20 Mar 03. The possibility of the war lasting no more than three weeks has focused the minds of a number of observers as to the fall-out in the strained relations within the EU between the UK, Germany and France in particular. In addition Mr Blair’s heavy handed approach to dealing with the parliamentary Labour Party in the handling of the war debate may have left the Prime Minister with problems related to future strategy.
Although Chris Patten has made assurances that problems such as the European rapid Reaction Force and centralised European defence and foreign policy are very much on the agenda for the forthcoming European summit, the behavior of France in particular during the Iraq debate can only worry strategists as to whether Europe has the capability to mobilize a coherent defence and foreign policy to meet immediate threats.
In the U.K. Tony Blair will survive his stance on Iraq if the body count is low and the war short? Should it continue and a high body count result, which will then flow through to possible higher taxation to pay for the war, he may be damaged beyond repair and choose to step down at the next election or a leadership election called. In addition his lifelong wish to be the President of Europe looks as far away as ever and unobtainable in the current climate and French intransigence, much of which may be driven by a French wish to control Europe. However indications that Gordon Brown will lead the party and become Prime Minister in the event of a Blair stand-down look to be unlikely given his current handling of the economy and lack of a strong team of supporters in the House of Commons. Peter Hain’s standing and visibility is increasing day by day and he may be a future contender?
The EU failing to commit to funding has also put the issues of post-war reconstruction into question. Similar to the Gulf War in 1991 the United States has sent the benefit of creating special contracts in construction and oil damage prevention with a number of U.S. companies such bas Halliburton, Fluor and Bechtel. UK companies like Amey in particular appeared to have lost out again as in 1991. It is time for the UK to rethink its future support for the U.S. not just in terms of military but also in terms of gaining access to lucrative post-war reconstruction contracts for UK firms. The only firm to gain a contract of magnitude during the post-1991 conflict was GKN Defence for Warrior and Piranha vehicles.