What has happened to the United Kingdom? Ever since the June 2016 Brexit referendum, British foreign policy has all but collapsed.
With the United States in retreat, Russia belligerent, and China ascendant, there's never been a better time for Britain to engage globally. And yet Britain has checked out. The government's all-consuming preoccupation with the Gordian knot of Brexit has blinded it to what is happening beyond its borders.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. In the run-up to the referendum vote, the "Leave" camp's promise of a "global Britain" freed from the shackles of the European Union (EU) convinced many that a post-Brexit Britain would stand taller. But today, Brexiteers' aspiration for Britain to lead the "Anglosphere" into a brave new world has been reduced to a comical delusion.
Consider India, which could potentially be a major trading partner for the UK after Brexit.
The problem is that Indians view Britain and Europe as one market. To them, Britain's quest to adopt its own rules and standards is a frivolous inconvenience. Before expanding trade and investment with post-Brexit Britain, India will likely pursue deeper ties to the EU.
Britain's weakened hand is also evident at home. Despite success rallying global support to challenge Russian meddling in the UK - including the coordinated expulsion of Russian spies following a brazen nerve-agent attack on English soil - the larger truth is that Britain is now Europe's weakest link. It's only a matter of time before Russian President Vladimir Putin probes the UK again, and when he does, Britain will have fewer tools to respond.
Meanwhile, with Britain joining the Trump administration by putting trade and investment before human rights and good governance, journalists, opposition politicians, and human-rights activists around the world are less safe. By retreating from liberal norms and siding with the United States, the government of Prime Minister Theresa May has become Trump's poodle. The "special relationship" has survived, but it is now a source of global uncertainty rather than a bulwark of stability.
The collapse of British foreign policy - and the country's tilt toward illiberalism - has come at a time of deepening global insecurity. The US and China are in the midst of a geopolitical rebalancing that will take a generation to play out. In an increasingly off-kilter world, Europe must serve as ballast.
But a Europe without Britain's traditional leadership, judgment, and diplomacy will be a lesser Europe. And Britain, by its own hand, will have been reduced to a pathetic curiosity.
Mark Malloch-Brown is Chairman of Best for Britain, a Member of the UK House of Lords, and Former UN Deputy Secretary General and British Minister.
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2018.
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