Why the UK's AUKUS deal is a success and shows the folly of the SNP’s Brexit resistance - Brian Monteith

I consider myself a Francophile. It would have been difficult to be otherwise and choose, as I did, to live in South West France for over a decade while I plied my trade as an international communications consultant.

US President Joe Biden participates is a virtual press conference on national security with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Picture: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
US President Joe Biden participates is a virtual press conference on national security with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Picture: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

I also consider myself an Anglophile; I like Germany too, Spain and Japan – and of course adore Italy.

None of this love of other countries and their peoples has ever left me feeling diminished in my sense of being Scottish and British, and proud of both. Vive la difference I say.

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So, for me, the act of Brexit was never about retreating to become an insular little Englander or secluded Scot – it was always about Britain regaining its authority to act in its own best interests in the international world, looking beyond the European horizon which had conditioned our political class to the EU's mercantilist limitations.

US President Joe Biden (left) with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during their meeting at the G7 summit in Cornwall. Picture: Toby Melville/PA Wire
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The single market and customs union, while seemingly a large attractive captive market, came at cost to the whole country, not least the 95 per cent of British businesses that did not trade with it – while exporting poverty to the developing world who faced extreme tariff barriers, quotas and regulations that kept them in their place.

Far better then to open up our markets as others might open up to us, so that genuine free trade might prevail and lift everyone’s boats.

Likewise, the well advanced plans to form an EU defence arrangement that would create an army in all, but name would likely throw more of our sons and daughters into pointless wars not of our choosing, to defend causes not in our interest.

I muse over these and other reasons because last week we have seen decisions not only justifying us leaving the EU, but also provoking reactions that suggest to me many who objected to our departure will eventually join me in agreeing it was for the best.

The first was the announcement of the AUKUS security agreement that precipitated the Australian Government to cancel its $90 billion [£48bn] order for French conventionally-powered submarines and choose instead nuclear powered vessels using US and UK know-how.

The decision to favour submarines with greater range and underwater endurance sent a strong geopolitical message about the resolve and indefatigability China would face from Australia were any (obviously unwanted) conflicts to arise in the Indo-Pacific region. That message will not be lost on the Chinese, the inventors of diplomatic signals.

That Britain is involved also kills the lie that outside the EU, the UK would somehow count for nothing. The sulking reaction of the French political elite, playing the affronted victim and even withdrawing French ambassadors to the US and Australia showed a predictable hubris and lack of self-awareness.

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President Emmanuel Macron has done the most to encourage the punishment-beating strategy of the EU towards the UK for daring to leave.

He has led the charge over EU (French) access to UK fishing grounds or all deals were off; weaponising the Irish border and banning British bangers; and bad-mouthing the British vaccine and doing nothing visible to halt the human trafficking of economic migrants from his shores to Britain.

It is Macron that has brought the latest embarrassment on France, having banned the export of vaccines to Australia despite knowing the submarine contract was at risk after the Australians had complained in spring of it running late and over budget.

The UK sent 4 million vaccines in comparison. Macron would also have withdrawn his ambassador to the UK but, irony of ironies, is precluded from doing so because the EU has agreed a common approach towards the UK and other members states would not wish to follow suit.

The AUKUS agreement could not have happened without Brexit for the Treaty of European Union would have given effectively a French veto over UK participation, yet it undoubtedly is in the UK’s interests to help strengthen the cause of free trade and open seas generally, but more so with Australia in particular.

The second example is last week’s government reshuffle that elevated Liz Truss to foreign secretary and pushed Dominic Raab to justice while keeping Priti Patel in the Home Office.

This combination allows Raab to focus on introducing a new Bill of Rights – a long time goal of his – to replace the Human Rights Act that has held back Patel from ensuring our borders can be policed against illegal migrants.

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Truss, on the back of her success with trade deals she so obviously believes in, can now be expected to elevate commerce to become a central component of our diplomatic posture. A truly Global Britain seeking peaceful commerce with all peoples and cultures is now a realistic possibility.

A welcome by-product of the UK beginning to take control of its own destiny without subservience to the EU is Scottish nationalism will become progressively more marginalised.

The SNP’s resistance to breaking with EU regulations and oversight – so that an “independent” Scotland might one very far off day find it easier to join the EU – is at the heart of its refusal to countenance freeports or break with EU procurement rules that could have kept new ferries being built in Scotland.

Continuing this self-harm will, over time, punish the Scottish economy while the rest of the UK will prosper by diverging away from the limitations of the EU’s one-size-fits-all-27 straitjacket.

Jobs will arrive at British ports and shipyards and other sectors will enjoy similar revival as Scotland languishes as a would-be-but-never-realised EU economic backwater.

Far better to take our chances with Global Britain where we once were the most prosperous exemplar than always be a bridesmaid never reaching the altar.

- Brian Monteith is a director of GlobalBritain.co.uk and served in the Scottish and European Parliaments for the Conservative and Brexit Parties respectively.



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