HMS Queen Elizabeth will Strengthen Britain’s Position Post-Brexit – Conservative Article
Post-Brexit, Britain is at a crossroads. Its standing and reputation are at a tipping point, at risk of steep decline. What’s needed is a big statement. The government is pinning a lot of hope on two very big, and very grey, Aircraft Carriers. They hope they will be a figurehead and visible statement of our foreign policy henceforth. They hope to use them to demonstrate that Britain is very much here to stay and now embracing a far more global outlook.
The Queen Elizabeth class of two aircraft carriers are the most visual embodiment of an almost complete reorganisation of the fleet. When complete, it will be the culmination of a project that will see the introduction of 33 surface ships and submarines in just over three decades. Though not the largest global fleet, it will make the Royal Navy an exceptionally capable force, with some of the most advanced equipment of anyone.
Ordered by Tony Blair’s government and built and commissioned during times of economic hardship – a decision that has leveled significant and sometimes understandable criticism – the new ships will prove to be a justified expense.
It’s very easy to dub the carriers as mere vanity projects; a nod to the nostalgia of Britain’s prior high status, indicative of a level of denial about the amount of power Britain truly deserves. But Britain’s place is ours to make, and post-Brexit is the perfect time to re-evaluate and re-affirm it. Investing in this type of naval ship elevates Britain. They provide not just visible hard power, but substantial soft power and status on the global stage, at a time when Britain really needs it. They make people want to be our friends.
With this enlargement of hard power, Britain is establishing itself as custodian of the North Sea during ever cooling Russian relations. This simultaneously provides a tool for global influence. The latest Defence Review described the government’s intention to develop influence in the Indo-Pacific region – where some of the world’s fastest-growing economies are – a project far easier with naval capabilities on this scale.
For too long, the only western nation outside of the USA to have large and modern Aircraft Carriers has been France with its lone single carrier. But the new ships of the Elizabeth Class move the UK to the top of the list of European Naval powers. Thus loosening America’s monopoly on Western naval presence and NATO as a whole.
Post-Brexit, the UK is going to have to really fight for its place in the world and take opportunities as they present themselves. Britain now has the opportunity to re-write its foreign policy to be more global and outward-looking.
One of the major issues Britain has had with the European Union is its tendency to permeate member-state policy-making at all levels. This perceived stranglehold offended many British voters. There was a perception that Britain, an island nation whose history was dominated by its autonomy, had lost its ability to follow its independent goals. Now Britain has left, it is no longer tied to Europe as its virtually exclusive trading partner. The UK now needs to look wider afield to fill the void that leaves.
This is something the remaining EU nations will have to consider themselves. If European states wish to remain serious about standing up to Russia, Europe’s largest and most pertinent threat, they will have to look to Britain as a major player in that stand. It is in their best interest to try and focus Britain’s now wandering global outlook back towards Europe and away from its more natural friends in Canada, America, and Australia.
But these ships present more than just hard power. Aircraft Carriers cannot operate alone, this requires cooperation with other nations to provide ships for Carrier Strike Groups that Britain cannot. However, this itself poses a further opportunity.
During the first deployment of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, which will see it circumnavigate the globe, ships from 40 different countries will join at various intervals. Relationships can start with small-scale cooperation such as these and build from there. Take the new type 26 frigate construction project, for example, that is being built in coordination with both Canada and Australia. This embodies a progressive alignment of military capability and national relationships.
HMS Queen Elizabeth will be incredibly visible to governments around the world as she completes her deployment. She symbolises a significant shift, certainly in the clarity of intentions, that Britain is no longer just a European Nation, but a global one.
It is difficult to deny the status that having two of the largest Aircraft Carriers in the world will bring. Britain is a nation that people want to be allied with and, with careful management, this new military capability will enable the creation of new and mutually beneficial relationships encompassing more than just defence.
But, as Uncle Ben from Spiderman once said, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. The ships undoubtedly have benefits, but the consequence of being this significantly more visible brings a level of scrutiny not just from Britain’s allies but from its foes as well. Questions will, though, remain as to whether this is the right way of regaining status.
But for now, the government is left with several challenging responsibilities. Learning how to be a leading voice within NATO and understand how/when to use that voice is arguably the most challenging balancing act. This is something Britain has in the past been very adept at, but it is something it will rapidly have to relearn.
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, Alex Mcquitty
Point of Information
Global Britain, Trade and The Navy – A Labour Response
What is the role of the navy? You ask a navy recruiter and they would say it’s a character-building discipline. Ask Priti Patel and she might say it’s for blowing up dinghies in the channel. They would both be wrong. The modern idea of the navy comes from our 17th to 19th-century idea of empire.
How do you make a cup of tea? It might seem like a simple question. However, considering all the inputs of labour, resources, and time it becomes a deeply complex web. The cost of growing tea in Bengal to be shipped through Egypt to be packaged in Portsmouth to finally be sold in Newfoundland would take weeks to plan. However, under a unified imperial trading system, the British Empire saw transaction costs shrink and profits grow. This is the benefit of economies of scale, the bigger the empire, the bigger the profits. However in a system designed for profit and resource extraction in order to ensure the money keeps rolling in, what you need is police, laws, and crucially: big gunboats to protect shipping convoys.
With the rapid collapse of empires post-World War 2, the West wouldn’t again seek to emulate the economy of the empire in the previous century. No more high tariff competing economies with competing armies to match protections. We in Europe with the rise of the EU realised that tying our economies together through equal cooperation was the best way to avoid catastrophic bloodshed. While on the other side of the world the manufacturing giants of China and the United States had to maintain giant navies and military bases. This was to ensure that their cheap goods and imports for their giant domestic markets could be maintained. Russia itself built ties over the land into central Asia and eastern Europe. Its export of natural gases and petroleum guaranteed cooperation in order to protect its vulnerable core.
These countries are unique, maintaining large militaries and navies to keep their profits flowing. Dominating immediate neighbours and when there’s no one else to dominate, exert your global reach through the use of your military bases.
This is a very long-winded way of saying that Britain does NOT fit into this category. We are no longer the world-spanning empire we were. We are now prisoners of our geography, doomed to forever be a player on the European stage, not a global one. Politics and trade will continue to revolve around the Brussels-London axis. An example of this would be while the UK is “free” to build trade deals with AESAN, even asking to join the pacific organisation, it only accounts for £36 billion a year. UK trade to Germany alone amounts to £136 billion, over 10% of our exports.
There would be about a billion other things I could happily list that we spend our money on other than aircraft carriers. Even our US allies think our deployment of the carriers to Asia could be better used closer to home. However, they do serve a purpose; selling to brexiteers that triggering article 50 was going to make our island float away from the continent forever.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Joseph McLaughlin
What A Shameful Waste of Money for Britain – A Liberal Response
That’s how much the two ships in the Queen Elizabeth class have cost the government and the taxpayer to build. This is before we account for maintenance costs, fuel, and the salaries for the crews on board (both have a minimum crew of 700.) That simply is far too much for what is just a meaningless power symbol. As my Labour colleague, Joseph, writes, these aren’t the days of empire and naval domination anymore and Britain isn’t the global hegemon it once was.
Instead, let’s think about where this money could be better spent. The 3% pay rise for NHS workers is expected to cost £1.5-2 billion and the government has already asked NHS England to cover about £500 million of that. If the government wasn’t busy building unnecessary ships, they could afford to give our NHS staff a proper pay rise, without having to dip into their funding.
Alternatively, the £6.7 billion could fund 111,000 social homes, 980,000 state pensions for a year, or 270 new secondary schools.
Whilst I recognise the need to establish ourselves on the global stage, building two big boats isn’t the way to do it. Instead, we should prioritise ourselves and focus on fixing our own problems. We must lead by example, not by boat size.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Luca Boyd