Brexit is grinding slow, but it’s grinding small, says Anita Pratap

Brexit mills grind slow, but they grind small. Reality is crushing the grandiose ambitions of “Global Britain”, slowly but surely. When people mortgage their house, you know their house is not in order. The fire sales of Britain’s Crown Jewels, its magnificent real estate acquired during its glorious days of empire, tell the sad story of a nation in financial straits that is shrinking without growing.

The 150-year-old British Embassy, ​​located in a sprawling park in Tokyo, is second only to the Imperial Palace across the meandering river. Today, half of its land has been sold to the Mitsubishi Corporation. “It’s a huge mistake,” admits Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. Britain has also sold the stately century-old embassy set in a 10-acre sanctuary in the heart of Bangkok. Employees now work in a concrete tower. Disgruntled British officials say the downscaling is tantamount to going from a Prada showroom to a discount store.

For most foreigners, the first contact with Britain is its impressive embassies, projecting the nation’s power and prestige. Now heirlooms are being sold to buy solar panels and maintain the property. Loss of greatness is like bankruptcy – “It happens gradually, then suddenly.” The UK financial crisis was a slow-moving but accelerated train wreck after Brexit and the pandemic. It undermines the post-Brexit vision of ‘global Britain’ – boosting ‘Britain’s influence abroad and prosperity at home’.

For us, Brexit has brought more disruption than prosperity. The disappearance of European truckers and workers to harvest fruit and vegetables has caused shortages. The voids on supermarket shelves symbolize the gaps between Brexit ambition and reality. International projection is shrinking in the face of cost-cutting measures such as merging ministries and reducing foreign aid. The British Council is cutting jobs and infrastructure in 20 countries. The backbone of the British Empire was its civil service. Now, 90,000 civil servants must be made redundant. Who will lead Global Britain? Algorithms?

The British notion of special relations with the United States is a nostalgic illusion. The United States ignored Britain during the Afghan withdrawal and warned it against reneging on Northern Ireland’s deal with the European Union. Asks Peter Kellner of Carnegie Europe: “Now that Washington has turned its back on London and London has turned its back on Brussels: what should Britain’s place be in the world?”

British historian and author Ian Morris explains: “Britain enjoyed inordinate power during colonialism, which made its post-war decline all the more difficult to accept. To understand the Brexit decision, researchers go back to the 2016 referendum campaign, Britain’s accession to the European Communities in 1973, World War II, the arrival of the Romans 2,000 years ago. . Morris dates back 10,000 years.

Among other factors, he attributes Brexit to the “psychology” of the cards. The 800-year-old Hereford Map virtually connects Britain to Europe, hanging precariously at the edge of the world. Later explorations refuted this geography. In 1902, Halford Mackinder’s map places Britain at the center of the world, radiating European sea power. Morris writes, “But that was only three percent of the history of the island in which it took center stage. The rest of the time it was just Europe’s poor cousin.

Yet despite the sunset over the empire, Britain was a global force, large and small. Ten years ago, piracy endangered navigation in the Indian Ocean. It was suppressed by Operation Atalanta, an international military force based in Britain and coordinated with African countries. But the successful Operation Atalanta was set up by the European Union. After the divorce from Great Britain, the operational base moved to Spain. Brexit squeaks slowly, but it squeaks small.

Pratap is an author and journalist.

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