National pride isn’t very fashionable anymore. People who drape themselves in the Union Flag, sing the national anthem and talk about how GREAT Britain is are sneered at as at best being deluded, harking back to a long-gone past, and at worst being some kind of fascist – as though patriotism is inevitably Nazism.
We’re told that after Brexit – and especially if there’s a no deal Brexit – the UK is going to be a little fish in a big pond. And the sharks are coming for us.
But if those of us who are proud of our country are supposedly deluded, what are the people who seem to have no concept of the privileged, wealthy and powerful position the UK occupies, relative to the rest of the world?
Let’s look at the facts.
In terms of our economy, we’re no minnow. The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world according to rankings by the UN, IMF and World Bank. Ours is bigger than the economies of countries including India, France, Canada, Russia and Australia.
When it comes to defence spending we’re up there with the big boys. Measured by overall size of military budget, the International Institute for Strategic Studies ranks the UK as the sixth biggest spender in the world, while the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute puts the UK at seventh in the world.
The Soft Power 30 index by Portland and The USC Center on Public Diplomacy ranks countries according to their influence, attractiveness and persuasive power. The 2018 index places the UK top, making it the world’s biggest soft power. The report identifies the UK’s underlying strengths in education, culture, digital, creative, finance and tech as the reason the UK is so popular around the world.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report – which assesses how countries perform in terms of infrastructure, education, market efficiency, financial markets, market size, tech and innovation – places the UK eighth overall.
The UK also has a permanent seat on the UK Security Council, has had its national dress adopted around the world (suit and tie), and has untold influence as the anchor member of the 53 country strong Commonwealth of Nations.
It’s not harking back to the British Empire to acknowledge that the UK is a strong and powerful nation. We should own the objective reality that we are a hard, soft and economic power, with more authority and influence than most countries in the world.
Instead of being shy, nervous or falsely modest, the UK needs to move forward with confidence. Not only for our own sakes, but because by reconciling ourselves to our status as a world leader, we can use that influence to do good.
Because Brexit is not just an opportunity for us to realise our full potential as an independent trading nation, but also an opportunity to spread the values and institutions that create the circumstances for prosperity: free trade, property rights, the rule of law, individual civil liberties and an independent judiciary. Built on these foundations prosperity is not a zero-sum game where as one country gets richer another gets poorer, but instead it is a recipe for everyone to improve their lot.