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How Brexit Impacted Britain’s Hierarchy Among the Other Nations

Somehow Boris Johnson was right, as the process of Brexit seems like it has been a source of national humiliation (their words, not ours!) Most Britishers have expressed disgust at crucial moments of these negotiations without referring to the instances of diplomatic bumbling, unwanted World War II mentions and Dad’s Army follies. The parts of this exit process have unfolded as predicted. Perhaps we need to step back from the bloated rhetoric? The word ‘humiliation’ is too strong but ‘national humbling blow’ would sum up the matter more accurate a term.

The philosophy behind Brexit was that, free from EU constraints, UK would be restored to its rightful place among other nations. This actually is happening, but that place isn’t of great power aligned to their imagination. United Kingdom’s place today on the world stage is not as a front-ranker but, as Mr. Johnson understood during his brief, unexceptional term as Foreign Secretary; British emissaries no longer dominate summits like Castlereagh did. For ages British journalists, voters and politicians, have had a deliberately distorted vision of UK as an indispensable world shaker.

A Tough Time for Britain

Now UK faces the excruciating truth that the sun has indeed set over the British Empire and London is not as invincible as it was made to believe. Take for instance the protracted negotiations regarding the Irish border and without getting into what is right and what is wrong, the UK has been almost bullied by Ireland. The hard truth is that Dublin has wielded the power, and the UK is forced to pick between the Brexit chaos or undermine the constitutional integrity of its sovereign parts and sign up for a substantial amount of rules. This is expected when a single country, which is not a super-power like China or America, negotiates with global trading blocs. This whole process was a classic case of power politics. This cannot be overstated as Britain is certainly not Latvia and still wields power. It remains a great global economy. It is still a formidable military power, with a UN Security Council seat and a credible nuclear deterrent. Not to forget that they still are the only country in Europe which can access US intelligence, because of the famed “Five Eyes” program. Brexit may not dislodge its pre-eminence as a financial centre.

A Weakened Britain?

The UK has a standing though, with Germany and France before it and Canada, after. Of course, the top 10 life is very different from the top 3 life. Much of UK’s global authority is derived from its role as a big EU nation. Margaret Thatcher used this platform to help generate a single market, drive global trade forward and begin democracy in East Europe. The champions of UK’s membership in 1970’s argued that the alternative to joint sovereignty was less influence and not more. Now UK must live it’s life as one in the lower level of European voices. While in this tier, maintaining influence outside military matters would require painstaking and non-bombastic alliance building that its existing diplomatic and political practitioners were ridiculed and labelled sell-outs by over-chauvinistic MPs and media. UK may now expedite the Moldovan trade representatives’ entry permits so as not to delay UK’s ambitious plans at the WTO.

Adjusting to New Realities

UK’s status will be echoed in its newly signed trade deals. We only need to study Trump’s treatment towards Canada to understand that American negotiators will have no special favors for UK. Mr Trump is pro-Brexit as weakened EU would benefit countries like his, not to benefit the UK and EU countries will be as cut-throat as USA. No similar sentiments affect the Commonwealth nations. Britons fail to understand that former colonies lack unalloyed affection for the empire. While understood by senior government officials, much of Britain’s culture, its self-image and politics, were driven by their colonial past and nationalist myths woven around World War II. This is why Brexiters tend to cling frantically to the theory of Theresa May betraying Brexit. It may never be accepted that irresponsible chauvinism has reduced UK’s status as a supplicant with its former partners.

Acknowledging a reduced status requires a reality check for politicians and media with a touch of humility. Should Brexit eventually help the UK come to a more accurate estimation of its global role, some good may emerge out of this vile business. A very costly way to learn an overdue lesson!

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