Former Tory party leader/Foreign Secretary William Hague has penned a column for the Daily Telegraph in which he claims Brits must let allies know the country is not “retreating from the world.” He argues that allies fear Britain is opting for isolation:
Be in no doubt that we benefit enormously from the international presence and reputation of the United Kingdom, be it diplomatic, humanitarian, military or educational. And our friends everywhere are currently looking at us, quizzically and rather searchingly as we negotiate Brexit, to assess whether we are shrinking back from them as well.
Is this the UK sorting out a more sustainable relationship with its neighbours, they wonder, or is it the start of a new insularity and impending irrelevance? Are we so preoccupied with internal arguments that we pull back from being one of the most respected pillars of global stability, progress and security?
This is, of course, hogwash.
Not one country in the world believes that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union means the country will abandon its allies. The opposite is actually true: by leaving the EU, it will actually be easier for Britain to negotiate deals with non-EU countries. Before, during, and after the referendum campaign, Brexiteers such as current Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson were repeatedly clear on that point.
Hague, of course, is aware of that as well. So why is he promoting the nonsense that Britain’s allies “fear” the country is on track to become an insular pariah state?
His motives become clear in his article: he’s trying to force the Tories into accepting his plans for Britain’s future. His plans include having “sound national finances,” investing in the nation’s military, and strengthening “embassies around Europe”:
Such changes would help sensible planning over time. In the short term there clearly has to be some compromise in the Cabinet. When they hammer that out, they should bear in mind that not only is General Carter’s analysis correct, but that a decline in our ability to project military force and diplomatic reach as we withdraw from the EU would be a great error. When we talk of Global Britain we have to mean it.
There is nothing wrong with any of these ideas. In fact, they’re great. They are real conservative policies. The majority of Tory voters can undoubtedly get behind them.
What’s sad, however, is that Hague is using the concerns some Brits have about leaving the EU to sell his agenda. It’s not only unstatesmanlike, it’s also outright dangerous to do while Prime Minister May is still negotiating with the EU about Brexit. May needs all the leverage she can get to be able to project unity and strength to Brussels. If Brits are fearful of such nonsense claims being the consequences of Brexit, she can’t possibly do so.