The draft of a speech seemingly prepared for the Prime Minister at her direction has been leaked (although not necessarily at her direction) to the editor. It forces a completely new assessment of what she wishes to achieve, and a new admiration for her vision and courage, two virtues far exceeding those of her opponents in this country and in Brussels. Her insistence on rejecting the parochial politics of Brexit for the global politics in which the restructuring of the European Union is only one part — alongside fifty million refugees and Africa’s legitimate ambitions — will place her opponents at serious disadvantage.
The eager anticipation expressed by so many wishing to learn the details of our strategic approach to Brexit is, really, most encouraging, reflecting, as it surely does, widespread enthusiasm for the new opportunities it brings us both for expanded trade globally and, no less important, the necessary improvements in national security. I intend today to set these opportunities out very briefly and in context.
Context is important and, I fear, the true Brexit context is easily overlooked by too many. Brexit may appear important to Europeans, but this does not mean it will be considered so in isolation from the World. Matters of a global importance will affect us all, eventually, much more than will Brexit.
Of these the most serious by far is the unsolved problem of the fifty or sixty million people displaced from their homes and having too many children for the resources available. Many countries make small contributions to the alleviation of their misery, but who is producing the solution to it? If we project the World refugee population forward for only a few years we can quickly see it to be a catastrophic trend, catastrophic for the refugees and catastrophic, too, for the remainder of the World’s steadily expanding population as it is crushed in the rush for resources.
Allied with this problem and part of it is the African continent, and this, too, is a European matter. Millions there will join the flow, already well established, northward towards Europe. They are coming for our technology, to learn our skills, and to return home to use them. Regrettably, once here they often prefer to stay, and their home countries stay poor. Their passage may be blocked temporarily in Libya, if the EU pays Libya appropriately, but we have seen already how these migrants spread out around the Mediterranean to find alternative entry points, and Libya is now encumbered by a civil war between rival governments supported intermittently by rival groups of militias and criminal gangs.
No Brexit plans will make any sense at all unless the reconstruction they require of the EU recognises these two neglected problems, Asian refugees and African migrants, and caters for them while attending to the dangers of Libya following the path of Syria. I shall return to this.
Our United Kingdom
But first: What, in the context of what I have just described, is the British attitude to Brexit? It can be summarised easily. The United Kingdom wishes to retain its access to the Single Market, to recover control of its frontiers, and to repatriate its lawmaking, all while remaining the EU’s most loyal ally and firmest friend.
I shall repeat that. We seek to remain the EU’s most loyal ally and firmest friend.
To demonstrate what I mean by loyal alliance and firm friendship we shall give to the EU a major asset for which its leaders yearn but cannot find a means to acquire, and as a new Global Britain we shall lead a world-wide, tariff-free trade expansion.
And for the removal of any doubt I shall answer this question. What is this United Kingdom of which I am spokesman and which has these aims? It is a Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and within its boundaries there are Highlanders and Lowlanders, Yorkists and Lancastrians, Ulstermen and Cornishmen, Anglians and Brummies, Scouses and Geordies, all of whom are British and, with all their countrymen, disinclined to suffer frustration when they have decided what they want.
Any who believe the Brexit vote can be frustrated by separatist movements should examine the damage done to Scotland by extremist sentiment. I am frequently told that Scotland voted to remain in the EU, but Scotland did not vote. Scotland had no vote. Scotland as a country is a physical reality, and as ancestral history it is a spiritual reality, but extended into some anthropomorphic fantasy it does not acquire the franchise. The reality is that a majority of those Scottish residents listed on the electoral roll who went to the polls and voted did indeed express their wish to remain in the EU, but that offers no guide to the future. The economic situation in Scotland is now in flux, and any future independence poll that I might authorise will respect the powerful sentiment of Scottish ancestry, and be extended to include, in addition to all UK residents, all who justifiably boast of pride in their Scottish traditions and their British history wherever in the World they reside.
Europe’s Mediterranean Sea
The freedom Brexit brings to the United Kingdom will open our horizons to immense opportunities and to new ways to work with the other European states for the benefit of all. We believe in free trade, and as a leader in its promotion I foresee us working very closely with the EU on the development of the European economy. But this is only the obvious Brexit benefit everyone can see.
The less obvious is the route to a new rationalisation of European Defence in the light of the more recent analyses of the threats and the existing dangers. NATO will remain the principal safeguard with respect to territorial ambitions arising in the east, because it provides the structure to keep the United States as close as possible, and it ties the United Kingdom into a European alliance, but as it is unreasonable to expect the United States to fund the protection of Europe’s Mediterranean flank against migrants in the numbers currently expected, and against the millions of refugees forecast for the future, the United Kingdom will lead the new Mediterranean-based European Alliance.
The Mediterranean is a European Sea, historically controlled by the Royal Navy with the support of France and Italy, and its future control, so important in the face of the future threats we all recognise, will be based primarily on a new carrier fleet operating around the British aircraft carriers. However, the provision of an active defence is insufficient. The fundamental nature of the two threats we face, large numbers of impoverished and malnourished humans with small numbers among them whose intentions may deserve less sympathy, requires proactive measures.
Libya, the country through which a substantial proportion of the current flows seek to pass, is the fourth largest in Africa and has a population of less than seven million. Its fertile littoral can be expanded southward with the nourishing waters already tapped from beneath the desert sands and available in great lakes feeding the pipes Gadaffi had the foresight to lay for his “Great Man-Made River”. Unfortunately, the system has suffered serious damage during the Libyan conflicts, but this can be repaired and must be repaired, for here is a destination, starting with 5,000 square miles leased by the UN or the EU from a newly pacified and united Libyan government, for the many millions who could be shipped in during the coming decades. As a secular protectorate under the care of the European Alliance, financed by oil, gas and international investment, with a credible guarantee of security, it could prosper as did Carthage, and as did the early Arab conquest when Islam spread westwards.
Libya is currently in serious trouble, and nothing is to be gained by pretending otherwise. It threatens to follow the path blazed by Syria, yet need not do so if the UN, NATO, EU and, as the leader of the European Alliance, the UK, are willing, jointly, to impose peace with the aid of investment finance and, where necessary, maximum force.
The Libyan Protectorate
The migration northward of ambitious Africans could be controlled once this magnet was in place and functioning as a serious industrial centre, and as this would facilitate cooperation with those governments which had encouraged the emigration in search of the expertise needed at home, there would then be opportunities for an intellectual recolonisation of Africa with European direction of the investment necessary to unlock the continent’s underground riches.
The great nineteenth century expansion of British industry was based on the opportunities offered by an empire of trade and underground wealth. This will now be repeated for the alliance of the EU, UK and the cooperating European states directing the investment flows into the Libyan Protectorate and the sub-Saharan states. All cooperating governments will gain from this partnership.
But what I propose is, I must emphasise, based on peace and security. In the Mediterranean this means a strong naval presence, and although some EU members can offer a few ships for specific operations, the EU itself has no naval assets and no naval command experience to impress African governments and Chinese investors. I propose that the United Kingdom will provide these.
The two aircraft carriers being built for the Royal Navy were designed for wars quite different from those that might possibly be fought today, and are far too vulnerable to modern ballistic missiles to be risked in a serious conflict with another major power. Moreover, the strike aircraft intended for use with them are far too short in range for use in a major war. (Their acquisition has been, and doubtless would continue to be, more controversial than any in our history, but we need not be drawn into arguments about their capabilities other than to note that their range, about which there is no argument, is too short to be of practical use for the Royal Navy.) Accordingly, I am instructing the Ministry of Defence to cancel these strike aircraft and to supply costings for the conversion of these two warships into Disaster-Relief Ships, assets the World has needed for many decades. The necessary finance will be supplied from our International Aid budget.
As Disaster-Relief Ships they will carry Chinook helicopters, Osprey VTOL transport aircraft, and small Dolphin utility/liaison aircraft. Their galleys will be capable of producing many thousands of meals per day, and a water purification plant will cater for the most common shortage in disaster scenarios. There will be an extensive medical/surgical department with high-tech operating theatres and hundreds of beds. One of the two ships will always be on duty in the Mediterranean, acting as the Command Centre of the screen protecting Libya, and combatting illegal immigration and piracy, while the other, when not in refit, will cruise in the tropics’ earthquake belt.
The two ships will be supplied to the EU for use by the European Alliance, with positioning crews found by the Royal Navy, on what is effectively a renewable twelve-year wet-lease. (They will fly the EU standard at the bow and the White Ensign at the stern.) When needed, the operational crews, whose members will be drawn from many different European countries, will be flown in from all directions to a disaster area’s nearest airports, and then will transfer to the ships by Ospreys or Chinooks.
I said that we would remain the EU’s most loyal ally and firmest friend, and that we would seek to share the opportunities our freedom would create. These opportunities will be in Africa, which we shall help with the technology its peoples come to Europe to find, our friendship with the EU will be symbolised by the EU disaster-relief ships, and in the European Alliance partnership the UK, the EU and the independent European countries will expand tariff-free trade with the British Commonwealth countries, the North American countries, and all others seeking to advance peace and prosperity.
We shall not know until Tuesday whether the PM will use this draft, or whether she will use any part of it, but we hope she will at least insist that the UK will remain undivided and intent on continuing as the EU’s most loyal ally and firmest friend. An aircraft carrier has not been a useful war weapon for many years now; the weapon is the carrier fleet, and even the US is beginning to have doubts about the viability of theirs. The UK cannot afford to put to sea a complete and fully manned, fully armed carrier fleet, and will not in 2020 be able to protect its carriers against the known 2020 missile and submarine threats.
The draft’s comments on the Joint Strike Fighter version the UK is buying, the F-35B, are a very modest criticism. In this blog it has been categorised as a golden turkey which cannot climb, cannot turn, cannot fight, cannot run, and cannot be afforded. However, while all this will be denied, the PM has used only the killer argument: the F-35B has no legs. There can be no denial for this. The sales brochure range figure bears no relationship to the actual performance figures the planners and pilots must use on operations at sea in adverse weather conditions and with no air-refuelling capability.
With the wet-lease cost paid from the International Aid budget, there will be a useful contribution to the Defence budget each year, a Defence budget already boosted significantly by the cancellation of the redundant F-35B, and these supplements will help pay for the aircraft the RAF really needs. and for the personnel the Royal Navy must have to compensate for those so foolishly discarded during the recent ill-planned redundancy programmes.