Forging a new foreign policy in the post-Covid world



When the history of Britain in the first half of the 21st Century is written it may well be that 2020 comes to be a defining year, comparable to 1956 or 1991. A year when the old certainties about the world and Britain’s place in it shifted and a new course was plotted. 1956 and Suez ended our imperial age, while 1991 and the end of the Cold War brought to a close Hobsbawm’s short 20th century, I am confident that 2019 will come to bear a similar book end on our European time. Yet, 2020 won’t be remembered just for Britain’s departure from the European Union, but of course for the Covid-19 Pandemic. In many ways, the latter may prove the harbinger of far greater changes for the world than Brexit. If this is the case Britain must be prepared, because, for better or worse we are now setting forth on a new course and it won’t be smooth sailing. 

Already, even as the worst effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic continue to be felt, and for much of the world outside of Europe the peak has not even be reached a seismic shift in world affairs is underway. The pandemic has expedited long term changes which threaten Britain and its global interests. The rise of China has been a long time coming but Beijing has seized the cover of this disaster to test its new-found power in ways we have not seen before. Hong Kong’s freedom and way of life have been crushed, India’s borders have been tested and Taiwan’s defence’s probed. Chinese manoeuvres, alongside wide spread political and popular perceptions of their culpability for the scale and severity of the Covid-19 Pandemic are shifting attitudes towards China fast. This, alongside Trump’s America First policy are creating a new global trend towards protectionism and anti-globalism. Across the world nations are once more looking to build walls and shut out competition, this poses the most serious threat to British prosperity and long-term security for decades. 

Britain is and has always been an outward looking nation, we Conservatives know that the caricature of Brexit as a little England project has always been a myth. Millions of Conservatives voted not for this caricature but for Boris and Gove’s vision of global Britain forging new ties, free from the chattels of Brussels and its protectionist agenda. Having finally secured the promise of Brexit this vision is threatened by outside forces. That is why we must forge a new foreign policy, one that will secure British prosperity and freedom for the 21st Century. That is why like-minded Conservatives have come together to build a new movement, Conservatives for CANZUK. For we see in CANZUK the chance to deliver on the promise of Brexit while giving Britain a safe harbour in troubled waters. 

CANZUK offers Britain the chance to secure the best of both worlds, its aim of fulfilling the opening up to the world, while also offering much needed security in a troubled world. While the British government can and should strive to deliver new trade deals with nations across the world, especially with like-minded democracies such as Japan and the United States we must recognise that competing interests and divergent systems of governance and regulation will not make this a smooth undertaking. That is why returning to our old partners in Australia, Canada and New Zealand is not just romantic sentiment, or imperial nostalgia, it is good policy. The CANZUK nations, with their shared history, parliamentary systems and common law principles are uniquely positioned to move quickly and smoothly towards a new partnership. It is this speed that is key for Britain in the post-Covid-19 world, for only this can offer Britain the security needed in rapidly changing world.

CANZUK though is more than just a safe port in a storm, it is a partnership based upon common values of individual freedom, respect for the rule of law and a global rule based system. This partnership and the accompanying liberalisation of Britain’s tariff system towards the CANZUK nations will demonstrate a new openness to the world and a dedication to free and fair trade. The importance of such a demonstration at such a dangerous time for global free trade cannot be understated. CANZUK can and should act as a beacon of freedom in a dangerous world just as Britain has done for centuries. Together, the CANZUK nations can and should show the world what can be achieved by rejecting narrow nationalism and short-sighted protectionism. If you, like us, believe a better, freer and more liberal future can be forged join us at Conservatives for CANZUK and help us forge a new path for Britain.  

Jack Sowerby is Policy Lead at Conservatives for CANZUK and Deputy Chairman of South Durham Conservatives. Follow him on twitter: @JackSowerby