What foreign policy for the next UK Government ?

With the General Election only days away international solidarity is an area of policy which has not been high on the agenda of any of the major parties. As an organisation committed to supporting those on struggle across the world, Liberation is calling for a just and equitable foreign policy on the part of the British government, whoever is in 10, Downing St from 5th July onwards.

Such an approach would mean addressing the assumptions in Global Britain in a Competitive Age, the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, published in March 2021, setting out the government’s vision for the UK’s role in the world over the next decade and actions that will be taken up to 2025.

The document stresses the need to increase British presence across the world, in particular the Indo- Pacific, territory way beyond the borders of the UK but in which the government deemed Britain to have ‘interests.’  The Global Britain doctrine ties the UK to  the biggest sustained increase in military spending since the end of the Cold War, exceeding NATO’s 2% of GDP spending guideline by increasing this further to 2.5% of GDP.  Both major UK parties are committed to this rising in military spending.

Global Britain underlines the desire of the UK government to be the leading European ally in the NATO military alliance and cites the United States as the UK’s most important bilateral relationship.

While recognising the need for a positive trade and investment relationship with China the Global Britain doctrine also seeks to improve the UK’s ability to “respond to the systemic challenge that China poses to our security, prosperity and values – and those of our allies and partners.” Implicitly positioning China as a threat against which the UK must be defended.

The increasing belligerence shown by the US towards China and the additional weapons capability being provided to Taiwan increases the possibility of a flashpoint, leading to conflict in the Indo- Pacific region. Through its membership of NATO and AUKUS the UK will be drawn into any conflict.

In September 2021 the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom announced the formation of AUKUS, described as a “security partnership that will promote a free and open Indo-Pacific that is secure and stable.”

The first major decision of AUKUS was to support Australia in acquiring conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines, extending their at sea range and capability in the Indo-Pacific region.

In March 2023 the three governments set out a timeline for the training and embedding of Australian personnel alongside the US Navy, Royal Navy and submarine fleets to accelerate the training of Australian personnel.

The US spending commitment to military weapons at $800 billion per annum is greater than all other NATO nations combined.  UK military spending currently stands at $53 billion per annum, second highest in NATO and fifth highest in the world

NATO membership has involved the UK being drawn into a combination of illegal and unnecessary wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria in pursuit of US foreign policy goals in the Middle East, the primary source of the migrant crisis across Europe.

A part of the commitment to the NATO military alliance the UK is committed to continue wasteful spend on weapons of mass destruction.  Replacing the Trident nuclear submarine fleet, at an estimated cost of £205 billion, will not give the UK an independent nuclear capability but, as a member of NATO, will continue to be reliant on the US, who will have control over nuclear weapons use.  Both the Tories and Labour are committed to replace Trident.

Liberation has consistently called for a renewal of UK foreign policy objectives, which involves the UK negotiating withdrawal from the NATO alliance and the AUKUS military partnership, while adopting a position of non-alignment with military blocs.

There should be no increase in military spending with an immediate freeze at present levels and a planned reduction to necessary levels of conventional forces for defence purposes.  That would mean no renewal of the Trident nuclear submarine programme and the diversion of military budgets into spending on socially useful programmes to build schools, hospitals and develop the green energy infrastructure.

Liberation further calls for an incoming government to renounce the Stop the Boats policy and the hostile environment for asylum seekers and develop policies to make clear accessible legal routes to the UK.

In addition, the UK must recognise, in terms of enhanced international aid, the damage inflicted on Britain’s former colonies, among other countries in the global south, by the predatory pricing policies of British multinationals. The combined international profits of Shell and BP for 2022 were just short of £100 billion. The combined trade deficits of Ghana and Sri Lanka, both currently facing penal rescue terms from the IMF and both relying on imported energy at inflated prices, was for 2022 approximately £10 billion.

Liberation recognises, with the election likely to return a Labour government, that pressure from the wider Labour Movement will be vital in shifting policy, from a shadow of current Tory policy, to aims which truly reflect the national interests of the British people and the peoples of the world, for peace and social justice.

Steve Bishop is a Liberation member and regular contributor to Liberation journal

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