Riyadh: Saturday 2nd June 2012
On one level, and looking at the United Kingdom from the perspective of an outsider, the above question might seem absurd. The United Kingdom has, as do all nations, manifest failings and imperfections, internal arguments and evolving relationships with powerful strategic allies and adversaries. But this can be said of all countries and the UK retains advantages which many of these nations do not.
The UK remains a key ally of the United States of America, it retains a seat on the UN Security Council and is present at negotiations of the G8 (and by definition, the G20) group of the worlds most economically powerful nations. The UK retains an enviable International reach in terms of ‘soft power’ through institutions like the BBC World service and BBC World News, Icons like the Rolls Royce and The Queen, through which it retains key economic, political and cultural links with several regions and nations of the globe.
Through the London Financial Markets, Britain remains one of the global economic drivers and, on a more parochial level, Britain remains essentially independent in a European Context, retaining control of its own currency and at the same time, a key economy within the European Union (EU) (Which, let us not forget, remains the worlds single largest economic market place). Britain, while flagging against major economic rivals in terms of Secondary School Education, retains an enviable record for University research and innovation. British design leads the world with specialist Architectural, marine engineering and renewable energy fields among others.
It would be Absurd to ask whether there is a future for many countries with far less to boast about than Britain, so what is the point of asking this question when clearly, whatever her failings, Britain remains a country with much to be proud of, not just in regional, but in global terms?
And, dear reader, before answering this question, let us look at Britain at the time of writing, during the celebrations of Her Majesty, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Watch the coverage which will see London at her very best. You will see, not just Pomp and ceremony, not just the polished steel breast plates and bright red uniforms of a former imperial power, but also references to a nation at peace with herself, Britain, you will be reminded, is a multicultural country with far more to be proud of than her glorious past.
Yet it is a question which is not only worth asking, but actually needs asking; and interrogating; and explaining. Why should this be?
Well, the answer is simple on one level and complex on another. The simple answer is that The British are engaged in a prolonged and insular discussion with themselves about this very question. And, as is the way with prolonged conversations conducted by families, each of whom has a vested interest in the outcome, this inward discussion is covering every aspect of Britain’s collective identity, history and future. Britain, to an outsider, can seem a powerful country still capable, for better or worse, of power projection, but, all to often, can cast herself in a harsher gaze. And while British people, on the whole, remain deeply patriotic, I suspect, very little of this has to do with her powerful role in the international community of nations, and rather more to do with a sence of Britain as a hard-working and fair-minded place; which oddly, is often at odds with her perception abroad.
Of course, internecine, family debates and discussions about the collective direction to be taken, are good things, allowing air to be cleared, subtle alterations in the family dynamic to be formed and resolution to be reached as to the path to follow, but this relies on a single deep and profound truism to hold sway; namely that blood is thicker than water.
And in modern Britain, for reasons that we shall see, Blood might not be thicker than water any longer, if indeed it ever was.
This is the first of a series of posts examining the British internal debate and its geopolitical context as well as the likely consequences of its resultant discussions. The parts which follow, will be as follows: •
- Part 2: The Two United Kingdoms: The Geopolitical Imperative •
- Part 3: The Two Kingdoms: Devolution and the Break Up of Britain? •
- Part 4: The Two Nations: The British Isles and the European Super State •
- Part 5: The Two Britain’s: Ethnic and Racial Britain •
- Part 6: The Two Countries: Britain and Class •
- Part 7: The two Futures: Britain, the world and the future
As with my trilogy of posts regarding France, the intention is that these should be broadly consecutive, although I may intersperse these with other posts so as to keep things interesting.
We’ll see how it goes.