Sat, Jun 30, 2018 - Page 9 News List

Great Britain risks being reduced to a footnote in global politics

By Mark Malloch-Brown

Thus, it is only a matter of time before Putin probes British weakness again. And, as if the old sin of turning a blind eye to Russian oligarchs laundering money through the UK were not problematic enough, the suicidal act of quitting the EU leaves Britain with fewer tools to combat Russian meddling in its affairs.

Britain is losing its influence over EU cybersecurity and energy policies just as cyberwarfare and energy geopolitics are becoming key fronts for hostile state and non-state actors.

Worse, at the same time that Britain is giving up its seat at the EU table, it also seems to be giving up its liberal-democratic values. During the Brexit referendum campaign, the Leave camp openly stoked hostility toward outsiders. Moreover, the recent “Windrush” scandal over the government’s poor treatment of Caribbean-born legal residents has reprised the illiberal legacy of May’s previous tenure at the Home Office.

Equally insidious has been the government’s embrace of “Britain First” mercantilism, under which arms sales to Saudi Arabia are not a matter for caution, but rather an opportunity for profit.

When the UK joins the Trump administration in putting trade and investment before human rights and good governance, it is journalists, opposition politicians, and human rights activists around the world who bear the costs.

By retreating from liberal norms, the May government has become, like the Trump administration, an enabler of authoritarian behaviors around the world.

The collapse of British foreign policy has come at a time of deepening uncertainty. The global rebalancing between the US and China is a generational challenge that will outlast Trump and even Xi, who is now unbound by term limits.

In an increasingly off-kilter world, the duty will fall to Europe to serve as ballast. However, a Europe without Britain’s traditional leadership, judgement and diplomacy will be a lesser Europe. And Britain, by its own hand, risks being reduced to a footnote.

Mark Malloch-Brown, a former UN deputy secretary-general and British Cabinet minister, is chair of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, and of Best for Britain, an organization fighting to keep the UK in the EU.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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