Continuing Ditchley’s series of book talks, award winning journalist Philip Stephens joined the Director for a discussion about his latest book Britain Alone: The Path from Suez to Brexit, on Tuesday 4 February.
Drawing on decades of personal contact and interviews with senior politicians and diplomats in Britain, the United States and across the capitals of Europe, Philip’s book is a vivid account of a proud nation struggling to admit it is no longer a great power in traditional terms.
The overwhelming message following both the introduction from Philip and the subsequent discussion with the audience members is that Britain, finding itself unmoored from both Europe and the US, will need to work hard to regain a position of power between these two poles. Moreover, an even bigger challenge perhaps closer to home is the real risk of the break-up of the Union.
Whilst the world is a very different place from the one which followed the Second World War, Britain must address the same questions posed in 1960 by Harold Macmillan when he commissioned a series of grand strategic studies asking how a country that is not connected to the major blocs operates in the world, protecting its interests and projecting its influence. These questions again need to be asked: Where is power going to lie? Where we are going to sit economically and strategically? What are we going to do to improve this position? What do we focus on? How can we act as a convenor of groups? These are the types of questions that Britain should be reflecting on from its current blank slate.