Defence & Diplomacy After Brexit: Freedom of Action

Adrian Hill, a former soldier and diplomat continues on the effect of Brexit on Britain’s Defence and Diplomacy. Disclaimer: This article is not an official Veterans for Britain paper, and so does not necessarily reflect the official view of Veterans for Britain.


The world has become dangerous and very fast. The whole Arab world suffers from anarchy compounded by the collapse of the oil price. Shale oil and gas already free the United States from the desert oil sheiks. We and the Poles are sitting on top of vast reserves of shale oil and gas, far more in our case than ever hid beneath the UK sectors of the North Sea. We should stop dithering and start developing this industry which will make Britain as self sufficient for energy as we were one hundred years ago and the USA is today.

Russia has become an odd mixture – a mafia state with nineteenth century imperial ambitions yet absurdly governed by former KGB thugs. The EUonomy depends on oil and gas and Russia desperately wants the world prices to recover. The EU’s diplomats led by Baroness Ashton blundered into the Ukraine and started meddling in east/west diplomacy, offering Ukraine an arrangement which included security, plainly NATO business and nothing to do with the EU.

When the cold war ended, Ukraine became independent. As part of the deal, Ukraine gave up its large nuclear arsenal and in return Russia, Britain and the United States guaranteed its integrity. NATO assured Russia that we would not invite Ukraine to join the alliance. Ukraine was not considered a full democracy by NATO. The EU decided they knew better – offered EUonomic and security co-operation – soon resulting in war between Ukraine and Russia, invasion of the Crimea, swiftly leading to a resumption of the Cold War throughout Europe. NATO picked up the EU’s tab. RAF fighters are based in Estonia and the United States is building airheads in Poland. NATO navies exercise in the Baltic and neutral Sweden may even join NATO. President Obama wisely decided to shake up David Cameron and push the UK government into meeting the NATO target of 2% of GNP on defence – which was a UK proposal. Although the UK government has fiddled the figures, the pressure rises for more money on defence, there are plans for two new RAF fighter squadrons.

Russia moved into Syria because President Obama dithered for too long, but this partly because David Cameron’s woolly approach to Syria and the House of Commons’ consequent doubts about the government’s common sense created a strategic vacuum. Just like nearly all the other European members of NATO, Britain had disarmed, leaving the burden of defending Europe to the United States. Russia wasted no time, based aircraft in Syria and launched hundreds of air strikes against rebels supported by the west. Another tidal wave of refugees soon began pouring into Turkey – governed by a despot whose motives are murky – and Russia hopes this flood will bully the EU into abandoning the sanctions on Russia co-ordinated by the United States. The EU remains in panic mode, offering Turkey access to Europe for its 75 million citizens. The Sultans would roll in their graves if they knew how easy it’s become to over-run modern Europe. No John Sobieski, King of Poland,  stands in the way of Sultan Erdogan. Russia even sent its Smokey Joe aircraft carrier through the English Channel to support Assad. Frankly, the simplest solution to the Russian air power problem is to allow US and UK special forces to take SAMs into Syria, given that we can’t trust such weapons in the hands of the rebels.

Far away to the east China threatens freedom of passage through the South China Sea. This is a powder keg just waiting for a casually thrown away match. Indeed, the most dangerous stand-off on the planet. China’s leadership is desperate to steal the resources of the sea and its bed from their much smaller neighbours – Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. China’s actions so far violate both the spirit and the letter of the UN Law of the Sea Convention which set up Exclusive EUonomic Zones for coastal states. We may yet see the USA and Britain on the same side as Vietnam. The United States and the UK are firm advocates of freedom of the seas for naval vessels sailing international waters. China would like to impose a notification regime. This kind of brinkmanship leads to shooting wars.

China is a huge market. Potentially it’s enormous. That won’t happen unless we and the Americans are prepared to help the Chinese win their struggle for a free society. We are not going to enjoy any help or support from the EU member states. We will have support from a number of Commonwealth countries and China’s democratic neighbours; also from some African peoples who suffer under dictators kept in power by Chinese money in exchange for their countries’ natural wealth.

To survive this dangerous era we need freedom of action, plenty of diplomatic and military space in which to move and that means breaking free of the EU albatross hung around our national neck.

By quitting the EU, we strengthen NATO overnight. Europe’s strongest military power will no longer be hampered by its untrustworthy neighbours. No longer will the EU meddle in NATO security business without consulting ourselves and the United States. Moreover, there is another bonus; the present government’s freeloading on the Americans must cease forthwith. Cameron’s bad faith over the defence budget was becoming an embarrassment and my prediction before the EU referendum was that, regardless of the result, Cameron would be removed as leader by his own party.                                                                        

About the author

Adrian Hill, former Royal Engineers officer, skydiving instructor, diplomat and CBI Council Member.

Served in Pakistan during the 1965 battle for Lahore, Cyprus troubles and the June 1967 War, the Vietnam War from 1969 -1971,  Ireland until 1974, Switzerland and Canada . Member of the Channel Tunnel team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the COBRA Committee of the Cabinet Office, followed by South Korea and Jamaica.

Adrian is working on his next novel set in Vietnam and Laos during the battle on the Ho Chi Minh Trail early in spring 1971.

Adrian Hill – British Sky Tours

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