One question which has been asked regarding an Independent Wales, is will we have foreign embassies, and how many?
Firstly, we will need to have a network of foreign embassies, consulates and missions, for the same reason that other countries do – to conduct foreign policy, to maintain international relations, to assist our citizens abroad, and to facilitate countries, organizations and individuals who wish to visit or do business with us.
The UK currently has over 200 such establishments, costing millions to maintain, but in keeping with our more modest aspirations, we should be looking at a similar number as Ireland or Denmark, which have only around 40-50 diplomatic missions, many of which are little more than a suite of offices – like them we simply won’t need grandiose embassy compounds, as we do not need to project (or protect) any imperialistic ambitions.
We could anticipate fully serviced embassies in our immediate neighbours – England, Ireland, Scotland & France - and with our major trading partners – Germany, USA & Japan. Elsewhere we can use strategically placed embassies and consuls to support more than one country – for example an embassy in Brussels could support Netherlands, Belgium & Luxembourg, as well as dealing with the EU & Nato. This isn’t a radical idea – others already do this, and with the help of the internet and express couriers, many countries have rationalised their consular network.
Outside of Europe, I would envisage regional consular offices in maybe South Africa (serving all of Southern Africa); Dubai (for the Middle East & North Africa); India (for South Asia); Hong Kong (for SE Asia); Australia (Oceania). In the USA we might have an Embassy in Washington plus a Mission in New York, which would serve the UN, and maybe a consulate in Los Angeles which would also cover Central America. We would only need a nominal presence in South America, and maybe here we could share facilities with say Ireland or Scotland – Belgium and Netherlands already successfully operate shared consulates for example.
There is obviously a cost to operating an independent foreign diplomatic network, but the costs of this do not need to be excessive. Also we need to remember that we are already paying for a share of the UK’s existing foreign missions, and that 5% of this current expenditure (our proportionate share) should largely cover our more modest requirements.