Conservative MP predicts global conflict if 'responsible international leadership' is absent

Tobias Ellwood calls diplomatic powerhouse approach to lead world in pandemic recovery

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump makes an announcement about U.S. trade relations with China and Hong Kong in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 29, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
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Britain should create a “grand strategy” to help secure world order after the coronavirus pandemic eases by uniting three major government departments to work with friendly nations, the head of the UK’s parliamentary defence committee said.

The Ministry of Defence, Foreign Office and International Development Department should be combined for a new British strategic powerhouse that could lead the task of recovery from the pandemic, Tobias Ellwood said.

Even before the outbreak, the Conservative MP believed that there was a lack of “responsible international leadership” with both the US and Britain failing to reinforce the rules-based system.

“I believe the US and Britain need to come together and show leadership,” Mr Ellwood said.

To augment these efforts the UK could become stronger if it united the three departments to provide “bespoke strategies” to regional allies, including the GCC nations.

Without strong international leadership focused on binding international partnerships, Mr Ellwood warned of a cold war between East and West that could develop into “global conflict”.

"On our current trajectory I see a cold war followed by a global conflict," he told The National.

"Countries are now slowly, one every month, making binary decisions on whether they face East or West."

Mr Ellwood criticised the foreign, defence and international development departments for “operating in silos” and said they should all be brought under direct control in a new deputy prime minister post.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEP 02: Tobias Ellwood MP arrives in Downing Street on 02 September, 2019 in London, England as Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosts a garden party for all Tory MPs. A cross-party alliance of MPs is expected to attempt to legislate against no-deal Brexit as MPs return to the House of Commons tomorrow before Parliament is prorogued next week until the Queens Speech on 14 October, just over two weeks before the UK is set to leave the EU. (Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Tobias Ellwood said the controversy was eroding trust in the government. Getty

This would be led by someone with international standing such as William Hague, the former foreign secretary.

“This person would be separate from the domestic agenda and Brexit," Mr Ellwood said.

"They would have the freedom and stature to bring together a grand strategy and carry the authority similar to that of a US vice president.”

He said a strong West was needed to counter China’s growing power, which could dominate world politics if the US continued to withdraw from the world stage.

China had gained many countries as its allies through loans and major infrastructure projects, and bilateral treaties.

These countries could then be forced to choose between a democratic West and autocratic East.

HONG KONG, CHINA - JUNE 1: Pro-democracy supporters gather at a shopping mall during a Lunch With You rally on June 1, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. (Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
Pro-democracy supporters protest in Hong Kong. Getty

"After the pandemic people will retreat further from the world stage," Mr Ellwood said.

"With a global recession looming and a lack of any superpower leadership we are actually reflecting the 1930s and look where that ended up.”

The pandemic made clear that “recognising the colossal might of China cannot be ignored” and countries would have to make a “binary choice” between East and West.

Mr Ellwood, a former defence minister, said the Covid-19 pandemic had demonstrated “how fragile the world order is“.

The West has made its first response to China’s dominance by forming a group of 10 democratic nations called the D10 to avoid over-reliance on Chinese technology, such as Huawei’s 5G broadband, it was reported last week.

Mr Ellwood said there was growing concern among Conservatives that the defence budget would face significant cuts as a result of the massive Covid-19 government spending and a shrinking economy.