Bow Group considers British foreign policy in wake of Libya report

Foreign Affairs & Security
Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Following a parliamentary report which criticises both Britain and France's intervention in Libya, the Bow Group reflects on discussions from its recent 'Brexit: What Next For Britain?' policy debate on foreign affairs for Britain's future upon leaving the European Union.

Bow Group Chairman, Ben Harris-Quinney:

‘I actually see, at least the last ten, fifteen years of our foreign policy, as being catastrophic. I don’t necessarily think we’ve had a wiser approach to continental Europe. I don’t know how often the state of Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan on the ground is properly explored by the government, but I think actually we significantly damaged our global brand -  the extent to which we’re taken seriously in foreign affairs by military misadventure over those years.

‘If you’re looking purely at British national interests, I don’t think geopolitically or in economic terms we gain anything from being closely tied to a Eurozone with structural flaws, or indeed closely tied to a European military which is little to speak of in terms of its power or size, apart from the case of the French who we have an existing and separate treaty in place with.

However, I think we could actually learn a little from the continent, purely on the basis that our foreign policy which has recently been little other than a misadventure.'


Director of ResPublica, Phillip Blond:

‘Our military misadventures have largely been because we followed uncritically the Americans.


Perhaps our sole foreign policy success in terms of countering aggression, was through and as a result of the European Union which was sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. Well, actually we were the ones who dragooned many reluctant Europeans, including the Germans, who wanted not to induce such quite such harsh penal penalties on Russia.

And actually we managed to secure the line of conflict where it is in Ukraine only through the European Union and only through sanctions European-wide, which is why Putin was so thrilled that we voted for Brexit.’

Graham Evans MP:

'I disagree with that. The Iraq War was a disaster, but as Phillip has just said that was us supporting the Americans. It’s poisoned the well. The message it sent to Russia, the message it sent to the likes of China, is that might is right.

That’s why the Russians, I believe, have started expansion in Crimea and East Ukraine, and indeed the Chinese have taken that at face value and started doing this in islands, creating territory. That’s a direct result of the Iraq War.

But in terms of other interventionist policies such as Libya for example, I’d like to ask any politician who would stand by and allow Gaddafi to murder men, women and children in Benghazi. That is the reason why we did intervene in Libya.

I don’t want Great Britain to not be an interventionist nation, I think it is right and it is within our interest to do so at the right time. I take on board Iraq, but that’s one of my concerns: that we do pull up the drawbridge, we say that we are Little Englanders and we do not involve ourselves in the world.’


Director of ResPublica, Phillip Blond:

‘The disaster in Libya is we didn’t have a European stabilisation force that could secure Libya, because we didn’t develop that.

We are looking at war in Europe on our eastern and southern border and the Americans are not going to help or secure that.'