No more discouraging alliances after Brexit
We have a new government and we have a new foreign secretary, and it looks like we should leave the EU. Nobody in government is quite sure what to do next: the working assumption of the British State through the 24th of June was that the referendum would result in a vote to stay in the EU, and that there was no need to consider any changes at all.
The referendum vote took almost everyone by surprise and ever since then the entire political class has been scratching their heads and wondering what to do about it. So, it is extremely difficult to answer what impact this will have on British foreign policy. This answer will be given during the next few months, just as soon as these people work out what to do next. I would hope that last month’s vote heralded a fundamental change in the way that the UK is governed internally and the way it conducts its foreign affairs. The internal changes are another matter. But as far as external affairs are concerned, we have for much of the past century conducted a very strange foreign policy in historical terms. We have traditionally always tried to avoid permanent alliances with any other power.
The main object of the policy has been to prevent any powerful combination of states form dominating Western Europe. That makes sense, but I may not agree with the price we had often payed to secure that foreign policy. Joining NATO and EU seemed to be a deviation from our traditional policy of avoiding long-term entanglements and discouraging large unified power blocks in Western Europe. However, until 1990 we could remarkably simply explain British foreign policy. Until 1990 Russia was at the head of armed conspiracy against civilization and it was necessary to set aside a number of traditional foreign policy objectives in order to deal with an armed conspiracy. But the Soviet Union collapsed 26 years ago. There is no reason for Britain to have a long-term military alliance with any other state.
There is no reason to promote any calls of European Unity. Europe does not need to be unified to face any military challenge. Russia is now a normal state with quiet predictable interests. This allows for Britain to form a reasonably closed friendship, as soon as we have no need to look for American’s protection. I hope that the referendum vote would bring a fundamental reassessment of British foreign policy which will lead to a distancing from the US, and which will lead to a distancing in a military sense from the states of Western Europe. I’m not suggesting the break of all relations with French and Germans - we are natural allies and trading partners. But those common interests persuade us on a multilateral basis, not as a member of any overarching alliance of states. For now, I do not know what effect the Brexit will have on British foreign policy, but I am quite sure what effect at all it will have. It is to lead a rebalancing our foreign relations away from dependence on the US, away from working through NATO and towards a much more traditional foreign policy in which a good working friendship with Russia is pretty essential.