Britain's foreign policy rests on a new incarnation of the 'Anglosphere' – City A.M.

Credit: Original article can be found here

Exactly twenty years ago I was one of a very small group of people to formulate the concept of the Anglosphere in international relations. It found that seven out of 10 of the world’s freest economies were former colonies of an eighth.

For better or for worse, Bahrain, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Ireland all had deep historical ties with Britain. Given their similar historical traditions underpinning property rights and the economy, it is unsurprising that a congruent freer form of capitalism has naturally grown out of similar circumstances. But there is also something more profound about the Anglosphere.

In terms of foreign direct investment, the name of the game in a globalised world, the Anglosphere is at the cutting edge of geoeconomics. For example, Canada is the largest foreign investor in the US, and vice versa, with the UK being third.  

The commonalities continue at the strategic level, with the remarkable historical fact being that in all three global wars of the twentieth century (World Wars I and II, and the Cold War) each of the five Anglosphere states, in every case, always fought on the same side. There were 15 separate strategic choices that could have been made – it is remarkable that 15 times the countries all lined up together. This is a record of strategic constancy unparalleled in modern history. Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Anglosphere countries may bicker but they always come out shooting together.

The Anglosphere already has institutional expression in the Five Eyes Intelligence Consortium, the most important intelligence- sharing network in the world. The US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia share intelligence in a manner none of them do with any other allies, such is the level of strategic closeness.

Of course, the very existence of the Anglosphere as a concept brings out accusations of being outdated. It was dismissed as an old white man’s fantasy, a reactionary Churchill tribute act, obsessed with re-animating the glory days of empire. By focussing on this, we miss the real fascination of the Anglosphere: the future, rather than simply amounting to a hankering for a long-lost past.

In the last year, we have seen the importance of Australia and New Zealand be elevated as the UK reimagines itself post-Brexit.

Vitally, this geo-economic, strategic and institutional closeness is based on the foundation of a common language, a common democratic culture which tends to be more concerned with individual liberty than its EU cousins, and a common bond of capitalism, again, with more heft than similar systems in Europe.

Through the new Australia-UK-US Defence Pact (AUKUS), Australia ironically has proved the Anglosphere actually exists. When forced to make the weightiest of strategic choices – how to defend itself against a threatening China—Australia has chosen a defense pact with its Anglosphere partners, the US and UK, over closer ties with the EU. The basic, strategic reason for this is the Anglosphere is rising and is a credible deterrent to China, while the EU is not.

It turns out the European tactic of snubbing people at diplomatic cocktail parties is no alternative to having military capability and a common foreign policy position on China. Under great strategic pressure, Australia embraced AUKUS, precisely because no one thinks the EU would deter Beijing from doing anything it wanted to; this is not for the UK and the US.

The UK gains a path into Asia, and Australia becomes the gateway ally to Britain’s much-desired membership in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a highly ambitious Pacific Rim free trade grouping of 11 countries, including Japan, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Both the CPTPP and “The Quad” – India, Japan, US, and Australia – rely on Canberra accepting the UK will play a far greater role in the decisive Indo-Pacific.

Far from being the past, AUKUS lays out a future that the foreign policy mainstream have almost entirely missed.

It is time for them to wake up.