In relation to the European Union, and the Hope and Vision for it, which we had but remains unfulfilled; our departure from the EU raises issues about what our future relationship will be, especially as there seems no desire by the core members of the EU and the Eurozone to reform their institutions. Our two areas of concern are the future of Gibraltar and the continuance of the special relationship with the Republic of Ireland through the British + Irish Council and the Common Travel Area. The threats arise from the EU failing to recognise the special status of Ireland by virtue of the Republic being a member of the CTA and of the EU.
The continuance of the CTA should not be in doubt and any problems relating to the border are of a practical nature that can easily and sensibly be resolved. The obstacles to that are of a political nature driven by opportunism. Sinn Fein have demanded the granting of special status to Northern Ireland by the EU with the customs and trading border effectively being pushed in to the Irish Sea. The aim of this is to peal off Northern Ireland from the UK. It is unacceptable, but it seems the Irish Government who are supposed to be impartial by virtue of the Good Friday Agreement, have endorsed that position and thereby created a barrier. The second barrier is the refusal of the EU to discuss future trading arrangements before agreement is reached about the border. But, it is the agreement on customs and trade that will determine how the border will operate in the future. The EU is putting the cart before the horse.
Both the Irish Government and the European Commission keep demanding clarity from the UK, but both are unwilling to place any concrete proposals on the negotiating table. Following the Referendum last year Liam Fox made the UK position very clear. The UK wanted free and fair trade with the EU and would not place any obstacles in the way. However, if terms and conditions were implemented against the UK they would be matched by the UK with the very same measures. That should be the UK position with regard to the Irish border. A free and open border will be maintained between Britain and Ireland, made easy by the fact that neither are in the Schengen Area, and they continue joint external visa arrangements and immigration/entry procedures. In effect that puts the border in to the North Sea and the English Channel.
It is a situation that could be open to abuse and will have to be carefully monitored to ensure criminal elements are frustrated. The EC are right to be wary of the UK being used as a back-door to the EU. Likewise the UK does not want the Republic to be used as a back-door in to Great Britain. With good will it can be policed in an unobtrusive manner. This is not made easy by the attitude and actions of the new Taoiseach, who acts as though the North is already part of his jurisdiction. His undiplomatic visit to Belfast recently, to show solidarity at the Gay Pride event and promote Same Sex Marriage, does not bode well for future relations and does not demonstrate impartiality. It is not Northern Ireland that should have ‘special status’ – it is the Republic of Ireland’s ‘special status’ that should be acknowledged and recognised by the EU.
Spain has a normal veto regarding the final exit agreement from the EU, but has also been given an additional veto in relation to Gibraltar and the application of future trading agreements via the UK. Latest comments by Spain’s Foreign Minister indicate a softening of their official position, with him promising not to raise sovereignty issues during the negotiations.
However, they still aim to recover Gibraltar and restore territorial integrity despite the indisputable fact that Gibraltar was ceded in perpetuity to the British Crown. This softening seems to be in response to concerns raised by 10 thousand Spanish workers who cross the border each day and the wider population who cross to shop and take advantage of lower custom and excise duties, and the absence of VAT. The existing border is not open as Gibraltar is not in the Schengen Area. That will not change, but it is a reason why Gibraltar could join the CTA (and it has strong Irish links) and why a change of status to that of a Crown Dependency would be of great advantage.
The UK is not leaving Europe and will still be a member of the Council of Europe that has a larger membership, and a remit that is much wider than just human rights. Our commitment to European Solidarity can in the future be focused through the CE institutions. Our position would be to concentrate our efforts there for a Europe based on Christian principles and values. As a member of the CE we would still be able to fly the flag inspired by Our Lady and Her crown of twelve stars; and also able to acknowledge the ‘Ode to Joy’ anthem that celebrates brotherhood, peace and understanding. Both the flag and anthem originated with and were adopted by the Council of Europe, but were later high-jacked by the EU.
Of course the UK will still be a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Whatever the future for a European Defence Union, we will be detached. Our future lies in being more independent and more influential. The support from the UK government for Germany having a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, with a veto, should be withdrawn. It will not be our concern if the EDU wants that status in the future, but it will then be up to France to concede that status in their place.
In relation to the United Nations our aim would be to maintain the UKs pre-eminent position on the Security Council, but to reset the approach away from population control, replacing that with pro life and family positions. There is evidence of mission creep by UN agencies that are now out of control. Many are redefining Charters, Conventions and Declarations to suit their own progressive agendas, contrary to the decisions and wishes of the UN General Assembly. They need to be curbed or if necessary disbanded. The UN also seems to be incapable of controlling the activities of Non Governmental Organisations and their financial backers. This is a grave situation when the likes of George Soros and his co-conspirators are able to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states. The entry by corporate entities in to space exploration that has a commercial motivation, resulting in despoilation and exploitation, also gives cause for concern.
The UK government does not engage the public when it takes up a foreign policy position or pursues initiatives at the UN. Never apologise and never explain seems to be the historic culture ingrained at the Foreign Office. That needs to change with a new culture of openness and transparency. We have concerns about the FO support for the inclusion of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan as permanent members of the Security Council as this will make it even more difficult to achieve a consensus. The proliferation of nuclear states is a sign of failure, as also is the fact that the existing five veto holding permanent members are the world’s biggest arms producers. If those five cannot prioritise a plan for arms reduction and a further extension of Nuclear Free Zones, we have to question their raison d’etre.
This major problem is peculiar in that it only afflicts the Northern Hemisphere, as the whole of the Southern Hemisphere – including all of Africa and Central & South America – are NFZ. The UK respects these long-standing agreements and is committed to not infringing them by taking nuclear weapons in to those regions. So, nuclear bombs and missiles will never be based in the Falklands, for example. In the future we could be called on to police the South Atlantic and need to be prepared for that eventuality. It should be remembered that NATO responsibility ends at the Tropic of Cancer.
Potential flash points are in Central Asia, the Far East and Pacific; with China being a greater threat than Russia. While we should not get directly involved, we might have to provide cover if the US Navy is withdrawn to the Pacific. This happened during the Viet Nam conflict when the maintaining of carrier task groups off-shore put a great strain on the US Navy. The US focus has already shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is clear that we are going through a period of change that requires a totally different approach to UK foreign policy. A renewed commitment to the Commonwealth and a declaration that the UK will defend its interests on the Security Council would be a minimum position. It should also be recognised that we can be drawn in to conflict due to Treaty obligations; meaning that we should not make promises we cannot keep. This requires the maintaining of a credible military force.