Modern Britain 1951 - 1964: Foreign Policy

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What was the Suez Canal?

The Suez Canal was an important trade route and was the primary route that connected the Mediterranean through to Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

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Oil imports

80% of oil imports were transported through the canal.

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Nationalisation of the Canal

Colonel Nasser nationalised the canal in 1956 and this was seen to be provoking Britain. This provocation was something that the British government could neither accept nor ignore.

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Anthony Eden

Anthony Eden still saw himself as an expert in foreign policy and believed in Britain's imperial role within the world.

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No faith in diplomacy

Eden did not believe that diplomacy was the correct approach and saw Nasser as a danger to the stability in Africa.

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The Cabinet

The general consensus within the Cabinet was that drastic action should be taken.

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The Plot

Britain met with France and Israel. It was planned that Israel would invade Egypt with Britain and France intervening as peacemakers and seizing the canal in the process.

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Political protest and pressure

Eden faced great political protest but went ahead with the plan anyway. Britain eventually bowed to American pressure as Eisenhower dealt Eden an ultimatum. Take the troops out of Suez or lose financial aid. Britain was still financially dependant upon Marshall Aid which came from the US, therefore Britain could not go against Eisenhower's orders.

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Financial Crisis

As a result of the failure of Suez, Britain was plunged into a financial crisis. Harold Macmillan, a member of Eden's cabinet, saw no other option but to pull out the troops, even if Britain was to be humiliated.

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The end of Eden

The Suez Crisis marked the end of Anthony Eden's political career. Fortunatley though, as Eden disappeared from the limelight, so did the crisis and it did no lasting damage to the Conservative Party.

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Britain's position in the world

People now began to rethink where Britain stood in the world. The failure of Suez brought about the realisation that Britain was no longer an imperial powerhouse.

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The consequences of Suez

In response to Suez, the British government began to speed up the process of decolonisation. Independance was granted to Ghana (1957), the West Indies (1958), Nigeria and Cyprus (1960) amongst others.

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