The PM is willing her pre-referendum judgement to be wrong—it wasn’t. Britain really is leaving the diplomatic premier leagueby Rafael Behr / November 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
It would be easy to forget that Theresa May supported Remain in last year’s referendum if she didn’t keep remaking the case. It isn’t something she does intentionally. The prime minister’s conversion to the Brexit cause was a condition of taking the job and her zeal has never flagged. But when she tries to express a vision of the UK’s future relationship with its neighbours, she always makes proximity and strategic continuity sound more appealing than separation.
May’s latest foray into foreign policy—never her favourite subject—was at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London earlier this week. The top news line to come out of the speech was a warning that Russia is seeking to sabotage western democracy. Since one of the apparent applications of Kremlin cyber-meddling in UK politics was to inflame divisions during the EU referendum and, ultimately, tilt the result towards Brexit, this is tricky terrain for the prime minister. It turns out that the over-arching purpose of her government is aligned with an agenda supported by Moscow-sponsored troll-factories.
Whether or not the digital push from the east made a meaningful difference to ballot returns in the UK last June is another question. It should certainly cause discomfort that Vladimir Putin, in May’s own analysis, has an interest in sowing division among western states and that Brexit achieves exactly that goal.
May’s speech was arranged as a defence of global cooperation and solidarity as expressed through the institutions and treaties that underpinned western security in the second half of the 20th Century:
“We meet here at a moment when the international order as we know it—the rules based system that the United Kingdom helped to pioneer in the aftermath of the Second World War—is in danger of being eroded. A moment when some States are actively destabilising the world order to their own ends, claiming that the rules and standards we have built, and the values on which they rest, no longer apply.”
And what does May think should be the remedy?