Friday, December 18, 2015

The dog that hasn't barked: the European Parliament and the Brexit debate

The LSE's Brexit vote blog began today a series of posts compiled by me in which MEPs outline what role they think the European Parliament will play in the UK-EU renegotiation and any Brexit.

The European Parliament and the UK’s renegotiation: what do MEPs think?

Debates about the future of UK-EU relations have paid little attention to the European Parliament. There have been no studies comparable to those that have looked into how member states view therenegotiation or might respond to a BrexitMedia reports indicate that the European Commission taskforce handling the UK renegotiation has even looked into ways of avoiding the Parliament becoming involved. Whether or not the Parliament will have any say in the renegotiation, it is clear that if Britain votes to withdraw then the EU Treaty’s withdrawal procedure guarantees the Parliament a say in any deal over an exit and a new UK-EU relationship. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book review of 'British Generals in Blair's Wars' and 'High Command'

The following book review will appear in Political Studies Review, Vol. 14, No. 3, August 2016.

British Generals in Blair'sWars by Jonathan Bailey, Richard Iron and Hew Strachan (eds). Farnham: Farnham, 2013. 385pp., £19.95 (p/b), ISBN 978 1 4094 3736 9

High Command: British MilitaryLeadership in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars by Christopher L. Elliott. London: C Hurst & Co, 2015. 288pp., £25.00 (h/b), ISBN 9781849044608

In the time that Britain has been awaiting the outcome of the Chilcott Inquiry a plethora of books has emerged to serve as primers to the report into Britain’s role in the Iraq War. High Command and British Generals in Blair’s Wars are two members of this growing collection of works written by the former soldiers, politicians and civil servants who played a part in Britain’s involvement in the post-9/11 conflicts. Linking the books, both products of Oxford University’s ‘Changing Character of War programme’, is an attempt to get to grips with how Britain, and in particular the British Army, found themselves in the mess they did in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In neither conflict were Britain’s strategic ends, ways and means clearly defined or adequately provided for. As both books argue, this was not simply the result of failings by Prime Minister Tony Blair or other individuals such as senior officers and civil servants. Their failings were part of a dysfunctional relationship within and between the political and operational levels of these conflicts. The result was that on a good day all that Britain and her military could do was muddle through. On the bad days – of which there were many – it led to unnecessary deaths and strategic defeat.

High Command: British Military Leadership in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars takes us into the inner workings of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and British military. By exploring such issues as poor management, difficult career structures, laughable procurement systems, sloppy training, doctrine and thinking, long-running funding inadequacies, strained relations with the rest of Whitehall and so forth, the book not only gives an insight into the MoD (one familiar to anybody with knowledge of UK defence matters) but in doing so picks over a political-bureaucratic-military system that was destined to fail in Afghanistan and Iraq. Christopher Elliott’s analysis is of an institution where nobody seems to have been in charge and where senior officers can today claim to have been in the dark over major strategic decisions. While a great deal of blame can be and is directed at Blair, as Elliot points out, senior officers tolerated a dysfunctional MoD that made things worse. These officers receive some analysis, but Elliot doesn’t stick the bayonet into whoever he thinks is most to blame. Instead he sets out each officer’s strengths and weaknesses, mistakes and sound decisions. This is despite him rightly pointing out that no senior officer (or civil servant or politician) has been demoted, sacked, disciplined, charged or faced any other form of official punishment for failings in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sadly, the book’s recommendations for changes have been overtaken by actual reforms, some of which happened long before the book was published.

British Generals in Blair’s Wars provides us with more detailed mini autobiographies of recent senior officers. Drawing on their experiences of conflicts since 1990, albeit with a focus on Iraq and Afghanistan, the book offers insights from 23 senior officers with a few pieces from others. The chapters vary in quality, some better written and more cerebral than others. Given the breadth of experience on offer it comes as no surprise that each chapter’s conclusions can often be more wide-ranging than the narrow focus of the case study presented within the preceding pages. The result is a book that can be read as a series of pleas to future commanders to learn the lessons from an exceptional time for the British Army; exceptional in no small part because as junior officers these authors prepared to play a bit part in a global nuclear war and not the conflicts that defined the culmination of their careers. Officer education (or lack of it), learning from past mistakes and the challenge of adapting to the changing character of war arise throughout the book. Learning requires open and frank discussion, which is not easy when the MoD appears hostile to investing in training or allowing open discussion. It is no surprise that the MoD refused to allow six contributions from serving officers to be published in the volume.

These books, then, are about decision making in conflicts where the political direction was vague because of the inherent ambiguity of most high-level political strategy; where the political, operational and tactical levels of strategy were confused; where public support has been questionable and vulnerable; where the limited ways and means – especially money – available has meant that British blood has been cheaper than British treasure; where planning and doctrine have been dubious, untested or long neglected; where the military’s ‘can do’ attitude meant officers had an itch for fighting which sometimes led them to take the initiative without political support; and where decisions and actions have depended on allies and, most difficult of all, local political developments. Such problems are to be found in many states which have their military deployed overseas, and consequently these books will be of interest far beyond the UK.

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Question of National Secuirty

A piece for the UK in a Changing Europe on the place of national security in the UK-EU relationship. Read here:

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Views on the UK’s renegotiation: Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and India.

In addition to the series I've been compiling on how other EU member states view the future of UK-EU relations, and in particular the UK's attempt at a renegotiation, I have been able to secure views from people based in Russia (Alexey Gromyko – Russian Academy of Sciences), Ukraine (Alyona Getmanchuk – Institute of World Policy), Turkey (Sinan Ulgen – Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies) and India (by Dhananjay Tripathi – South Asian University). 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

EU views of the UK-EU renegotiation

LSE's EUROPP blog has today concluded a series, compiled by me, setting out how the rest of the EU views the prospect of a UK renegotiation of its EU membership. You'll find below links to the countries we've covered (in order of publication) and an LSE list in alphabetical order can be found here.

Security and the Brexit Debate

A piece for the LSE's Brexit Vote blog about David Cameron's argument that EU membership is a matter not only of jobs and trade but of national security. Read here.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Living awkwardly ever after: what if the UK voted to leave the EEC?

The UK in a Changing Europe have run a piece by me looking at what would have happened if Britain had voted to leave the EEC in 1975. The piece is divided into two parts:

Part 1 (9 November)

Part 2 (10 November)

Sunday, November 08, 2015

A few words on BBC R4's Westminster Hour

Radio 4's Westminster Hour asked me to set out what David Cameron will ask the EU for in his letter this week to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, setting out his demands for a UK renegotiation of its EU membership. You can hear me quite early on.

Friday, November 06, 2015

An elephant in the room: Brexit and the UK’s Defence Review

While the EU plays only a small role in traditional defence matters, its central place in the geopolitics of Europe means it plays a central part in the geopolitics that shape Britain’s security. I explain, in this short piece for the British Politics and Policy blog, the implications of the upcoming referendum on shaping Britain’s defence strategy.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Piece on UK-EU relations in Queries Magazine

I have a piece entitled 'Facing Europe's British Question' in the latest issue of Queries magazine. Download it here (starts p38).

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Strengthening Britain’s Voice in the World

I'm one of the signatories to the report 'Strengthening Britain Voice in the World', released today by Chatham House and Ditchley Park.

To remedy the growing imbalance between its spending on defence, development and diplomacy, the UK government must reverse cuts to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s budget. In the long term, the UK should commit to increase spending on the UK's overall diplomatic effort to 0.2% of GDP. 

As the new Strategic Defence and Security Review nears completion, the UK faces a far more unstable world than when it published its last review in 2010. Yet, at the same time, significant cuts have been made to many of the traditional levers of the UK’s influence overseas. While recognizing the serious resource pressures that exist, the signatories argue that Britain’s long-term interests in the world do not change amid temporary economic difficulties.
They argue that as one of the most globalized countries in the world, tied by its economy, its people, its institutions and its allies to developments beyond its shores, the UK must remain internationally engaged and committed to multilateralism.
The signatories make a number of recommendations to help ensure the UK lives up to its goals as a constructive force in the world, including:
  • Increase spending on the UK’s overall diplomatic effort in the long-term to 0.2% of GDP. In the short-term it is important to avoid further real terms cuts to the UK's spending on the FCO's non-ODA budget in the upcoming spending review.
  • Rethink visa policy for international students and commercially-valuable talent, as well as the system of regional visa hubs which mean that decisions on UK visas are often taken in a regional centre by staff with limited knowledge of the country concerned.
  • Seek more structured and long-term defence collaboration with EU partners and under EU structures. Britain’s continuing determination to block much European defence cooperation does not serve its own interests and no longer finds favour in Washington.
  • Return in a more significant way to participation in UN peacekeeping. It should also be willing to send UK forces to assist with training and strengthening institutions of civil-military cooperation, for example in fragile states in Africa.
  • Ensure continued funding of key elements of the UK's soft power such as the BBC World Service and the British Council.

Signatories to the paper

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Royal United Services Institute
Professor Paul Cornish, RAND Europe
Dr Jonathan Eyal, Royal United Services Institute
Sir John Grant, Former UK Permanent Representative to the EU
Sir John Holmes, Ditchley Foundation
Laura Kyrke-Smith, Portland
Mark Leonard, European Council on Foreign Relations
Dame Mariot, Leslie Former UK Permanent Representative to NATO
Dr Patricia Lewis, Chatham House
Sir Roderic Lyne, Former UK Ambassador to Russia
Sir David Manning, Former UK Ambassador to the United States
Dame Rosalind Marsden, Former EU Special Representative for Sudan and South Sudan
Dr Robin Niblett, Chatham House
Dr Tim Oliver, London School of Economics
Thomas Raines, Chatham House (Rapporteur)
Philip Stephens, Financial Times
Lord Wallace of Saltaire, Former Government Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs in the House of Lords
Nick Witney, European Council on Foreign Relations
Lord Williams of Baglan, Former UN Under-Secretary General, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon
The paper reflects the views of its signatories and not the institutions to which they belong.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Written evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee

You'll find here the written evidence Almut Möller and I submitted to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into 'The costs and benefits of EU membership for the UK's role in the world'. PDF can be accessed here.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

New series on national views of the UK-EU renegotiation

Yesterday, the LSE's EUROPP blog began a series I'm compiling that sets out views from every other EU member state on the UK's attempt to renegotiate its relationship with the EU. The series will run over the next few weeks. The first set of views come from Italy, Poland, Bulgaria and Malta.

You can read the piece here: 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Brexit is an issue President Obama has every right to be concerned about

A piece for the LSE's USA Politics and Policy blog, then also published on the EUROPP and British Politics and Policy blog on why Obama had every right to speak about Brexit.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Should the EU ditch Britain?

A short piece for the website State on whether the EU should drop 'an awkward partner'. 

Monday, July 06, 2015

Magna Carta and the transatlantic relationship

A piece for the Dahrendorf Blog on the role of Magna Carta in the relationship between the UK, Europe and the USA and its place in a wider ongoing worldwide struggle to ensure freedom under the rule of law. 

And reblogged on the LSE's USAPP blog.