The New York Times said last week Britain is falling into irrelevance. Now, a former chief of staff to Labour PM Tony Blair, Jonathan Powell, has given his own damning prognosis – Britain is in the throes of an identity crisis.
The New York Times’ outgoing London bureau chief, Steven Erlanger, penned a grim view last week on the UK’s European Union exit in a scathing analysis titled ‘No one knows what Britain is anymore.’ Now, Blair’s right-hand man has written an article for the Guardian warning that Britain’s world standing will crumble away in the wake of Brexit.
Powell, who served as Blair’s chief of staff from 1995 to 2007, said that despite the angry, hurt rebuttals from the UK press, the New York Times had invariably got it right. “It is not a question of whether Britain still has some good universities or the gaming industry is doing well,” Powell said. “The question is whether Britain still has real influence in the world: and the answer to that is clearly no.”
Both articles have pointed the finger at Brexit for furthering Britain’s fall into irrelevance. Divorce negotiations with the EU have been marred by bill blocking and parliamentary bickering. Such division within the government, according to the New York Times, has left the UK’s European neighbors scratching their heads and wondering what happened to the once staunch, steadfast Britain.
Last week, former Foreign Office permanent secretary Simon Fraser said in a speech that it is difficult to come up with “a major foreign policy matter on which Britain has had a decisive influence since the referendum.” Or as Powell puts it in harsher terms: “We have rendered ourselves irrelevant.”
The former chief of staff says ineptitude is hampering our international image – not only with Brexit, but with the Priti Patel debacle and Boris Johnson’s poorly chosen words that may have landed a British mum in hot water in Iran.
Powell says the UK simply doesn’t have enough time to be concerned with pesky, international matters. Our government is too preoccupied with “the destructive process of Brexit” – and, he says, we can’t even get those negotiations right.
Powell said the New York Times article is “an almost British understatement of the sad position in which we find ourselves.” But like it or lump it, the May government insists that the UK is pushing ahead with Brexit – and perhaps a further slump into obscurity.