Has Britain lost an empire and failed to find a role, again?

Source: Arab News

I am often asked if Britain’s role in the Middle East and elsewhere will be diminished by its leaving the EU. I fear the answer is an unequivocal yes. The pointers are already there: Based on the strength of the pound, the UK economy is shrinking; foreign investment in Britain is slowing; economic growth has gone from being the fastest in the G-7 to being the slowest; and such growth as there is derives from consumer spending and personal debt.

I have often heard Leavers say the arguments for and against leaving the EU are equally balanced. This is not true: The UK economy is slowing noticeably. British people are becoming poorer. They are also beginning to realize that their government is unprepared for the complexity of what they are trying to achieve by leaving the EU.

It may well be that the UK economy will one day grow again. One devoutly hopes so. My argument about British influence diminishing is based more on geopolitics than the economy. In 1962, then-US Secretary of State Dean Acheson famously said Britain had lost an empire and had not yet found a role. I can remember how this upset many leading British politicians at the time, though it was true.

The UK was still recovering from World War II, and was shedding colonies out of political and economic necessity. Joining Europe to boost the economy and help ensure there would be no more wars in Europe seemed the right new role for Britain, and it worked well for 43 years.


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