Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Towards a wider Japan-UK Strategic Dialogue for Post-Brexit Era
IWAMA Yoko / Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies

September 13, 2016
With the closing of the Olympic Games, Europe is entering the high season for diplomacy. With the referendum in the UK, terrorist attacks and the abortive coup in Turkey, the European leaders would have hardly had time for vacation this year. In the past, leaders such as the then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl spent summer vacation in the mountains, following a healthy diet to reappear in the fall with a slightly slimmer waistline. Today, Chancellor Angela Merkel seems way too busy to lose weight.

Instability is growing on the periphery of the European Union. In addition to the British decision to exit the EU, or Brexit, the democratic institution seems to be faltering in Turkey, while the low-intensity conflict in Ukraine drags on. All these factors combine to threaten stability and growth in Europe. Within the EU, the British departure and a weakened France would inevitably result in an era of unrivalled dominance by Germany. While the German economy has always been strong since the end of World War II, it had been balanced by creative European diplomacy practiced by the French and the unique brand of British liberalism, thus maintaining the balance within the EU. Yet, once French leadership runs dry and the British turn their back on the continent, there will be literally no country left that could stand up to Germany and its political, economic and diplomatic clout. This is by no means a healthy state of affairs for Europe.

For example, several major British newspapers have lately taken to publishing a spate of analytical articles that explained Abenomics in a favorable light. In contrast, the Germans continue to describe Abenomics as a typical case of dismal monetary easing unaccompanied by reform. And in their diplomatic approach to Russia, Germany has traditionally leaned towards a soft approach, differing considerably from the U.K., which at times has taken openly hard positions against Russia.

The point is not who or what is right, but the fact that diversity in opinions exists in the EU, allowing for open discussions which in the end leads to a balanced decision. Britain’s departure could destroy that very mechanism within the EU.

However, there is no stopping Brexit now. This writer hopes Brussels will take a flexible approach in dealing with Britain’s exit, but that seems unlikely. Brussels fears that if it allows the UK to have its own way, other countries will resort to bargaining with the exit card to gain a better position for themselves. The British must therefore seek an alternative way of life outside the EU. The Commonwealth is certainly a plausible option. Britain would need to renew its awareness of the importance of India, and reconsider what it can do for a more balanced development of that country.

China is another possibility. The rapprochement between Britain and China during President Xi Jinping’s UK visit last fall surprised many observers. Soon after taking office, the new Prime Minister Theresa May postponed a decision on the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant project, expected to be funded by China. Britain will inevitably need to rely more on the emerging markets to replace the stable EU market. But as it leaves the EU, which was a community of shared values, it must also firmly assess the risks associated with emerging markets.

The sheer size of the Chinese market and the country’s current foreign reserves may increase the short-term merits of approaching China. But unlike India, China is a rapidly aging country with a political system that is not exactly adequate for absorbing the shock of such a change. Britain must also be well aware of such political, economic and security risks associated with China. Perhaps it is a good opportunity to expand the framework of Japan-UK Strategic Dialogue to include economy and trade as well as security issues.

Yoko Iwama is Professor of international politics at Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.

The English-Speaking Union of Japan

岩間 陽子 / 政策研究大学院大学教授

2016年 9月 13日






一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Towards a wider Japan-UK Strategic Dialogue for Post-Brexit Era