News that Britain is to cut its foreign aid budget by £4bn from 0.7% to 0.5% will be popular at home. But what do thoughtful people, the type who read LSS blogs, think about it? (overseas readers,this is not navel-gazing, as these discussions have relevance for your own country)
At first sight, the case seems strong, if you see the world in accounting terms. Stricken by Covid and with the loss of its main overseas markets, the UK economy is in for a deep and long period of retrenchment. It makes sense to balance the books as far as possible, to bring money home, and let pesky foreigners stand on their own two feet. Such an approach is rooted in Britain’s cultural DNA. Napoleon called Britain a nation of shopkeepers, but perhaps accountants would have been nearer the mark.
The trouble is that we have been here before. Common sense, man-in- the- street calls to reduce the Land Tax in the eighteenth century led to weakening the Royal Navy and the loss of the American Colonies. The nearer parallels are in the twentieth century. The interwar years saw two disastrous rounds of cuts-the Geddes tranche of 1922-23 and the huge cuts bought in by the National Government in an attempt to respond to the financial crisis of 1931. Cuts were drastic across the board. For example, Geddes cut defence spending by 41.5% in a single year. The knock on effect in the defence sector in terms of purchasing, recruitment and research was incalculable.
Because foreign eyes were watching. As Britain’s Imperial commitment waned, they moved into British markets, sea lanes and spheres of influence. Dictators such as Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler especially noted a weakening Royal Navy and Intelligence Sector and made their plays accordingly.
Foreign Aid is not just about money. It buys influence, and opportunities for all kinds of marketing and intelligence gathering. When one power stops doing it, another moves in. Britain has left the European Union, never to return. The only rationale for that was to make Global Britain a world power again. Cutting your sales and intelligence opportunities is not the way to go about it.
#globalbritain #foreignaid #cuts #eu #russia #china #usa #japan