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Jack Richardson: Trump’s coming visit – and why NATO must be at the heart of the Government’s strategy for post-Brexit Britain

Jack Richardson works for a Conservative MP.

Next week NATO leaders, including Donald Trump, will assemble in London for the 2019 NATO summit to mark the 70th year of the alliance.

It will be taking place in the middle of a general election which has seen near-xenophobic levels of hatred towards America from the Liberal Democrats, SNP, and particularly Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

The US is Britain’s most valuable security partner and underwrites European security through NATO, but Corbyn is using Trump who is obviously unpopular with many Brits to tar an entire nation of 330 million people, which he has always loathed for its position at the top of the liberal international order.

It is completely right that the electorate want to protect the NHS and British food standards, and everyone enjoys some mockery of our transatlantic cousins. But Corbyn’s hatred for America goes far beyond that. For him, ‘America’ is a byword for imperialism.

The Labour leader thinks China, which currently has around one million Uyghurs in ‘re-education camps’ and is building an Orwellian-style surveillance state, is an equally valuable partner. Or Venezuela, which has an appalling record of cracking down on dissent – though this is America’s fault, of course, which according to Corbyn is now “plotting against our country”.

Research from James Rogers at the Henry Jackson Society demonstrates, however, the enduring importance of our cooperation with the US. He points out that Britain, alongside the US, Poland, Romania, Greece, Estonia, and Latvia, account for 80 per cent of NATO’s total military spending, and are the only countries meeting the target that all member-states committed themselves to in 2014.

Despite being members of the G7, France, Italy, and Germany cannot seem to fork out enough to meet their pledges for their own defence – even though impoverished Greece somehow manages to.

While it is not Labour’s policy to withdraw from NATO, having a prime minister who said he wanted the US-led alliance to be disbanded and Britain to pursue unilateral disarmament does not bode well for our future participation in it. But continuing and emboldened participation in NATO will be absolutely vital for Britain after Brexit.

It was the British who spearheaded the the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty. By creating a transatlantic community which linked American and Canadian agrarian and industrial power to the devastated Western European powers via a British ‘airbase’ and a French ‘bridgehead’, collective defence enabled free markets to prosper by deterring both internal and external revisionits.

While Corbyn and others in Labour believe the alliance to do nothing other than enshrine American imperialism, it is in fact NATO which has guaranteed European peace and prosperity more than anything else – including the EU, which required a benign strategic environment to get off the ground and prosper. Today, NATO carries out invaluable work in deterring a revanchist Russia, countering terrorism and cyber threats, and projecting stability in Europe and its periphery. Accusations of NATO simply being a tool to impose American will are proven wrong by the observable European reluctance to respond to the most basic of requests – not cheating the American taxpayer.

Over the past year, the debate around Brexit has been relentlessly focused on parliamentary procedure and what happened during the referendum campaign three and a half years ago. Other than Corbyn’s gloomy prophecies about a UK which would inevitably be an American satellite state, the debate over Britain’s post-Brexit future has not really occurred and still has not begun, despite a general election focused on the issue being called.

Should the Conservatives manage to return to Parliament with a majority and the mandate to ‘Get Brexit Done’ by 31st January 2020, February 1st will (or ought to) bring a huge debate on what happens next. Britain’s leadership in NATO will be one of our greatest assets in our future relationship with the EU and our position in the world.

Emmanuel Macron’s recent comments about the alliance being ‘brain-dead’ have put the formation of an expert panel to investigate the future of the alliance on the agenda at the NATO London summit. But despite that charge, there simply is no other alternative to guaranteeing European security. Despite hysteria about a ‘European Army’ in Britain, EU defence initiatives have amounted to little, and do not look likely to expand anytime soon.

European security has always been crucial to Britain because, as Churchill said, “Europe is where the weather comes from”. But due to some European allies’ free-riding, Britain is crucial to European security. So when negotiations on the future relationship begin, the Government would do well to underline its invaluable role within NATO.

British foreign policy will no longer be able to lean on the EU after Brexit. Investment in hard and soft power will bolster Britain’s stock as it goes it alone. As of right now, our defence policies are literally world-leading, with two state-of-the-art Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers (which are here to stay, despite recent gossip from the Sunday Times) forming the core of British power projection.

British power is multiplied through our cooperation with the US, our strongest and most natural ally and the world’s only superpower. The Conservative manifesto includes a welcome commitment to maintain defence expenditure above the NATO target. This must be kept, and improved upon, to keep Britain on the front foot as it goes into the future.

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