Effective strategy seizes opportunities. Without retaining the fluidity to guide bold, decisive action when unexpected opportunities arise, strategy becomes unwieldly and loses its crucial directive power.
But, effective strategy recognises opportunities for their specific merits and contexts. Not every opportunity is worth pursuing: expending time and resources in the pursuit of opportunities which are unlikely to provide a sufficient return, or may interrupt the continued pursuit of previously established strategic objectives, is dangerous and likely to prove counter-productive.
As the UK enters the two year exit negotiations with the remaining 27 EU member states, any UK policymaker or negotiator worth their salt will be actively attempting to recognise worthwhile opportunities for advancing UK security and economic interests, both in Europe and beyond. UK national security relies on such strategic thinking.
Inevitably, pursuing opportunities specifically relevant to the UK national interest is bound to generate conflict with the stated interests of the EU and their negotiators. Such conflicts may not in themselves be desirable, but this does not mean that mitigating such conflict should take precedence over the UK’s sovereign national interest.
On the contrary, the EU cannot be allowed to dictate how the UK responds to the economic and political opportunities which manifest as a result of the UK’s extrication from the union. Today, there are many opportunities to be considered, with at least two being most significant:
1. Reforge the Anglosphere. Particularly since the 1990s, the UK’s membership of the EU has coincided with a significant decline in the strength of Anglo-US relations and economic cooperation within the Commonwealth. The ‘special relationship’, for all the media bluster of Bush and Blair, wasn’t necessarily that special. The Obama years undermined this relationship even further, perhaps most strikingly shown – in Obama’s own words – with the UK being relegated to ‘the back of the queue’ in the event of a leave vote.
Despite remaining steadfast partners and allies in defence, security and intelligence sharing through NATO and the Five Eyes network, there is now genuine scope for bringing Anglosphere and Commonwealth economic co-operation into the 21st Century. A UK/USA/Commonwealth free trade agreement which facilitates economic growth and prosperity whilst retaining strong border controls has become a fundamental necessity for post-Brexit Britain. Wasting this opportunity would represent anti-strategic foolishness of the worst order.
2. Reassert British Culture and Values. Tracing its historic roots primarily to the 1960s counter-culture, the slow degeneration of British culture and values which were once proudly held in common by the inhabitants of these isles was radically accelerated through UK integration into the European supranational project.
Leaving the EU represents the clearest opportunity there has been for generations to reassert the culture and values which once defined British society, and were most critically expressed during the Second World War: individual liberty moderated by personal responsibility, respect for others, the family unit, tradition and patriotism. Scorned by the advocates of a borderless, globalist world, these values must once again be promoted without shame, particularly within the education system. Success in this critical area will do much to prevent the UK slipping back into supranational jurisdiction in future years.
UK national security relies upon effective strategy. Fundamental to strategic thinking is recognising not just what to do, but when. Opportunities are often time sensitive, and while this places immense pressure on decision-makers to act quickly, taking sufficient time to assess each opportunity on its own merits and context is the only sure way to strategically harness such opportunities and avoid unnecessary mistakes.
If UK policymakers recognise the two opportunities above and act strategically in pursuit of them, life outside of the EU will look ever brighter for UK citizens in the uncertain years to come.