Thursday, 27 September 2018

British influence beyond Brexit


There is some debate on Twitter as to the UK's future influence in regulatory affairs. Predictably the remainer brigade see the UK as a down and out with nothing to offer and utterly powerless without the EU. I am quite sure they would like that to be the case but it isn't.

There are six British universities in the top 30 in the World University Rankings published this week - and none from the EU. This matters as international cooperation agreements involving UK universities are part of our soft power apparatus - and the means by which we continue to influence regulation. International regulatory bodies have cooperation agreements with all of them. We influence the agenda from contract law (UNIDROIT) to clean energy (UNECE).

Some doubt that UK universities will continue to perform after Brexit, but the fact of the matter is that prestige is a big draw. Oxford is still Oxford and you only need to visit the place to see why wealthy and capable people would want an Oxford degree on their CV. Much will depend on the type of deal we secure with the EU and continued support for our universities but it is hard to envisage any scenario where our best institutions fail to compete globally. 

It should also be noted that when we leave the EU we are also taking back a lot of administrative and technical talent. Though the EMA is relocating to Amsterdam it is struggling to bring its people with it. Departures could be as high as 30% of staff, with what the agency describes as "a high degree of uncertainty regarding mid-term staff retention". Previously, the agency had estimated only a 19% loss of staff. Moreover, the predicted "brain drain" just isn't going to happen. Families are nowhere near as rootless as the EU would like them to be.

One of the argument for Brexit, in my view erroneous, is that the UK has no influence in Brussels. Far from it. Britain has shaped the Commission and we practically invented bureaucracy. The national expertise is good governance and that will continue to be a major cultural export for the UK, not least as we are seeing Malaysia and the far east gradually upping their game in terms of civics. Those functions of UK government not run directly by politicians work probably better than anywhere.

When we leave the EU we are taking with us a large contingent of the EU's intellectual capital and some of its best human resources. That is not to say it's a mortal blow for the EU but even the EU has said the UK's input will be missed. What matters now is how we re-purpose that talent to act in the direct national interest.

Remainers continue to assert that a country of 65 million is irrelevant after Brexit. This actually quite an objectionable dismissal of the human capital in the UK, not forgetting that, Brexit notwithstanding, we are still a wealthy country by most measures. The UK is a technological pioneer in the nuclear sector and with that goes influence in emerging standards. Standards will often take best practice derived from experience and our voice is not going to be excluded just for having left the EU.

When we leave the EU the UK regains its right of initiative in all of the global bodies and there is no reason why we cannot use that to our advantage as others have. If we managed to shape the EU to become what it is, through carefully chosen ad-hoc sectoral alliances we can outflank the EU which is often crippled by its own internal contradictions and the protectionist instincts of member states.

Brexit will mean the UK will suffer a loss of influence in some areas but then without the UK so will the EU. We will be free to sponsor the initiatives of others and even our vote will be a tradeable tool. The EU will have to ask for our support rather than dictating it - which is very often the case.

Much of Britain's international successes happen in spite of our government, not because of it. Unlike a hundred countries we have no shortage of expertise - on everything from aerospace, agriculture, nuclear engineering and defence. London is a global city that will not lose its global appeal - despite the tiresome wailing of remainers. 

There is one other point though. UK political influence amplified by EU membership is actually not influence. The UKs political inputs tend to mirror the globalist outlook of the EU. It's a very particular groupthink personified by Emmanuel Macron who vomits boilerplate progressive mantras into the international domain. Liberals now pathetically hail him as the new leader of the free world.  

What they haven't clocked is that Macron represents the dregs of a dying order as the tectonic plates of global politics begin to shift away from the sort of hyperglobalisation pursued by the EU. There is a new mood afoot. As Peter Hitchens puts it "Globalization is all about wealth. It knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Without borders the world will become—is visibly becoming—a howling desert of traffic fumes, plastic and concrete, where nowhere is home and the only language is money".

That is about where I'm at. I do not think the current trends are welcome or sustainable and "free trade" is overrated. It seeks ultra efficiency when humanity itself is not an efficient species and our welfare cannot be distilled to a handful of economic metrics. Again I find cause to quote Paul Embery writing in Unherd.
For 40 years, the nation state found itself caught in a pincer movement, assailed by two kinds of globaliser: on one flank, the economic globalisers in the form of the multinationals and speculators, the totems of neoliberal ideology, with their demands for access-all-areas and reductions in regulations, including controls over capital and labour; and, on the other, the political globalisers in the form of a cultural elite whose brand of cosmopolitan liberalism and internationalism became so dominant within our modern establishment.
The first stood to benefit in the form of greater global clout and increased profits; the second from the advance to their desired destination of a borderless world, in which we all exist alongside each other in a diverse and liberal utopia under the benevolent patronage of assorted wise technocrats. Both groups had little more than the bare minimum of loyalty to the nation.
And therein lies the problem. We have a political class who have forgotten who they serve, and will serve any passing globalist fad, further alienating themselves from the people. Through the EU the UK does get to advance an agenda but it is that same shared agenda - and while those may be shared values of the EU political elites, the people of Stoke-on-Trent and Sunderland think differently.

The globalist elite consensus is one of habitual capitulation and moral cowardice. It only extends goodwill to those who conform to the consensus and joins the ranks of polite society. The bland functionaries working inside the EU, marinated in political correctness, are a product of that culture of conformity and the policies and directives which flow from it are a reflection of that "progressive" groupthink. If that is what it means to have "global influence" then you can keep it.

What we are now seeing, especially in the wake of Brexit is a paranoid liberal establishment, convinced that the recent wave of populism marks the rise of the "far right" when really all we are seeing is the people of Europe rejecting the notion that their neighbourhoods are just transient strips of land to be occupied by rootless bipeds.

In its paranoia it is becoming increasingly authoritarian - ever more keen to clamp down on independent media and police language. Anything to defend their total ownership of the political apparatus. We have now seen countless op-eds about the collapse of the liberal democracy, but it turns out it isn't that liberal and nowhere close to democracy. 

We are told that the West is turning down a dark path, and that the UK is following the USA into some sort of fascist abyss. I just don't see it. I have no particular love of the Trump administration but in terms of the administration's posture it's values are more in line with my own that those of the EU. The USA is no longer going to prop up UN corrupt UNGA agencies nor will it firehose money at Palestinian terrorists (unlike the EU). I'm supposed to hate US Ambassador Nikki Haley. I'm sorry but I just don't. She's ace! The USA is ending decades of liberal hypocrisy. Just for once there is some moral clarity in the West. 

More to the point, the globalist progressive agenda is not without its own bodycount. Aggressive, nay murderous, trade liberalisation policies have ravaged Africa, uprooted populations and killed thousands as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean. The slowness to act, combined with ill-judged military interventions has done more to push Europe down the populist avenue than any YouTube blog.

Personally I see very little point in having international influence in political affairs if our own political class have a value system that is totally alien to the people they nominally serve. If Brexit cuts off our political establishment from that hive of virtue signalling narcissism then we have limited the damage it can do. They said Britain would be an act of self-isolation. This is perhaps no bad thing.

In any case, the notion that we have amplified influence through the EU is not one that particularly resonates. UK castigation of murderous tinpot regimes seldom count for anything, not least since we're selling half of them the weapons to do it. EU sanctions are often useless, totally hypocritical or in the case of Russian gas, completely ignored. The EU has soft power but wields it clumsily and often without unity or clarity of purpose. European solidarity is a myth. 

It is also an extraordinary arrogance to believe that our collective timid bleating constitutes influence. It has not brought an end to the fighting in Syria or Ukraine or accomplished anything further afield. What we're dealing with when europhiles bleat about British overseas influence is actually EU colonialism - as a substitute for a lost empire. This is usually an accusation levelled at Brexiteers and their fondness for the Commonwealth, but in europhiles we see an enthusiasm for bullying the world into following the West's suicidal progressive ideology. They don't seem to have noticed the tide of history.

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