To promote its interests globally, the UK government has been resolutely pursuing cordial diplomatic relationships with nations and has built significant strategic alliances. With the Britons voting in favor of exiting the European Union, UK’s situation and global position would undergo transformations and certain equations might change forever. Obviously, the foreign policy of the UK would also demand reorganization according to the changing scenario. Let us take a look at some of UK’s traditional partners and analyze how their friendship is poised in the present state of affairs.
1. United States
The United States is the most important ally of The United Kingdom, as reiterated by the British government time and again. The superpowers have close military, economic and cultural ties. The two nations have a strong military and intelligence partnership which allows for vital intelligence sharing and frequent joint operations between them. The American market serves as the single largest market for exported British goods. The two countries share the world’s largest foreign direct investment partnership. In fact, the USA and the UK enjoy what is stated to be a ‘Special Relationship’ by the two countries since mid 20th Century. The United Kingdom has been a vocal supporter of the USA’s efforts to counter terrorism and of America’s foreign invasions, particularly that of Iraq. As former British PM Tony Blair put it- “We should remain the closest ally of the US … not because they are powerful, but because we share their values.”
Both Australia and the UK are key members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Australia has always had close relations with the UK. Australia is a prominent partner of the UK when it comes to military operations and intelligence. Australia and UK have significant industrial ties, particularly in the mining sector. The two countries also share a strong cultural bond and have a great history of cultural exchanges. The sporting rivalry between the two nations is also very well known. The Ashes still remains the most competitive and riveting cricket rivalry between any two countries.
Canada is also a prominent ally of the United Kingdom. Canada has been a loyal partner to Britain in most part of the modern history. Canada was on Britain’s side in the world wars and has been an important ally ever since. Canada has also been one of Britain’s principal trading partners. In spite of the fact that both the UK and Canada are now more inclined towards USA as a trading partner, Canada still remains important to UK. UK is also of utmost importance to Canada and is sill its third largest trading partner. Another important aspect of Anglo-Canadian relationship is the huge migration that has taken place between the two countries. Canada has been a traditionally favorable destination for the Britons to settle down. Also, many Canadians have moved to Britain for better education and for building their careers.
The fact that the United Kingdom ruled India for nine decades is itself a strong indication that there are certain similarities between UK and India. In a broader sense it can be well asserted that most of the government and administrative machinery of India follows the British system. UK and India have always been cordial partners but the recent turn of events with India’s emergence as a rapidly growing economy have elevated India’s prominence for the UK more than ever. There also seems to be a much stronger political will to foster friendly relationship between London and New Delhi. On the economic front, UK and India are vital trade and industrial partners. UK is a major investor on the Indian land and Indian companies have contributed strongly in providing an impetus to the British economy. Britain has been a preferred destination for the Indian students to pursue higher education. The Indian community in Britain is considered to be quite influential, thus creating a strong cultural bond between the two nations.
Through the pages of history, the relationship between France and England has seen several ups and downs. Despite the adversities, there have been sustained efforts at both the ends to revive the friendship between France and United Kingdom. France remains of strategic importance to the United Kingdom on both defense and economic front. France is the United Kingdom’s third-biggest export market after the United States and Germany. The United Kingdom and France also share cultural and intellectual values and have historically been close to each other’s traditions and way of living. There has been a tremendous spread of French language in UK. French music is loved by the British and English literature is widely appreciated by the French. In the sporting arena, UK and France are well known rivals in Rugby and Football.
Netherlands is an important European ally of UK. It has been a supporter of UK on various key issues. The Dutch and the English have a long history of economic and political understanding. In the present geopolitical scenario, the Dutch see the British as an impactful and dependable companion. The Dutch and The British Armed Forces have had many successful partnerships in the past. In fact, the Dutch Navy and the British Navy are strongly allied by a special ‘Bond of friendship’. They have often united and operated together in times of need. The two nations are also important trading partners. Both the countries boast of providing conducive environment to business, and thus have close business relations. Netherlands has been a rich market for the UK. Culturally, the Dutch and the British seem to be admirers of one another. Most of the Dutch can speak English language well.
It is considered to be an extremely important partner of the UK. As it is also a neighbor of the UK, the significance of their friendship increases further. Belgium and UK have been traditional friends and supporters of each other. It was Belgian invasion of Germany that led to British involvement in the First World War. The ideal location of the Flanders region of Belgium provides a crucial trading channel for Belgium and the neighboring countries. Thus, the UK eyes this region for establishing maritime and trade supremacy in Europe. Belgium is a leading trade partner for UK while UK is the fourth largest market for Belgian products. There has also been a considerable impact of Flemish art and culture on the British society.
Hungary is another loyal and close friend of the United Kingdom in the European Region. Hungary has been a key trading counterpart of UK, and more importantly several measures are constantly being taken to ensure further strengthening of this bond between the two countries. Hungarian companies in Britain have proved to be vital for the country’s commercial development. Recently, the nations have decided on establishing a bilateral business council in the Hungarian embassy in London to promote bilateral trade ties.
The United Kingdom has got an important relation with Sweden. Sweden serves as a crucial trading partner for UK. UK and Sweden’s friendship has got a significant diplomatic dimension. It is due to the nonalignment policy of Sweden that it exercises its Protecting Power in international forums. This can prove to be helpful for the United Kingdom in taking a stand on international issues.
Ireland and United Kingdom have got a very interesting history of enmity and friendship at different points of time. Anglo-Irish friendship has suffered the erosions of time, but has nevertheless come a long way. Ireland and UK are now believed to be united on most key issues on the international stage and are pledged to work with understanding and mutual cooperation in the interest of the two nations and the of the entire European region. The formation of organizations like the British-Irish Intergovernmental conference has further reinforced the bid to enhance trust, coordination and harmony between UK and Ireland. UK and Ireland both are probably the most important trading partners for each other, and also favorable business destinations for each other’s citizens. They are strongly connected to each other culturally, obviously due to the proximity and historical relations of the two nations. People of Irish origin are still the largest minority group of the United Kingdom.