London, United Kingdom—Eminent commentators and journalists offered their views of the United Kingdom’s future after leaving the European Union.
On January 25, 2021, the UK chapters of UPF and its constituent association International Media Association for Peace (IMAP) held a webinar titled “OK, We Have Done Brexit, Now What?”
The speakers mostly had been on the “remain” side of the Brexit debate before, but now, resigned to the decision, are analyzing the UK’s policies since leaving the European Union.
At the end of the webinar, there was an introduction to IMAP and its vision. (Whole Video)
The moderator was journalist and media consultant Rita Payne, the president emeritus of the Commonwealth Journalists Association and an adviser to Asian Affairs magazine.
Humphrey Hawksley, a former BBC foreign correspondent, author and commentator, reflected on the Indo-Pacific tilt that UK foreign policy has taken. He said he had found a number of foreign diplomats and commentators who saw a lack of depth behind slogans introducing the policy. He encouraged the Foreign Office, in particular, to steer clear of colonialist attitudes that may be lingering, consciously or unconsciously.
Lord Meghnad Desai, a British economist and former Labour politician, said he views the UK as a wealthy nation with a largely service economy and a small manufacturing base. The UK has a strong knowledge base with higher education, pharmaceuticals, medicine and financial technology, he said.
Lord Desai said he believes the UK should be a large, Scandinavian-style country that is technologically advanced, has good human rights and no ambitions to run the world. What we have found in the COVID-19 crisis, he said, is that 40 percent of the population are living dreadful lives. Lord Desai said there should not be food banks in a country that is so wealthy, and children should not need to have free meals in the holidays. The UK should improve its people’s lives and stop having delusions about being a great power, he said.
Lord Desai predicted that the Commonwealth will not be so UK-centric in the future, especially without the authority of Queen Elizabeth II, who was there from its beginning. If that is not acknowledged by the UK, he predicted that it will collapse. India is very aware that it is the largest nation in the Commonwealth and would look for a greater leadership role, he said.
Referring to the webinar title, “OK, We've Done Brexit, What Now?” James Willson, the publisher of the European Union Political Report and board director of the Brussels Press Club, said: “Unfortunately, it's not over. We have agreed, in fact, with this trade and cooperation agreement between the UK and the EU terms for roughly 20 percent of the UK's trade with the EU. There's a further 80 percent that still needs to be sorted out over the years ahead. So I'm afraid it's a process that is only just beginning. It's not finished, and, as Switzerland has found out, these talks go on forever.”
The greatest challenge facing the UK, he said, is that “there has been no vision whatsoever from the political leadership about what we are intending to do, now that we have taken control and have won back sovereignty.” Like Lord Desai, he said he would like to see the UK not delude itself that it is a world power but instead stand for principles of democracy and the rule of law, for example.
“There are many examples of excellence in the Commonwealth, which can be brought forward to ensure that leadership in the Commonwealth is taken by other countries,” Mr. Willson said. At a recent conference on the freedom of journalists in the Commonwealth, the UK was not in the top five, he said; Jamaica was the top and New Zealand was very close. The UK should be humbler and allow the excellence of others to emerge; then the Commonwealth will flourish, he said.
He said he would like to see the UK focus on education, in which it has been world class. If we focus on engineering and science that supported the UK's development in the 18th and the 19th centuries, we will do well in the 21st century as well, he said.
In conclusion, Peter Zoehrer, the IMAP coordinator for Europe and the Middle East, presented the IMAP vision. One of six associations within Universal Peace Federation, IMAP seeks to promote a debate on the significance and responsibility of the media. Highlighting that the media, through reporting the truth, should be a conscience of society that is both free, protected and self-governing, he stated, “We believe that when the media properly exercise their great power and influence, they can help secure freedom and peace for all humankind.”
UPF-UK will hold a series of conferences on the UK's role in the world after leaving the EU. In general, for individuals, families as well as nations, Universal Peace Federation emphasizes interdependence, mutual prosperity and universal values to maintain peace and development. UPF views humanity as one family whose problems cannot be fully resolved without values rooted in God.