ONCE in a while, a book comes along that demands a closer look. How Britain Broke The World is such a volume. Written by Arthur Snell – who wants “Britain to do better as a country” – and published by Canbury Press, it is a devasting account of how the UK messed up its relations with other countries to such a degree that it threatens world order.

Snell is a former British diplomat and a ­first-hand observer of the way the UK foreign policy has added to the mess the world is in. He claims that since Tony Blair’s first election ­victory in 1997, Britain has contributed to the fracturing of the global order. Snell is no ­Scottish nationalist. Indeed, his understanding of Scotland some might think embarrassing.

He says that Britain’s foreign policy is constantly shaped by imperial hubris. The strange idea that Britain knows best that it can dispense wisdom and guidance around the world when recent actions should give a pause for thought.

A misplaced British belief that it has a ­better understanding of what is good for most ­ people than those people have themselves. Sound ­familiar?

As far as Brexit is concerned, Snell says that “Britain sought to negotiate an agreement that would make it harder to trade with its ­number one trading partner and the world’s ­largest ­economic bloc. It was a trade deal whose ­desired outcome was to erect new barriers to trade. Inevitably the process was fraught with tension and rancour. A new trade war between the UK and the EU cannot be ruled out.”

Britain’s fixation with its colonial past and its misplaced national self-importance have been a constant and unhelpful factor informing policy with former colonies such as India, he says.

According to Snell, the Iraq War could not have happened without the forceful lobbying of Blair and the legal creativity of British ­lawyers and without the contribution of the British ­intelligence service.

If a country’s intelligence services are the ­truest expression of a nation’s character, as John Le Carré says, then applied to the case for the war against Iraq it suggests that Britain is, at the very least, desperate to please, delusional and self-important, and slapdash.

Snell points out that in the mid-1980s, the UK had around 3000 diplomats posted around the world. By the mid-1990s, this figure had fallen to 2500. By 2018 this number was around 1700, the lowest in modern British history. In the same period, France posted roughly twice as many diplomats abroad. Good luck getting help if you’re stranded abroad.

The idea of an expert cadre, considering ­policy against a wider evidence base and ­advising ­ministers on the best path to take, or offering an informed critique of a proposed policy, simply does not exist in the British system, says Snell.

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Snell underscores the fact that Britain ­operates the world’s largest network of offshore financial institutions ensuring that criminal money can be routed across the world.

He claims that Britain’s financial institutions including its network of offshore tax ­havens make the UK the global leader in money ­laundering. By doing this Britain helps prop up the thieving regimes both corrupt ­countries such as Russia. And the UK Parliament, ­fixated on short-term tactical game and media ­posturing, shows itself incapable of taking ­strategic ­decisions.

Ironically these overseas territories are self-governing democracies responsible for their own affairs and reliant upon the UK solely for ­defence and foreign relations. A status – if not an occupation – that many Scots might envy.

Snell also takes aim at Britain’s private schools. He quotes headmaster Andrew Halls describing Britain’s private schools, saying “they are ­finishing schools for the children of oligarchs”.

And he quotes Max Bergmann, former ­senior official in Barack Obama’s State ­department, who said: “Uprooting Kremlin-linked ­oligarchs will be a challenge given the close ties ­between Russian money and Britain’s ­ruling ­Conservative party, the press, and it’s real ­estate and financial industry.”

Snell reminds us that Suspicious Activity ­Reports succeeded in stopping less than 1% of the estimated £100 billion illicit funds the ­passes through the UK each year. So, for every £1bn that is detected, £99bn of dodgy money washes through the UK annually. In the UK, around 80 staff are expected to analyse and ­investigate nearly half a million reports annually.

He contends that what is almost certainly at play is the “peculiarly British aversion to long-term planning over short-term gain”. ­Particularly when that gain stuffs the bank ­accounts of the upper classes.

Faced with the choice between making it easy for money launderers and criminals to spend their money in London and the long-term global benefits of integrity, Britain has always kept the dirty money flowing.

That £99 billion a year buys a nation of blind eyes, says Snell.

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