Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A Very British Tilt: The UK economy, a plan for meddling in our region, and a pat on the head for Scummo the lap dog


Written by: (Contributed) on 1 December 2020

Using the pretext of economic problems arising with the COVID-19 pandemic, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has frozen public sector pay and reduced foreign aid in an attempt to stabilise the crisis-ridden economy. Sunak has maintained he must still find further tens of billions of pounds in tax increases together with spending cuts in the face of the UK economy being 11.3 per cent smaller this year in the worst financial crisis facing the country in three hundred years. (1)

The Bank of England has already printed 450 billion pounds, with more planned for the future. (2) What the longer-term effect of such a massive injection of capital will be, remains, as yet, to be established. An assets surge, inflation and credit crunch may happen.

The problems, however, rest in over four decades of economic rationalist policies which have seen the UK economy trashed by politicians and financiers. Only an older generation can now remember when the UK had one of the best health systems, including dental care, in the world and where homelessness and unemployment was almost unthinkable. Since 1979, successive rounds of de-regulation, privatisation and liberalisation have reduced government intervention, creating an economy with few safeguards to withstand crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic was a crisis that just waiting to happen. Others will obviously follow.

It is against this backcloth that a recent foreign policy paper tabled inside the corridors of power in Westminster has carried all the hallmarks of eventual implementation, despite massive cost outlay. Boris Johnson and his cronies are unlikely to not accept it.

The 52-page document, A Very British Tilt: Towards a New UK Strategy in the Indo-Pacific Region, was released by the Policy Exchange, described by the Daily Telegraph as "the largest, but also the most influential think tank on the right". The paper has provided a glimpse of Britain pushing their way into a region of the global economy which has remained dynamic, largely due to China's economic development. (3) The foreign policy document has also linked economic considerations to US-led defence and security provision with the statement, 'Britain … will act … in concert with the US'. (4)

The UK has always had a regional presence through British Commonwealth connections: it is now, however, set to enter a new phase linked directly to US-led diplomatic and military operations. The US has had to deal with a regional competitor in recent times, which they have found increasingly difficult due to China's softer-style economic diplomacy.

While recognising that 'a new order is beginning to emerge – increasingly shaped by China's rapid growth and rise to regional primacy', the foreign policy document does little to hide the UK joining US attempts to reassert its traditional leadership. (5) Despite the major economic problems facing the UK, the document has included a Prosperity Agenda for the Indo-Pacific region, whereby trade 'including recently raised questions of technological de-coupling from China' has been clearly defined in a similar context to the subsequent Security Agenda. (6)

The City of London, likewise, is introduced into the regional plan as 'a constitutive element of UK strategy', from where finance capital will be flung into the Indo-Pacific in search of higher dividends for investors. (7)

US-led diplomatic rivalries against China have already escalated into what has been referred to as 'grey zone operations just below the level of open conflict'. (8)  They are now set to escalate still further, with UK involvement in the new regional Cold War, modelled upon the previous one.

References to the US intelligence facilities based on Diego Garcia, for example, state they were 'strategically important during the Cold War … and … will become increasingly so … for the new order'. (9) And not to be outdone, the document has recommended more effective use is made of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing for regional operations. (10) It notes, furthermore, 'Diego Garcia … is an ideal location at which to build up Royal Navy and RAF units in the region'. (11)

The UK regional military presence has also been planned to supplement already existing US troop rotations through Darwin in northern Australia, in order to 'train and exercise with their counterparts'. (12) Further references to the newly established Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) include the UK seeking to also join the regional out-sourced NATO-type body. (13)

It is in that context that recommendations that 'Britain should expand diplomatic relations and co-operation with Taiwan', see the UK plan to enter into regional operations with the specific charter of confronting China over a very sensitive issue. (14) It remains to be seen how Beijing responds to British involvement in the Taiwan Straits.

Elsewhere, in the foreign policy document, British counter-insurgency and counter-intelligence operations include reference to the Army's Jungle Warfare Training School in Brunei, accompanied with a recommendation that it 'could be used as a starting model for developing more non-traditional security training'. (15) Little has been left to the imagination about future US-led regional operations.

It is important to note the publication of the foreign policy document coincided with Australian PM Scott Morrison being awarded the Policy Exchange’s Inaugural Grotius Prize, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson bestowing upon him lavish patronage for services rendered or already planned for the foreseeable future. Australia is a regional hub for 'US interests'.

Those watching the austerity measures being implemented in the UK might, in conclusion, quietly ponder on where the present-day Conservative government is actually planning to redirect some of it. If A Very British Tilt foreign policy document is implemented, financial support for ordinary British working people and their essential services will be finding its way into the Indo-Pacific region for use with the US-led war-drive.   

1.     UK economy to shrink by 11.3 pc., Australian, 27 November 2020.  
2.     Johnson in danger of losing fiscal high ground to Starmer, Australian, 30 November 2020.
3.     A Very British Tilt, Towards a New UK strategy in the Indo-Pacific region, Policy Exchange, Westminster, London, 2020.
4.     Ibid., page 22.
5.     Ibid., page 18.
6.     Ibid., pp. 29-30.
7.     Ibid., page 32.
8.     The alliance is safe … but real danger still lies ahead, The Weekend Australian, 14-15 November 2020.
9.   A Very British Tilt, op.cit., page 19.
10.   Ibid., page 51.
11.   Ibid., page 48.
12.   Ibid., page 47.
13.   Ibid., page 38.
14.   Ibid., page 40.
15.   Ibid., page 50.

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