Between a Pandemic and a Hard Brexit: Grand Strategic Thinking in an Age of Nationalism, Renewed Geopolitical Competition and Human Insecurity

A pro-Scottish independence, pro-EU rally held in Edinburgh, 31 January 2020. Brexit has revived concerns over the future of the UK. Courtesy of Alamy/ Iain Masterton

The UK's turbulent domestic situation has implications for how the country faces external threats.

Ministers have pledged that the UK’s Integrated Review will be driven by external threats, rather than financial pressures. This would be refreshing, but a renewed focus on ‘the other’ should not come at the expense of self-evaluation. Strategy, grand or otherwise, is about making choices. Prioritising threats is difficult without an understanding of one’s internal capabilities and vulnerabilities.

In this essay, which was awarded the 2020 Trench Gascoigne Prize, William D James considers the UK’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as its external environment, in the early 2020s. The analysis suggests that some external threats would be less concerning if domestic frailties were first addressed.

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