Brexit is frittering away UK’s global leadership

by Luke Lythgoe | 18.01.2018

Brexit has put Britain on the back foot on the global stage. Before the referendum we were a well-respected international player punching above our weight. Now Theresa May’s desperation to secure a bright post-Brexit future forces her into weak, often contradictory, positions.

Take today’s promise to Emmanuel Macron of an extra £45 million to help secure the UK-French border in Calais, a deal the Daily Mail has dubbed “Le Stitch-Up”. This comes despite reports France wants to “keep the pressure on the Brits” in Brexit negotiations by blocking a quick transition deal. That could help Paris poach more financial services jobs from the City of London. But May’s need for a strong bilateral security partnership with France after Brexit gives her little leverage.

Macron is running diplomatic rings around May. His piece de resistance is an offer to lend the Bayeux tapestry to Britain. British politicians are now seeking a suitably impressive return gift, with the Rosetta Stone and the skeleton of Napoleon’s horse both mooted.

The French president also had an impressive visit to Beijing this month where he spoke to the Chinese president as an equal – largely because he was able to speak on behalf of Europe not just France. Our prime minister will struggle to cut as powerful a figure when she goes to China.

Then there’s May’s relationship with Donald Trump. Eyeing a post-Brexit trade deal with America, the prime minister scrambled to see the president after his inauguration, where she sucked up to him by offering him a state visit. He’s yet to take up the offer – or even make an ordinary visit – because he knows the British people would organise mass demonstrations against his bigotry, sexism and racism. In fact, the UK is now the only one of the Group of Seven advanced economies that Trump hasn’t visited on presidential business.

Compare that with Macron, who has taken Trump to task on climate change. Or Angela Merkel, whose initial iciness to the president saw some dub her new the “leader of the free world”. They don’t have to kowtow because they speak for Europe, not just France or Germany.

Before the referendum Britain was a geopolitical contender. As an EU heavyweight we championed the free market in Brussels, pushing for more integration in financial services and the digital market – both important British industries. English, of course, is the de facto language in EU and other international institutions. Britain’s voice was amplified, playing a key role in initiatives such as Russian sanctions, the Paris climate change accord and the Iran nuclear agreement.

If we stop Brexit, we would reclaim our place as one of Europe’s leading powers, driving a global agenda in tune with ours and Europe’s values: peace, prosperity, democracy, the rule of law and a healthy planet. It’s not too late to make Britain great again.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

3 Responses to “Brexit is frittering away UK’s global leadership”

  • Sadly, far too many within Britain hark back to a golden era (one which was not ‘golden’ for most) when Britain actually DID rule the waves and controlled 25% of the worlds land surface and about the same percentage of the population.

    Britain lost its superpower status in 1946 and today is a mere regional power. But one which could leverage greater power in cooperation with others within the EU. Those thinking they can recreate a glorious past, they have another thing coming. No matter how much they attempt top brand new trade deals as ”Empire 2.0”.

  • To see how much brexiting Britain is now valued just try changing your sterling into any foreign currency. For instance pre the referendum one got 6.40 PolishZloty for the pound. Today I get about 4.60 Zloty.

  • @ C Maddock
    The concessions given to the UK on the euro and Schengen shows how hard our EU partners have tried to accommodate us. The subsequent agreement in June 2014 to absolve the UK from “ever closer union” followed that pattern. To no avail it would seem. We will suffer immense damage if we fail to bring round public opinion before it is too late.