Thursday, April 6, 2017

Nick Dearden - What is ‘global Britain’? A financier and arms merchant to brutal dictators

Now we know what “global Britain” means. Optimists have clung to Theresa May’s phrase in the hope that Brexit might avoid falling into insularity and isolation; that a hint of liberal England might survive Brexit. But with May in Saudi ArabiaPhilip Hammond trying to build empire 2.0 in India, and trade secretary Liam Fox visiting Gulf tyrants and a Philippines president busy wiping out his own citizens, we can rid ourselves of such illusions.

History repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce, said Marx. Certainly there is something ridiculous about May, Fox and foreign secretary Boris Johnsonscampering around the world as if the last 150 years hadn’t happened, dreaming of a military presence east of Suez while clearly desperate for a deal with any human-rights-abusing dictator that will meet them. But it is no less frightening for that. A ruling elite tortured by its inability to rule the world, which believes such a role is its birthright, can still make dangerous decisions.

“Global Britain”, the international component of Brexit, is just such a decision. It is a strategy that the hard right has dreamed of for decades. We will be the financier and arms merchant to dictators. We will be the trading centre for financial products too dangerous for European standards. We will be the premier investment hub for the emerging super rich of the developing world, where everything can be bought for a good enough price. Britain is for sale, and we don’t much care who is buying.

For the rest of the world, “global Britain” has already had significance. In January, May flew from the court of Donald Trump, where he was signing his draconian Muslim ban, to Turkey, where thousands of President Erdoğan’s opponents languish in jail awaiting trials – and flogged £100m of arms. Trump used May as a symbolic weapon against the EU, Erdoğan basked in the legitimacy she brought. 

Senior ministers have already undertaken an astonishing number of visits to the Gulf, paying homage to the oil barons who promise to keep the London markets afloat. Johnson might think of them as exotic local rulers, but they hold all the cards. Saudi holds Yemen in the modern equivalent of a medieval siege, where a devastating famine will starve its opponents into submission at the cost of tens of thousands of lives. But May, Fox and Johnson have other matters to discuss.

On Tuesday, Fox was in the Philippines, greeting a president, Rodrigo Duterte, who apparently compares himself to Hitler and brags of mass murder, who derides the United Nations and is killing thousands of his citizens under the guise of a war on drugs. None of this would have been mentioned, of course... read more:

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