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.
. 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.
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.