One major theme from Brexit was the “patriotism” of the Brexiteers. They “believed in Britain” whereas Remainers were “traitors” who were “talking the country down”.
May made specific reference to this when she challenged Corbyn’s patriotism. True patriots believed in Brexit and would “Make Britain Great again”, we would take our country back not only from the EU, but from the treacherous remainers who were EU huggers that didn’t believe in the UK. The unpatriotic remoaners would be put in their place and the UK would sail forth to reclaim it’s rightful place in the world.
It was going to be a world of new opportunities, new trade deals and dynamic relationships. When Trump came to power Theresa May announced that we were going to lead the world hand in hand with the USA.
Yes, she really said that, strange at the time given his campaign but positively bizarre a few short months later, the idea that we would be looking to tie ourselves to the US president. What does that say for our international standing when even the majority of the American people find him embarrassing?
But surely patriotism MUST be about international standing, a nation’s self respect, it’s influence and it’s place in the world and in this regard the UK has always punched above it’s weight. We were considered part of the “big 3 of Europe”, the 3 major players who influenced the direction of the EU
Not of course by the Eurosceptics. They hated the EU, they hated the very idea that we might share influence with other nations. Scratch the surface of a brexiteer and you’ll typically find someone with dreams of Empire.
(if I can break though the “4th wall” for a second. Yes, the above is real. Search “Hannan Anglosphere” and it pops up. Incredible.) However unknown to most of us the EU raised the UK and was a force projector for our influence.
How could it not be? We had big 3 status but also we were the bridge between the commonwealth, the USA and the EU because of our historical & cultural links. In reality the UK had huge “soft power”, something we took for granted. So, where is the UK now on that world stage? How is our influence? Are we growing in stature, does the world respect us more?
No. We’re now bundled in with Trump. Our allies in Europe see us as being unreliable & cut from similar cloth. The political landscape is moving in the EU, but we are not a part of it, for the first time in 40 years. Prior to that, UK policy was to play off one European nation against another, that simply isn’t going to happen any more.
As for our outlook, that Brexit booming economy has stumbled, our economic growth has dropped from the top to the bottom of the G7 nations. Foreign investors are nervous, as of course they will be, as business & investment hate uncertainty. Meanwhile, Our trade secretary is so desperate to break into trade areas not already dominated by the EU that talks about “shared values” with a dictator in the Philippines.
Consider the above image, and then consider these quotes from Duterte.
Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them…At least Germany had Hitler. The Philippines wouldn’t.
I saw her face and I thought, ‘What a pity… they raped her, they all lined up. I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first
The world is seeing this.
As for our Foreign Secretary Theresa May (who herself has shown incredible weakness obvious to any external observer), for party political reasons, sends out Johnson to represent us on the world stage, something that’s actually had foreign diplomats laughing in disbelief. Our Brexit Secretary has flip flopped in his position every few months and displays an utter lack of awareness for his brief.
Our influence in Europe is greatly diminished, the commonwealth by and large think we are foolish and don’t see new trade deals happening any time soon and all we have to fall back on is our fabled “special relationship” with the USA. Our strongest ally, our greatest international Brexit cheerleader.
Well, no, not really, because size really does matter and, all too predictably, the US is favouring an EU market of 440 Million over the UK. So much for Mr Brexit.
The sad, painful reality is, we were a player in the world. And perhaps it didn’t matter to a lot of us or perhaps we took it for granted. Nevertheless, we’ve lost our EU influence, and we’ve lost our role as the bridge between other countries and the EU. And the result is we’re tied to Trump, we have no other options. What does that mean for for the national interest, for our place in the world?
It means the US can try to implement a racist (and illegal) Travel ban, and we say not our business as long as our citizens are not affected. It means the US can pull out of a vital agreement to fight climate change, and we’re “disappointed”. It means that when the EU leaders try to create a united front to push the US into reconsidering, our foreign secretary describes it as “tagging along” like it’s some schoolyard follow the leader exercise, thus insulting our allies and demeaning his office.
Finally it means this can be sent, in the middle of a crisis, attacking the Mayor of our capital
And then this, when he gives a dignified response:
and with the world watching, and with Sadiq Khan working to restore calm, our strong and stable PM says nothing in his defence for 2 days whilst that crisis is being resolved until she’s forced to sneak out the briefest and lightest of condemnations in an off the cuff interview.
Can you imagine a European Leader sending tweets like that? Can you imagine a European Leader not immediately & robustly responding? This is what it means to “Make Britain Great again” – influence lost, bracketed with Trump and so desperate for his attention that we can’t even respond to insults.
But again, does this matter? Maybe not, maybe all that soft power stuff is for the inner circles of Westminster and whispered conversations in Embassy corridors. But if it matters to anyone it should have mattered to the Brexiteers, who put so much stock on us being “under the cosh” of Europe.
But it clearly didn’t and it clearly doesn’t, because they’re silent. All those flag waving brexit leaders aren’t stupid (stick with me here), they must know what this is doing to our country? The EU will not roll over. The Single Market will be a huge loss. The new Free Trade Deals are years away. The Special relationship is like any of the President’s relationships. Politically and economically the UK is moving away from the EU AND the USA and we have never been more isolated. Yet not one of the commentators will turn around and say “OK, we made a mistake, this wasn’t the plan”. Clearly they didn’t love their country all that much.
But of course it does matter. International relationships matter. Alliances matter. Countries having each other’s back over terrorism, foreign despots, climate change, the economy and a whole host of other global issues matters. And yet here the UK is, more isolated, more exposed & less respected than at any time in our history as a nation.
Patriots? Or jingoists who trashed our reputation and our standing in the World. A reputation built up over years, destroyed in months. We will likely never recover the influence we had. To many countries we just look foolish, vain, unreliable, unpredictable and, let’s face it, a little bit racist. That is the reality of Brexit and the “Patriots”.
PS. A note on our political class. Whatever the public statements Brexit is supremely against the national interest in almost every sphere we can think of. The first duty of parliament is protection of the nation and without question we are less secure as we Brexit.
So when you consider May, Davis, Johnson, Corbyn, Starmer and all the MPs from Labour & Conservatives, remember that they are not stepping up to be counted as the Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens are to a greater or lesser extent. They are going along with a process that they know, or should know, is significantly damaging to the UK and which directly affects it’s security.
Perhaps when the vote was fresh it was hard for some to fight against it but as the evidence gathers there must surely be an imperative to stand up and say “Yes, I understand there was a narrow vote for this, but as a member of a representative parliament I cannot in all conscience support it.” The only reason not to do so is a desire to protect their seat or position.
History will not be kind to these representatives of the people.