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A New, ‘Open’ and Democratic World Order

Writing for the Independent, Kim Sengupta reports that Britain will help shape a new global order and leave behind an “outdated” international system which no longer serves the country’s interests, Boris Johnson’s government has declared ahead of the integrated review of defence, security, and foreign policies.

Above: HMS Queen Elizabeth at Glen Mallan

© Jane Barlow/PA Wire/PA Images

As well as laying out plans focusing on cyberwarfare in defence, and new counterterrorism initiatives, the review will outline how post-Brexit Britain will seek to build strategic and commercial alliances away from Europe, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.

The prime minister will launch the east-of-Suez initiative during a visit to India later this month. The keen interest in strengthening ties in the area has already been illustrated by the invitation issued to India, Australia and South Korea to join the G7 summit after the UK assumed presidency of the group this year.

The Indo-Pacific is “increasingly the geopolitical centre of the world”, No 10 said, stressing that the review would make clear that “there will be some shifts” in the UK’s international policy.

“The UK is applying for partner status at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and at the end of April the prime minister will travel to India on his first major international visit following our departure from the EU”, a spokesperson said.

There are also plans to apply for membership of the 11-state Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). “The UK cannot rely solely on an increasingly outdated international system to protect our interests and promote our values. Instead, it will establish a new government foreign policy of increased international activism and a UK that works, alongside our allies and using all the tools at our disposal, to shape a more open international order in which democracies flourish”, said Downing Street.

The alliance of democracies being proposed is being viewed in the Indo-Pacific as a move against the hegemonic expansion of China. The British government has also mooted teaming up with the “quadrilateral” group of the US, Australia, Japan and India. US President Joe Biden took part in the first summit of the group’s leaders, in a virtual forum, last week with Scott Morrison, Narendra Modi, and Yoshihide Suga.

The integrated review will point to the military role the UK is ramping up in east Asia. The Royal Navy’s flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is due to take her maiden voyage in the Indo-Pacific with American F-35 warplanes on board.

Measures on security will include setting up a “situation centre” in the Cabinet Office, which will draw on the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic to organise and use the of data to anticipate and respond to future crises.

Counterterrorism centres will be established by bringing together the intelligence agencies, police and prosecutors to respond to attacks.

Mr Johnson will say on the review’s conclusions: “I am profoundly optimistic about the UK’s place in the world and our ability to seize the opportunities ahead.

“The ingenuity of our citizens and the strength of our union will combine with our international partnerships, modernised armed forces and a new green agenda, enabling us to look forward with confidence as we shape the world of the future.”

© Kim Sengupta / The Independent

KJM Today Opinion

While the PM is essentially correct in seeking to widen the UK's global interests (something the country could not do by itself as a member of the EU), we cannot help but wonder about the idea of helping to shape a new world order that is 'open' and 'democratic'.

As laudable as the sentiment is, it does not sit easily with the current situation both in the UK and elsewhere around the world, where draconian restrictions on liberty and freedom remain in place as a standard response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whilst we do believe the PM is right to pursue his worldwide aims, he must also pay attention to the perception of him and his government here in the UK - not to mention continuing to build bridges and restoring an equable relationship with countries in Europe, both those within the EU and outside it.

Talk of new world orders is however unwise and does little to allay fears from an increasing number of people that COVID-19 has been and continues to be and excuse for imposing that new order upon a previously free people.


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