Real national interest prompts EU27 to protect UK as it grapples with Brexit
During my posting as ambassador in London, I regularly attended the main party conferences. Debates in the main conference hall tended to be fairly downbeat and sometimes sparsely attended. However, at the Conservative conference, two things were guaranteed to rouse delegates from any slumbers. Calls to preserve the United Kingdom and references to Boris Johnson.
The Tory conference which opened in Birmingham on Sunday is set to react to the same stimuli. Theresa May has let it be known that the unity of the UK will be a key theme. “Brexit good’” and “Corbyn bad” slogans will also get the juices flowing. The emphasis on preserving the UK will not, of course, be affected by the fact that the people of Northern Ireland and Scotland were not consulted before the decision to call the Brexit referendum, regarded as important during the campaign or worthy of having their views being taken into account in interpreting the outcome.
Claiming to put one’s country first is now all the rage. From the US to Hungary, from Turkey to Italy. The main thing such mere assertions of patriotism have in common is that they are not in any meaningful sense patriotic. It is perhaps to be expected at a party conference. President Donald Trump’s use this week of the UN General Assembly, the home of multilateralism, to reiterate his “America first” message is something darker.
People everywhere rightly seek to advance their country’s interests and to put their country first. It’s what political leaders of every persuasion try to do. It is what diplomats do. It is what citizens do in various ways. The fundamental issue we all face is not…