GRAMLobal Britain is a catchy slogan. There is a delicious hint of regained greatness, although this time not imperial but global. It also clearly deflects the charge that leaving the EU is a rampant little englandism; instead, it is the EU that makes itself seem provincial and introverted. Furthermore, it represents ambition.
Global Britain will be a great power as we used to be: closing trade deals with the world, sending our fleet east of Aden again to project naval power as part of a shift to Asia; and take the initiative in defending democracy and the rule of law. War animator Bud Flanagan can rest easy. “Who do you think you’re kidding, Remainers, if you think old England is over?”
The government has the country locked in a Daddy’s army Mindset: Boris Johnson as Captain Mainwaring and his Stupid Boys cabinet orchestrating our global advance against Remainer naysayers. Witness how last week’s jubilation over America’s lifting of punitive tariffs on Scotch whiskey was hailed as a post-Brexit victory for Britain, as shameful as it was ignorant.
A day later, the United States suspended all punitive tariffs on all EU exports for a four-month truce in the bitter Airbus / Boeing trade dispute during attempts to reach a deal. In any case, we are on the side of the EU: Airbus and its supply chain are six to seven times more valuable than whiskey exports to the US Also, if Airbus withdraws from the UK, we lose one of the last Stakes we have left in high-tech as large companies and a potential champion in the fast-growing space industry. But facts should not get in the way of the fairy tale of global Britain.
This month, the government will release its long overdue integrated review of how Global Britain’s new foreign, defense, aid and trade policies will come together. Captain Boris gave a sneak peek at a speaks to the Munich security conference last month, again embarrassing. He argued that the 20,000-nautical-mile maiden voyage of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth was emblematic of a recovered independent great power ready to shore up the depressed west, with 35 American F-35s on loan and flanked by an American destroyer.
It may be a virtue, perhaps a sign of agility, to be the first to impose sanctions, say, on Belarus, but for President Alexander Lukashenko that is a jab. What matters are the EU sanctions, which Britain has lost its ability to influence. Furthermore, appealing to Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron to abandon the joint EU foreign policy to revive with Britain and the US The old cold war “quad” was the illusion of a madman, especially since all the other leaders had been talking about reshaping the EU-US relations.
I also read Ryder Haggard, RM Ballantyne, CS Forester and GA Henty when I was a schoolboy: a world of brave Brits who beat up foreigners (mainly the French) and natives while painting the world red with colonies, dominions and British protectorates. But at the same time, the news bulletins were full of British troops dying in Aden and Borneo for no obvious purpose, and the futility of the white settlers’ unilateral declaration of independence in Rhodesia. Harold Macmillan was correct in speaking of the wind of change, and Harold Wilson in abandoning a defensive presence east of Aden. It was obvious that Britain’s claims as a great world power had to be reformulated. What those novels represented was already history.
But it is not history even now for those Brexiters for whom the essence of the British is to dominate, to show the way, to bring down Johnny, foreigner.
Ed Balls, a former Labor cabinet minister, recently paid the Daddy’s army Bring the honor of taking them seriously in an article, Finding Global Britain, written with colleagues at the Harvard Kennedy Center. Britain was not going to remake the world trading system, revitalize the West and advance the cause of liberal democracy for its own sake, he argued. To be the force for good that it could and should be, it had to be more modest, presenting itself as an honest broker and a builder of alliances, and above all to remain a friend of the EU, whose power we have to harness to get anywhere.
Sensible and sensible things, but sanity and modesty are not the reason we are in the wacky place we now inhabit. Even basic arithmetic eludes Johnson’s band. Trade Minister Liz Truss showcases the benefits of a trade deal with the US. Additional 0.16% of GDP more than 15 years if it can be done) and becoming a Pacific powerhouse by joining the Trans-Pacific trade association, which is worth even less. These are intended to offset the estimated loss of up to 2.92% of GDP to leave the EU customs union and the single market. Shallow trade deals in goods, even in the glamorous Pacific, do not make up for the loss of deep trade deals covering services that we have destroyed with the EU.
HMS Elizabeth is also not a Nemesis of the last days, the British gunship that sank Chinese war junks to win the first opium war and thus Hong Kong. The Chinese have a long memory and will make the unfortunate connection even if we don’t. They are also cunning judges of power. They know that the projection of military force with borrowed planes and without financial backing is an expensive sham. No less laughable is boasting of soft power in the wake of coming drastic cuts in UK aid programs some of the world’s poorest countries, exposed last week in a leak to Open Democracy. If only the destitute and dying in Yemen or Somalia lived on the conservative fringes, they could have hoped much better.
Brexit is a counterproductive act of madness. Our long-term growth rate, states the Office of Budget Responsibility, has now sunk to 1.7%. Today we report that the introduction of customs controls on EU goods in April and July will be postponed due to fears of food shortages. Trade flows between the UK and the EU are in crisis. The country has the ability and the values to be a force for good, but this global UK is a hoax. The house guard who Daddy’s army so wonderfully satirized were the honorable men at least. The same cannot be said of the army in number 10.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism