Over the past couple of weeks, as most “normal” people have been talking about the timetable for vaccinations and when they can meet more than one household indoors or even go abroad on holiday, foreign policy practitioners and wonks have been immersed in the UK government’s blandly named Integrated Review, and its companion, the Defence Command Paper.
Many hoped this might be where we find the blueprint for Global Britain – the way this government sees the UK’s place in the world, now that we have slipped our institutional moorings from the European Union. And those hopes were partly vindicated.
Together, the two documents are more realistic, in the sense of being less ideological and in the sense of being a little more modest and collaborative, less bombastically Rule Britannia, than many had envisaged – or than some of the advanced billing had (deliberately?) suggested. And thank goodness, at least, for that. Perpetually laying claim to a global leadership role that the UK is neither equipped nor qualified to exercise becomes as self-defeating and exhausting over time as it appears presumptuous. Could this country finally be starting – tentatively if is true – to accept our limitations as a medium-sized country at the northwestern edge of Europe and act accordingly?
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