British self-interest dictates we should lose our ‘great power’ status

[Britain’s] current status is historically atypical. The period roughly from 1688 to 1990 was an aberration. Historically the UK has never been that significant- there have been moments when say as in the 15th Century briefly Britain had an impact on Western European politics through interventions in France, but more typical is the experience of Henry VIII, claiming vastly more importance than he had, or of England under Henry II, part of a much bigger entity including French territory. The real point is that we have for 300 hundred years been in a strange situation- and it will be odd not to be in that situation after so long a period. The British discussion of foreign policy still feeds too much off the American, when America is demographically and economically far more secure as a great power. We need to think about a world in which we are no longer a great power- and in which our capacity to intervene overseas is much more limited. We need also to recognise that it is in our interest to get proportionately weaker on the world stage- the objective of British foreign policy is to help other countries take up and over take us, as their citizens get richer. Pakistan, India, China, Indonesia, Brazil, they all have populations so much bigger than ours, that even were their citizens half as wealthy each as our citizens are, they would matter more economically.

Losing our status as one of the world’s great powers would be a good thing for us all- but it will require us to think in a different way about foreign policy. That challenge is scarcely being met in a Westminster culture that is still suffering an imperial hangover



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