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“Why I think the UK should retreat from its position as a global power for its own sake”
Brexit has provoked politicians and political commentators to predict the United Kingdom’s coming waning of global power. Power is not a lapdog that obediently sits and awaits orders – it is a retched, terrifying thing that needs constant reassurance and fuel for its fire. Power is not something the UK needs right now. The UK needs its “Wilderness Years”.
We do not need to Make Britain Great Again, we need to allow Britain to adopt the cyclical course that so many of the sciences follow, and ebb back into a place on the world stage more fitting of modern times. This is not the era of the British any more – nor the English-Speaking World – just as this is not the era of any of the other ex-Imperial nations of Europe.
This is not to say we should give up on the idea of Britain or the United Kingdom – far from it! – but the British need to look to its neighbours and (ex-)fellow members of the EU for guidance on how to live well with what we have.
The Netherlands is a prime example in case, but we could easily take the case of Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Poland/Lithuania, Italy – even Russia, at a push – and actually stand a better chance of regaining lost ground from Brexit without wasting energy attempting to reclaim an idea of Britain that our grandparents harp on about, hours after they put down their copy of the Daily Mail or The Express.
The ethics of wishing for “the good ol’ days” are the same that allow the conservative Right to exploit the political landscape. The dream of an empire – even just the glory and idea of it – is one that has led, in the cases of Germany and Italy, to fascism. While this writer – as well a many a politically-savvy reader – does not believe that fascism can manifest itself in the same guise as it did in the 20’s and 30’s, the hard-Right has come back with some force.
So let us go back to our case of the Netherlands. This small nation was the first to create an empire, and a speculative economy – both blueprints for what other nations would follow. It still holds a handful of overseas territories, in fact, much like Britain, and yet, despite its innovative nature, it is looked upon as a mid-tier nation. It is nowhere near as powerful as the USA, Russia, China or India – militarily or economically. It isn’t even in the same league as Germany, France, or the UK. Yet, it holds its own distinct advantages, culture, language, history, traditions, and quirks, while also still being one of the most innovative, green, welcoming, and interesting countries in the world. Certainly in Europe. This exact case can also be reproduced to many countries in Europe. Certainly in Scandinavia.
We can use our historic advantages, sure, but we cannot ever expect these advantages to conjure greatness. That’s why its called history: it’s in the past. Over. However let’s take a look at our advantageous situation, and see if we cannot make something great out of what we have…
The English Language
Yes, we are the home of it, and the best at it (sorrynotsorry Americans…) and people all across the globe are still wanting to learn English. It is the language of business, often-times study, and for programming. It is the mother tongue of over 400 million, and an additional language for another 700 million. It is a powerful asset, and one we will never lose.
British History & Culture
As a country, we have the longest-standing democracy in the world – commonly known as “The Mother of Parliaments”. Despite our recent culture of forcing democratic values upon foreign nations, the Parliamentary model used by the United Kingdom is one that should still always hold true as a signal for the world to follow. Perhaps, however, with Proportional Representation – but no one’s perfect…
Add to that our already-impressive tourism sector, based on history and culture (and, of course, the Monarchy – love or loathe it) and the UK is still near the top in terms of “soft power”.
A Key Member of the “Western World”
This one is a little tricky – mainly due to the fact that “The West” is a concept that is sinking faster than we can bail water. Being a member of The West brings with it responsibilities – especially when you’re a key ally to the USA. If foraying into the Middle East is a prerequisite to being a powerful country in the world, then we can surely leave that behind. The USA itself is also going through a political
shit-show crisis at the moment, and it could be wise to start distancing ourselves from Trump’s America before we find ourselves sending troops into North Korea, Iran, Syria, and any other country the Orange Whoopie-Cushion throws a dart at on his wall map.
To quote David Cameron and perhaps many other British statespeople over the years: “Britain is at a crossroads”: we have the tools to make the best of it – and actually, it would be difficult for us to fade away into the background of geopolitics given the number of powerful positions we hold on the world stage. The European Union is not the be all and end all of British power. We will find the road ahead difficult and challenging, but the first step we can take is to think – and act – positively about our decision to leave the EU. If we are given a chance to remain a member, or return to the fold, we should not squander it, but we should not look to lead, but to follow, because we have had our time in the sun, and we look rather petty trying to claw it back.