Following the Prime Minister’s decision to veto the proposed EU Treaty last week, which has put the UK in the slow lane within a two speed Europe, it’s important the Government looks to develop our other international relationships. Here are ten they should move forward:
1. BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China are vast growing markets that we must look to enhance our ties with. Each can be approached in a different way, with perhaps closer links to Brazil on sustainability, energy cooperation with Russia, major trade links with India and offering cash-rich China unbeatable investment opportunities.
2. Scandinavia – They share some of the euro-scepticism often cited in the UK; Norway isn’t an EU member, whilst Sweden and Denmark stand outside the eurozone. Ties can be strengthened over issues such as fishing and energy policy – for instance by creating a shared super grid. A more ambitious move would be to create an informal Northern European group, including all of the Nordic countries.
3. Commonwealth – Whilst being a group that developed from British colonialism, it still represents an opportunity for the UK to influence and partner with a range of countries right across the world. Nigeria in particular is a country with a rapidly growing GDP, who we should seek closer ties with. A fair, free trade zone for this group should be the priority. A collective human rights agreement should also be pushed for, perhaps with aid incentives to ease the process.
4. Turkey – A fellow NATO member and strategically important for a number of reasons. Asia and Europe meet in Turkey, and they have genuine influence in the Arab world. As a fast developing country, Turkey represents a growing market to be traded with. Our support for them to join the EU remains in stark contrast to the position of France and others.
5. Switzerland – The Swiss approach towards Europe appears to be the one the UK is heading towards, rightly or wrongly. The UK should therefore look to share information and methods with the Swiss. They have carved out a successful niche for themselves, in terms of finance and defence for instance, despite being geographically in the heart of Europe.
6. Indonesia – Its economy will be larger than that of the UK by 2050, according to PWC, and increased trade and cooperation is desirable. They provide a link between the westernised countries of Australia and New Zealand to the rest of Asia and close working on finance and sustainability is desirable.
7. Mexico – Another country with an economy on the move and again with a useful strategic link to the rest of the continent. Closer ties with Mexico can help the UK to exert real influence over the United States who remains nervous over issues such as drugs smuggling. It also presents a starting post to developing greater trade with other parts of Latin America, which have too often been neglected.
8. United Nations – The U.N. needs to become more responsive to the needs of the majority of members if it is to stay relevant. It is in need of reform, particularly the Security Council. As a member of the top table, we have an opportunity to show the world we are leading this agenda. Having lost respect in Europe, this can help to restore the UK’s international credibility.
9. Japan – As a country with strong values, ambition and a focus on technology and engineering, Japan is a natural fit for the UK as a political and economic ally. They remain resilient despite financial pressures and the effects of terrible natural disasters. Sharing knowledge and experience in industries such as robotics and advanced manufacturing can provide a real boost to both economies.
10. Germany – If the UK is to be a peripheral figure in Europe, maintaining some influence can achieved through ties with Germany. Sharing knowledge in industries such as manufacturing and pharmaceuticals can help. Greater defence co-operation with the Germans may also provide a boost to a country that feels left out of recent Anglo-French agreements.
When undertaking these relationships, it’s important the UK respects the sovereignty of other nations, whilst where appropriate seeking to influence their human rights and sustainability records. Closer links with developing countries, such as Indonesia, must also be balanced with commitments to improve their infrastructure and the living conditions of their people.
Whilst these relations invariably involve walking a diplomatic tightrope, consistency, mutual trust, and solidarity must become key features of our foreign policy. Opportunities have now arisen for enhanced international ties with a range of countries and it’s vital for our economic viability and influence that they are taken.