Having torn up our partnership with equals, we are now entirely beholden to a volatile American nationalistby Jonathan Lis / July 12, 2019 / Leave a comment
Sometimes it takes a small event to throw an entire political system into focus. For a moment, everything is illuminated so brightly that even the most stubbornly blindfolded people must acknowledge what they see and confront what it means. The moment was this week’s extraordinary outburst by the President of the United States and the subsequent resignation of the British ambassador.
The events of the last few days have become totemic. The leaking of confidential diplomatic cables from the UK’s envoy to Washington was damaging enough. But Donald Trump’s bilious streams of abuse in response, coupled with Boris Johnson’s submissive cowardice and finally Kim Darroch’s resignation, tell us something supremely important—not just about Brexit, but about Britain. In some ways it tells us all we need to know.
In 2016 the Brexiters declared that the referendum was about regaining sovereignty. They promised we would win back an independence and confidence we had apparently lost. They advertised a utopia of democratic openness and rediscovered global dominance. They lied.
Everything voters thought they were taking back they were in fact giving away. That putative EU “control” was not going to our parliament. It wasn’t even going to our prime minister. It was transferring directly to the United States. Its president now apparently has the power to dictate both our diplomatic appointments and Brexit policy. He has it because we gave it to him.
What have we learned about the current prime minister? Theresa May’s only real foreign policy lies in ruins. May never had time for international affairs while she was botching politics at home, but the one thing she consistently attempted was to woo Trump and establish the foundations of that all-important trade deal. She expended every drop of her political capital in offering, with unprecedented haste, a megalomaniacal bully the full honour of a state visit. One month after that visit the president now ridicules, patronises and dismisses her, tweeting that he “told her how [Brexit] should be done… but she went her own foolish way.” Wise voices warned May to treat Trump with caution, and she ignored them. For her pains the PM has won nothing but humiliation.
What, then, of our next prime minister? Johnson not only failed to back Darroch; he didn’t even have the courage to condemn Trump…