THE BLOG

Britain's Place in the World Is Under Threat

27/02/2015 12:53 GMT | Updated 28/04/2015 10:59 BST

This May brings a General Election more unpredictable than any in recent memory. With both major parties remaining neck and neck in the polls and the continuing strength of the fringe parties, the likelihood of an outright majority for either seems remote. We have two incumbent parties fighting not only the claims of the opposition, but simultaneously trying to trash certain parts of the legislative record they themselves agreed to with varying degrees of enthusiasm. We have two parties outside of the traditional Westminster elite enjoying a surge of popularity that looks as though it might just materialise into seats. Both Labour and the Conservatives have countless sub-plots of infighting to keep Fleet street chattering, and all against a backdrop of unrest and uncertainty across the world. However, one will be excused for wondering how much the rest of the world really cares.

Be it through indifference, incompetence or ideology, under David Cameron Britain has been steadily sliding towards international irrelevance. There is no more perfect illustration of this than the recent negotiations for a ceasefire in Ukraine. Britain didn't even have a seat at the table let alone shape the outcome. Putin is waging war with a free country on the edge of Europe and Britain is caught wanting. Such a lack of willingness or ability to help shape world events would have been unimaginable under the last Labour government. Be it lobbying Clinton and the US to help prevent a massacre or orchestrating a global response to the financial crisis, Labour understood the role Britain could play on the global stage and the good that could come from this. One could hardly imagine Alastair Campbell frantically issuing a denial about Britain's irrelevance in negotiations for a ceasefire on the edge of Europe.

Even for a man who many consider not to stand for much at all, one would at least expect a Conservative Prime Minister to care about Britain's standing in the world. The Conservatives talk of Britishness and the 'Great' in Great Britain partly out of identity and partly because of the attack on their right flank from Ukip, but they seem to be incapable of comprehending just how much damage their isolationist rhetoric is doing to our standing in the world. With every quote from a would-be successor to Cameron that aims to burnish their Eurosceptic credentials our influence is diminished.

The European Union is without doubt one of the greatest triumphs of diplomacy and international cooperation in the 20th century. Nations sharing a common geography came together in spite of their troubled history because they believed that they were stronger together, and in the process secured lasting peace for a continent the wars of which defined a generation.

The case for Europe is strong and easy to make. It helps us punch above our weight on an international stage in the face of shifting powers and an extremism that is ever closer to our shores. Our economy grows because of the EU and not in spite of it, as evidenced by the overwhelming majority of business leaders that favour membership. Finally, and as a graduate of a university with a great many EU students, nothing about our nation and our identity is diminished by the diversity, skills and perspectives that our European neighbours bring.

This is a time for Britain to be strong at the centre of a united Europe. British politicians need to make this case and make it loudly. The case for a Britain that understands its privileged place in the world and acts not with the ignorant sense of entitlement that epitomises Cameron's government, but instead a cooperative sense of purpose. The case should be made that Britain will be greater inside the EU making decisions and receiving invites than chucking ill-prepared barbs from the outside to placate Ukipers who fret about the end of renewable energy.

One can only imagine the shambles of Dave's great European renegotiation if he ever gets the chance to try. He has behaved unacceptably at European summits and finds himself at the fringes. Merkel would quite rightly laugh Cameron out of the room if he came with a list of policy reversals and the same arrogance of the British politicians that thought they were too good for the EU during its initial inception as the ECSC. The end of Britain's place as a global leader would surely be a future Prime Minister going cap in hand to Merkel asking for forgiveness only to be met with a defiant 'Nein' reminiscent of De Gaulle in the 1960s.

Over the next couple of years there will be a great many uncertainties in the world of Geopolitics. War in Ukraine, Eurozone troubles, Russian Cold War rhetoric, the spread and influence of Isis, the ongoing struggle for democracy in the Middle East and climate change. Whatever the parliamentary numbers after the next general election, Britain needs a government serious about governing and most of all, Britain needs a statesman.

We have the chance to face these uncertainties together as a leader in Europe. We shouldn't let Cameron make us believe otherwise.