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  • Tan Bo Yan

Opinion | UK's Economy is Spiraling Out of Control. It Didn't Have to Be This Way.

A landmass of chaos and uncertainties: Great Britain struggles to stay


Once upon a time, seen as a great imperial power, its empire and dominance

have been signified as the greatest in the early 19th century. Historian Stuart

Laycock’s book, 'All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded: And the Few We Never

Got Round To', confirms the massive influence Great Britain had, with its prestige

spread over 90 per cent of the world’s countries. Yet a century later, the United

Kingdom itself is struggling to stay afloat.

Following the allegations of sexual assault by Member of Parliament

Christopher Pincher, and claims that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had

been untruthful in his No. 10 speech, the government is in a state of havoc. With

a string of senior civil leaders astounding to a high of 59 ministers on July

7,2022 , whom many saw through the progress of Britain’s Exit from the

European Union leaving quitting, the absence of a secured government is dire,

especially so with United Kingdom already facing a handful of political

debilities and economic challenges. Britain is in need to liberate itself from its

own chains of entanglement.

Britain’s History: Transitions from past’s colonialism to modern day


After World War one, Britain started facing rising nationalism from its colonial

countries, most notably in Ireland’s Irish War. Foreseeing similar challenges

may occur, Britain founded the Commonwealth of Nations on December 1,1991

to ensure that countries remain under its dominance while satisfying their need

for some forms of democracy. World war two only amplified the political

awakening in many of these countries. Many colonized countries such as

Singapore, saw the betrayal of the British empire when the British refocused

most of its war efforts in the Europe theater against Germany and left them

defenseless against the Axis Powers. After the end of world war two, a surge of

nationalism sparked national movements to gain full sovereignty and self-

governance in many countries around the globe. Furthermore, with Britain's

power on an ongoing decline with depletion in resources, economic devastation

and a, weakened military that was still recovering from the war. With its power

on an ongoing decline, the United Kingdom needed a way to stay relevant and

retain its existing power.

Indeed, UK’s former wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, understood

that Britain could no longer reach its great state of monopoly as before, but

nonetheless still retain the existing power it had left in a seemingly peaceful and

righteous manner. Through his words, he glorifies and marks that: “If the British

Empire is fated to pass from life into history, we must hope it will not be by the

slow process of dispersion and decay, but in some supreme exertion for freedom,

right and for truth”. Certainly, the formation of the Commonwealth helped Great

Britain gain back some form of influence through the changing times. However,

it was ultimately Churchill’s call for Europe Integration that helped Britain

progress and transit from a post-war to a sophisticated modern day sovereign

state. The need for an Integrated Europe could be echoed through his speech in

University of Zurich in 1946, to build “a kind of United States Of Europe ‘’.

This subsequently led to the formation of the European Economic Community

(EEC) on January 1, 1958 and eventually the creation of the European Union

(EU) on 1 November 1993.

. This at length led to a spur of economic growth and strengthened Britain’s

military security. The European Union helped Britain recover from its previous

losses and to move ahead into a new era where it had a network to stay relevant.

With influential power and major economic trading partners, Great Britain

gained back its prominent foothold in the global platform.

Changing stances (Brexit)

However, Britain in the 2000s has been evolving its stance on the European

Union. On June 23, 2016, 51.9 percent of the British population voted to leave

the European Union in a historical referendum ,well-known as Brexit,of The

source, Vote Leave, the official campaign organization by political strategist

Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings, backed by Members of the Parliament.

Pro-Brexit leaders such as former prime minister Theresa May have also argued

a long list of reason for the exit, from the European Union threatening its

sovereignty, limiting its economic growth with complicated regulations, its

currency devaluing Britain’s dollar, the irrational allowance of influx of

immigrants to it demanding an excessive amount through central EU budget

form Britain. Though Theresa May was unable in achieving a way for the

transition for British out of European Union, Great Britain officially left the bloc

on January 31, 2020. Thereafter, Prime minister Boris Johnson succeeded with

the subsequent revised Brexit deal passed and paved the way for Britain to ease

out of the European Union, with changes taking effect on December 30, 2020.

With aims of creating a “Global Britain”, Britain had the freedom and

flexibility in seeking trade deals with other countries outside the union bloc, with

both sides attaining mutual benefits. On September 15, 2021, , Great Britain

was able to join efforts with United States of America to deploy Australia

nuclear submarines. Through the collaborations with Australia and the United

States, helped accelerate the development of an advanced defence system and

once again spread its influence on Britain in the Indo-Pacific region to some

extent. While the benefits of Brexit could be seen as this success, it

meantime strained relations with its surrounding European Countries in its

former trading bloc.

Manifestation of tensions

Although clashes between Britain and France may seem unsurprising, given

their past history, the relations between the allies have drastically soured upon

Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. This is particularly so in

Britain’s post-Brexit submarine deal, for Britain striking the deal had upset

France’s long-term Australian defence deal since 2016, with a submarine fleet

worth up to $50 billion. This sudden economic loss in the contest in the Naval

Shipbuilding field has been taken in bitterly by France, and the rivalry between

United Kingdom and France has only deepened. This can potentially bring about

a cut-off of deals between the two allies. However, given the support of

networks with countries such as the United States, Britain changing stands may

seem better off than before, it managed to secure deals and have found itself a

steady path to membership in the giant Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Its

tense relations with France, coupled with a pinch of hostilities between it and

France’s leading leaders, is a worry that can be resolved over time- given if

Britain has a stabilized political party and a competent leader to re-establish the


More concerns lie back in the homeland, where tensions start to emerge

between England and Scotland. The latter, who rejected Brexit in the 2016

referendum, had a massive vote of more than 60 percent outrightly wanting to

remain in the European Union. That stark divergence of opinion has shaken the

union of the United Kingdom. Furthermore, despite a 2014 referendum, where

Scottish voted against independence from Britain, upon Britain’s withdrawal

from the European Union, the pro-independence Scottish National party

dominating most of its parliament has promised to legislate a rerun. This could

drastically cost Britain eight percent of its population, one third of its landmass

and profitable resources and damage its international reputation. However, for a

new referendum to be authorized, the agreement of London is needed, which UK

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly rejected. With neither side willing

to compromise, this could eventually lead to a constitutional crisis, which is

rather untimely for Britain given its existing challenges.

A larger concern arises

The great worry for Great Britain, however, comes from its current status in

Northern Ireland. In the 1900s, after centuries of British rule, Ireland became

self-governing but intense battles continued between Catholics and Protestant

along with pro-British loyalist militant groups resulting in thousands of death in

the sectarian strife. The division and animosity only ended after complex

negotiations, settled on the Belfast Agreement on April 10,1998 by the British,

Irish government and Northern Ireland political parties. However, actions taken

by Britain’s Brexit could reawaken these past feuds.

With Britain’s departure from the major trading bloc, the United Kingdom and

the European Union signed the newly produced Trade and Cooperation

Agreement(TCA),on December 30, 2020 which, was provisionally applied on

January 1, 2021 and into force on May 1, 2021. A part of the peace treaty was

the Northern Ireland Protocol. Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, the

European Union and Britain struck a deal that the region would keep following

many European rules for transport of goods to cross the border freely.

Nevertheless, the protocol imposed meant more restrictions for Britain in its

trading of goods and with loss of automatic recognition from the EU market for

Businesses and British individuals who have to abide to new regulations,

limiting movements for Britain,causing greater friction in flexibility for Britain’s

finance industry in selling of goods beyond the island itself. This has inevitably

proved to be a problem for Britain and it is hence no wonder Britain would

propose a rewrite of the international law under its introduced Northern Ireland


Under the Northern Ireland Bill introduced by the government of the United

Kingdom on 13 June 13, 2022, it seeks to unilaterally override certain parts of

the peace deal with the European Union. The bill would allow ministers to have

authority to determine the flow of goods produced by Britain. Foremost, the bill

proposes a ‘green channel and red channel’, where ‘green channel’ will remove

the phytosanitary control for goods moving from Great Britain to Northern

Ireland. Secondly, the bill states for the green and red channels to serve as a dual

regulatory system, whereby the channels are in place to address the

differentiation in measures of goods remaining in Northern Ireland and those for

onward transportation across its border to European countries, such as the

Republic of Ireland. Above all, the bill is used to ensure that goods destined to

be in Northern Ireland can be sold freely regardless if they meet the EU

regulations, a violation of the international treaty.

It however deepens the divide in the land of Ireland between those who see the

island as a whole nation and those who are pro-British patriotic to Britain. This

may result in relighting sectarian tension and disturb the political balance in

Northern Ireland, and ultimately affect Britain.

On June 15, 2022 the European Union, headed by President von der

Leyen, sued Britain for its Northern Ireland Bill as an unsavory act of infringing

the peace accords and dubbed it as an illegal act in international law.

Notwithstanding, Britain cleared the House of Commons’ reading, with its final

stage by 267 votes to 195. Meantime, as of Friday July 22,2022 the European

Commission launched four new procedures against Britain. With Britain

persisting, one must still note that the legislation was set and carried out when

UK domestic politics was still somewhat stabilized.

Political worries

. Though the bill has got the approval of two-thirds of the house and has been

sent to the house of  lords, nonetheless, flaws in the bill remain and the cabinet

is split apart-rather severely- with most of Northern Ireland parties  in addition to

Senior Conservative  such as former UK Prime minister Theresa May against the

bill fully. This has fuelled much uncertainty for the progression of the

contentious bill and much of Great Britain’s future.

 Public opinion

With all the commotion, its public’s opinion is to hold much significant weight

especially in such difficult times. Much of Northern Ireland, however, as little as

5 percent, trust the conservative party in Britain in its aim to improve Northern

Ireland beneficially. Meanwhile, Britain Brexiters are in full charge of

supporting the rewrite of the deal.  Recent polls for the upcoming Prime Minister

election have also shown a divide in the preference of the public. With opinions

being split further, it only serves to shake the peace and stability in Great


Moving ahead Great Britain sure seems to be in a labyrinth of political conflict, following one after another of which many are unresolved. There is a lack of cohesive unity

among its countries, as a division in stance continues to arise. Without an adept

government to lead Britain, the support from the public for the current

conservative party has dropped severely. As of August 8, 2022, as little as 3.35

out of 10 percent would vote for the Conservative party in the next general

election. Undeniably, the ongoing domestic anarchy has affected its global

prestige and Great Britain is in need of a save. It was with hopes that the re-

election in Britain a proficient new Prime minister would help bring Britain out

of this tumultuous time. Yet as the race for tory leadership race progress, things

have taken a turn. The YouGov, a global public opinion and data company.

conducted a poll that shows a majority in favor of ousted leader Mr. Boris

Johnson, with 55 per cent saying that Tory MPs were wrong to effectively force

him to resign. If Johnson was still in the contest alongside Truss, 46 per cent say

they would vote for UK former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and only 24 per

cent for Truss. In addition, Lord Cruddas has spearheaded the demands for a

rule change to allow members to vote on whether Mr. Boris Johnson should

continue as leader. His petition has gained 15,000 signatures from members

demanding revoke of Boris Johnson resignation. As the petition has over 10,000

signatures the Conservative headquarters admit they have to consider a rule

change. Surely, this has been a surprising revelation of events. Nonetheless,

Britain pressing on, the new UK Prime Minister Liz Truss was announced on

Monday, September 5,2022. Being the new prime minister, she will have to

tackle pressing issues that have been gradually unfolding for decades such as:

skyrocketing bills, crisis-plagued railways, problems of water infrastructure and

the NHS service system.  

In addition, at a time of worrying recession, intense industrial dissatisfaction with union workers striking across various industries for higher paying wages and working conditions, have cause the route of succession to the job to be tricky. The public service trade union have aroused staff working at Britain's business and energy department building that begin a strike on the very day as the country's new prime minister was revealed.

Britain is evidently tangled in a web of turbulence.


Written by Tan Bo Yan from Singapore.

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