I've been thinking about the situation in the United Kingdom. Specifically, I've been thinking about the Brexit vote, the new government, and what it all means.I saw a tweet today from an Englishman I follow in which he lamented that if things keep going the way they have been, nobody will take Britain seriously anymore. I can understand his frustration, but when I look at the last 70 years or so, this looks an awful lot like a continuation of an ongoing process.
The British Empire died in 1947 with Indian independence, followed by a long string of colonies allowed to go their own way. This was inevitable and good, as self-determination is the desire of all peoples, and all empires must eventually fall. Despite this, Britain continued to punch above its weight for half a century, playing off its relationship with the Commonwealth and the strength of its military, including its nuclear arsenal—and its membership in a larger European community. Those days are ending.
What we've seen in the last few weeks is the most remarkable act of national seppuku I can remember. The only historical parallel that I can think of is the voluntary dissolution of the Empire, but the difference is that this time, it didn't need to happen. Britain has voluntarily voted to break away from the European Union, and from the outside it looks a lot like a turning inward. Desperate to stay in the EU, Scotland is likely to hold another independence referendum, which this time will likely pass, and that will put paid to the Act of Union.
A shrunken Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (assuming that Ulster doesn't decide some kind of federation with Eire is preferable in order to keep EU citizenship) isn't going to pack the same punch that the UK did, and Englishmen shouldn't assume that it will. The rest of the world will look to the EU, and specifically Germany, its economic powerhouse—and if that isn't the nightmare of the average Leave voter, it should be.
Meanwhile, the main players in the Leave campaign have buggered off, leaving a new government to sort the mess out. Given all of the foregoing, the naming of the Clown Prince of the Tories as foreign secretary by the new PM isn't likely to have that much impact on foreign opinion of England, the fact that he's gone well out of his way to offend numerous foreign leaders, including the U.S. President, aside. There will be a Brexit minister and a foreign trade minister to handle the heavy lifting, and Boris will be free to go to diplomatic functions and dinners and, as someone said, hand out the Ferrero Rocher.
So, if you're thinking that the rest of the world won't take Britain seriously because of the new government, I've got some very bad news for you. That ship has largely sailed, and the people of Britain are the ones who untied the moorings. There will always be an England, and probably a royal family, and tourists from Iowa will still come to see the soldiers in red jackets and tall furry hats guarding the Queen.
But if you're a Briton who wants the rest of the world to look to London for leadership in times of crisis, you'll have to earn that anew. Because as of today, you've squandered your inheritance, and what you have to show for it isn't worth a farthing.