The May government faces a crisis of relevance. Following news of the pound’s three-month low in wake of May’s Tuesday Brexit speech, Gove’s offering of no further clarity on a Trump brokered US-UK trade deal from 2019, and the video of Mrs. May aimlessly searching for leaders to speak with at the European Summit in December – the epitome of Britain’s position in Europe right now – the UK now stands at the ‘back of the queue’ in many areas of global importance.
We start with Europe. Ever since the Brexit vote, which frustrated ‘Eurocrats’ and various political figures all over Europe, those bloody Europeans have been uncompromising on the EU’s principles of free movement for free market access. Tsk, if only May heeded Cameron’s pragmatism with disincentives for European workers, then single market access might not be at the mercy of ideological imperatives. But the discontinuation of EU membership will be merely an economic blow to the empire of yore. As for our international presence, a series of British blunders in Libya ensued in 2011, parliament was hesitant over the bombing of the Assad regime back in 2013, stifling Obama’s aerial campaign against the Syrian dictator, and Britain being absent from the Minsk Accords in 2014, instead being assumed by France and Germany, has culminated Britain into a sapless ‘yes man’ with no real presence in international processes.
Talking of America, Trump’s rapprochement with Russia is leaving little room for May to maintain the US and UK’s ‘special relationship’. With news on Trump’s foreign policy overwhelmingly swamped by the affectionately coined ‘Vlump’ friendship – cheers, Jimmy Fallon – and one of Trump’s first foreign visits yesterday confirmed to be to a summit in Reykjavik with Putin, where does the absent UK fit in, if at all in this diplomatic upheaval?
It’s common knowledge by now that the May government isn’t a top priority for the next American administration. Despite May’s slimy admiration for the Donald, she was only tenth (!!) on the list of the president-elect’s first calls to foreign leaders. Days later we got good ol’ one of the people Nigel Farage skipping eagerly across the Atlantic to shake hands first with Trump in his high castle, followed by a cringe worthy proposal of Nige taking the role as UK ambassador to the US in what can only be described as a demonstration of the leader of the Free World’s abysmal understanding of the British political system. But oh, May’s a fighter. Beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose, and like a delirious ex who won’t take a hint she maintains high hopes for a closer economic friendship with the United States of Trump at a time when the protectionist Trump-Pence duo are thinking of hashing the NAFTA trade agreement made between the USA’s own North American neighbours.
Turning back to the suspect Vlump friendship, the UK is now also having to fend off Russian accusations that MI6 was culpable for the dirty dossier; a dossier much raunchier than the dodgy one authored by Alistair Campbell, it implicates the Donald in having kinky sex with prostitutes during his trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe contest in 2013. If Russia’s narrative is picked up by the Trump administration, then it would further bolster the campaign to vilify the US intelligence services, and wouldn’t help the Trump-May rapport any better, either. Lest we also consider the divergent foreign policy towards Russia, with the UK remaining steadfast on Russian sanctions and Trump ready to drop them were Moscow to do ‘some really great things’…
So let me ask again where the UK fits in on the global stage. I’ll tell you where it’s at: the very periphery of the conventional West.
In an increasingly protectionist, inward-looking West, Brexit Britain has to rethink its diplomatic approach to the international community. It must halt burning bridges with the EU if it desires to maintain its economic and political soft power. Elsewhere, although unlikely, and given the desperation of this government’s trading policy, we must side on the line of caution when trading and cooperating with states tarnished with shabby human rights records or run by crony heads of state. By all means rekindle old ties with the Commonwealth and take trade further with the Asian Tigers and Japan, otherwise the UK could be permanently ousted as a major player in its own back garden by Germany, and namely France which overtook our economy last year. Expanding on our humanitarian and foreign aid is a great way of maintaining soft power in far-flung corners of the world at a time when the debate on foreign aid has been hijacked by Brexiteers. But this is the crux of the problem; only until we know what power the Brexiteers are taking back do we know what the future of the UK will be on the world stage.