Saturday 26 January 2013

US/UK 'Special Relationship', Britain's financial empire

An interesting post at Duck of Minerva on Britain's relations with the US.

It has long been noted that the UK's national interest foreign policy-wise is halfway between the US and the EU. Yet what Brits fail to realise is that our value to the US very much depends on being part of the EU. Actually, I think a lot of the political elites do understand this but the nationalist (or perhaps a better word would be 'sovereigntist') lobby is still very powerful and a lot of parliamentary political fates depend on it, especially for the Tories.

The one major thing that's missing from Stacey's analysis is the UK's financial sector, which has the British political system in its pocket, even now. The Conservative government seem to see Britain's future in its economic and financial empire, connected through its former colonies in the British Virgin Islands, Gibraltar, etc. (Britain's "Second Empire", as Ronen Palan calls it.) The overriding national interest, as the right-wing elites see it (though not so much the right-wing electorate -- that's the schism), is to maintain Britain's position within the world's financial networks and to dig in deeper if possible. Hence the austerity agenda isn't just neoliberal ideological madness (though it is that) -- they also intend to strip away as much regulation as possible while choking off the last remnants of social democracy so as to give Britain an edge in the 'race to the bottom' of the barrel of global finance. David Cameron's recent rhetoric on tax avoidance, etc. would suggest the contrary to this but his words are hollow and in no way represent his government's actions or intentions. Because this path is a road to economic -- and consequently political -- ruin for most of the country the real question is whether they can achieve all their goals before the next election, which they look rather likely to lose at this rate.

I don't know as much as I should about Britain's military capabilities but it is remarkable that our government continues to insist (as did the Labour govt. before it) that we still need a so-called independent nuclear deterrent but we can do without the kind of resources that would actually be of use in the 21st century neo-colonial, interventionist style of warfare that seems to be the new norm. Maybe Britain needs to get it's priorities straight. I won't hold my breath.

Anyway, when push comes to shove on the EU I expect Britain's relationship to remain largely unaltered. If renegotiation happens it'll involve getting out of whatever taxes or regulations the EU wants to put on the City of London. Leaving the EU would be generally popular with the public but business has no desire for it and that, as I have mentioned, is where Britain's national interest is seen to reside.