Last week saw the triumph, after 30 years in the wilderness, of Team Liverpool. Inspired coaching melding world class players together in a virtually unbeatable combination. Isn’t it time, 47 years on from its submersion into the EU, to use the same simple but challenging technique to refashion Britain back into the leading global trading nation of old. To build on and taking full advantage of the many, and varied, assets in which she has premier league global status, if not world leadership?
What a great Team Britain it could be. Can we not point to so many and varied assets, built on the underlying enterprising spirit of the British people, as the City of London, its markets, depth, liquidity and now its fintech achievements, our magnificent defence forces, our massively admired cultural resources, not forgetting the English language itself, in literature, performing arts, media and communications, our legal system and judiciary, our universities and research, and in the political arena, our much admired Westminster system of government (what other constitution could have weathered the potentially existential battering that ours has received over the past four years), our Commonwealth and Anglosphere ties, and our membership of the UN Security Council and G7. Every now and then we even win at world level sport.
The Foreign Office will need strong political leadership, determination and perspicacity.
Listing and lauding these resources is no imperialist fantasy as those, particularly Remain supporters, on the left of the political spectrum like to argue, so adept are they at running down and belittling British achievements. Yet aren’t many of them rabid supporters of their favourite football clubs, the Man Cities and the Chelseas of this world? What therefore is so jingoistic about identifying and combining our manifest resources to build a team, with a benchful of reserves, capable of driving Britain’s exploitation of its newly found global trading opportunities?
The current focus on the future relationship with China post coronavirus spotlights the importance of a fresh approach to that geographical area and the potential role of a revived Team Britain. The possibilities are well illustrated in the recently published paper by the Foundation for Independence on the UK’s role in the Indo-Pacific region. It clearly underlines the benefits of rebalancing and redrawing our priorities away from China, in favour of such burgeoning young economies as Vietnam and Indonesia as well as reaching out to the more mature Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. We should support each of them as an “engaged partner”, underlined by free trade agreements, and with all the appropriate Team Britain means at our disposal, particularly focusing on our diplomatic leverage, the potential presence of our armed forces and the resources of the City of London, already a major investor, to boost trade and growth, but not forgetting cultural and other “softer” ties.
Perhaps most importantly the report emphasises the critical role that India could and should play in that region and how our long and friendly relationship can be expanded from its current modest level to one of major significance to both countries, building on the many and significant cultural and political overlaps, not least in the AngloSphere and the Commonwealth.
These immediately available examples illustrate both the opportunities and the structural challenges in building Team Britain into the massive agent for mutual prosperity that it could be for both the citizens of the UK and of her trading partners. The increased emphasis on trade within the Foreign Office enhanced by its newly announced merger with Department for International Development and its continuing sponsorship of the British Council are promising foundation stones, but it will need strong political leadership, determination and perspicacity effectively to bring together other key elements, including defence reprioritisation and deployment, and the full engagement of the financial, industrial, service, media and arts communities.
We could be proud of Team Britain and the Government possesses the keys to ensure its success, but we need to start building now. Team Liverpool has shown how quickly, with the necessary talent, management and drive, great success can be accomplished.
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