Post-Brexit, the UK must reject the timid diplomacy of Fortress Europe and reassert itself as a global force

Post-Brexit, the UK must reject the timid diplomacy of Fortress Europe and reassert itself as a global force

Two competing visions for the UK’s world role post-Brexit are currently espoused: a policy of timid diplomacy practised by a Fortress Europe, isolated from the rest of the world, aided by swingeing defence cuts, in the face of Russian and Syrian aggression; and a policy of isolationism, or outright appeasement, of Putin and Assad, in the vain hope that non-intervention will prevent war. 

Both visions are fundamentally misguided.

As an independent nation, we must ensure that the UK does not retreat from Fortress Europe to behind the barricades of Fortress Britain. Brexit must not mean a UK withdrawal from a global role. Indeed, continued EU membership would have undermined the UK world role through the development of a European defence force (into which the UK would have been drawn) with a command structure separate to NATO.

The common foreign and security policies of the EU run counter to the values of freedom as espoused by the Anglo–American alliance, with regards to free trade and the abhorrence of dictatorships.

President Trump has criticised European NATO members for not contributing sufficiently to NATO defences. This gives the UK an historic opportunity to lead by example and strengthen our commitment to NATO.

The UK must act as a global force to protect the UK and our allies and we must start by countering and reversing Syrian and Russian aggression. A free and democratic Syria – defeating Assad and IS – is in the UK national interest, to reduce the terror threat and the refugee crisis. Countering Russian aggression on the borders of Europe is in the UK national interest, to prevent future conflict made inevitable if Russia invaded NATO territory.

The UN was formed to prevent humanitarian disasters. However, action on humanitarian aid in Syria, and action in Ukraine, is continually vetoed at the UN Security Council by one of its own members who are directly responsible for the atrocities – Russia. It is clear that free nations must act in concert to deliver aid, and enforce the international rule of law.  

Russia entered Syria in 2015, ostensibly to attack IS targets. In concert with Assad, Russian forces attacked primarily rebel forces instead. Earlier this year, the government reneged on its commitment to replace Assad. This response merely rewards Assad’s brutal atrocities. The conquest of much of Syria, aided by Russia, must be regarded as a temporary defeat, which must be reversed to secure a free and democratic Syria.

There should be no fly zones in Syria, enforced by an increased military presence (in concert with allies) through an aircraft carrier with a full complement of combat aircraft, which will also protect aid convoys. This will also increase forces essential to defeat IS.

Neither Putin, Assad nor IS can be part of the solution in Syria. The UK and allies must work with the democratic forces in Syria to create the political infrastructure to create a free and democratic Syria.

In 2014, Russia invaded Eastern Ukraine and annexed Crimea, in actions darkly reminiscent of Hitler’s actions in the 1930s. The free world did nothing more than impose largely ineffective sanctions. We did not seek to reverse these conquests; even had we sought to do so, such a task would be rendered near impossible by the massive cuts to our defences, which caused the aggression in the first place.

The UK and allies must seek to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine and Crimea, through internationally monitored referendums. Then Ukraine and Crimea should be encouraged to join NATO (Ukraine’s parliament voted to join NATO in 2014, and is now considering a referendum), as part of a strategy to extend NATO to the Russian frontier. This would weaken Putin’s strength in Europe.

The NATO Russia Founding Act prevents NATO from stationing forces in former Warsaw Pact countries; however, Russia has already violated the Act by its actions in Ukraine and Crimea, and like Versailles, it is null and void. If and when Ukraine and Crimea become NATO members, then they are protected under the NATO umbrella, and NATO forces can be stationed there.

Furthermore, for the UK to fulfil this bold post-Brexit world role, we must rebuild our defences as a matter of urgency.

The UK should rent aircraft carriers and aircraft from the USA pending introduction of our own aircraft carriers. We must recruit 30,000 more troops, and invest in aerial and satellite reconnaissance.

Increased defence could be funded by cutting overseas aid, including to Russia and China – they neither need the aid, nor should they receive it, as Russia is a key aggressor in Syria, and along with China, vetoes humanitarian intervention in Syria at the UN.