Time for a national conversation about what role the UK wants in the world - Yorkshire Post Letters

From: James Bovington, Church Grove, Horsforth, Leeds.

Photo by OLIVIER HOSLET/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.
Photo by OLIVIER HOSLET/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

THIRTY years ago we said goodbye to the Soviet Union, the USSR. People now will struggle to connect the apparent superpower Cold War era superpower with the Russia of today remembering the acronym only from The Beatles Back in the USSR.

In 1978 I enjoyed a school trip to the USSR and saw at first hand apparent Soviet unassailability as we visited Red Square at the same time as hawkish defence minister Marshal Ustinov addressed a Red Army passing out parade.

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Yet, on January 1, 1992, new successor states arose and American political scientist Francis Fukuyama in his book The End of History incorrectly anticipated the triumph of the western democracy and social capitalism.

It hasn’t happened. China hasn’t become a democracy, it has become bellicose. Russia is arguably more dangerous than the USSR. America is no longer offers an attractive vision of freedom, kindness and innovation.

Maybe we were too quick and certainly too triumphalist to welcome the passing of the USSR which shorn of the occupied Baltic states could arguably have become Europe’s partner as a genuinely democratic confederation.

Britain has also chosen to leave a union of peaceful and relatively prosperous democracies in favour of unchartered waters but is finding many ports closed to the good ship Britannia.

Many scoffed at Barack Obama’s warning of the loneliness of Brexit and in this newspaper Bernard Ingham laments that Joe Biden is no friend of the UK.

I wish fellow readers a happy healthy and prosperous coming year but am reminded that 2022 also marks 60 years since former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson made his often-quoted assertion that Britain’s role as an independent power was ‘about played out’, telling a military conference that Britain had 'lost an empire and had not found a role’.

It’s time for a national conversation about what role we want and how future constitutional arrangements for the countries in these islands can help define as well as revisiting the UK-EU relationship.

This should have been done after the Brexit referendum but progressives allowed the issue to be hijacked by the isolationist jingoistic Tory right.

My contribution would be to reverse negatively nostalgic Brexit and seek membership of a renewed Single Market and Customs Union.