drones ISIS targets, but it is more important for the world that she uses both her soft and hard powers to, like in centuries past, lead the world to being a safer and more prosperous place.
Here at Daily Globe, it is our goal to help persuade the public and policy makers to make correct decisions and encourage Great Britain to be a leading force for good in the world. We will publish the best articles that we believe further this goal. Though I laud the Prime Minister’s hope of creating a European Union where the UK could function as a semi-detached nation apart from ever-closer union, I believe (barring an unexpectedly successful negotiation) that the place for the UK to succeed and do the most global good is outside the European Union. The globe needs the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland perhaps more now than ever before.
Read all about it here and help us help the UK better the globe once again.