At a time when China and the United States are facing a number of challenges in bilateral relations, it takes quite a feat of un-diplomatic agility to alienate both superpowers at the same time. But this is exactly what Britain’s political elite who want to remain in the European Union at all costs have done. Not only have the pro-EU elites alienated 17.5 million people who participated in a democratic referendum to end British membership of the EU, but they are now pressing all of the wrong buttons when it comes to the two countries that will likely be post-Brexit Britain’s most important trading partners.
While the United States and United Kingdom are often thought of as the world’s two closest allies, the relationship has been strained under the Presidency of Donald Trump. Trump’s associates and supporters have openly blamed British intelligence officers for peddling a fictitious dossier which served as one of the triggers for a lengthy investigation into Trump’s disproved ties to Moscow. Beyond this, the Speaker of the British House of Commons John Bercow once infamously launched a scathing attack against Trump in a manner which far exceeded the letter and spirit of his duties.
In spite of this, Donald Trump has indicated that the United States would rapidly enter into a free trading agreement (FTA) with the UK if there is a clean Brexit that does not tie the UK into a crippling customs union with the EU. Clearly, Trump has put business before his personal feelings about Britain’s current and deeply unimpressive crop of political elites. Shockingly, Trump’s good will has not been reciprocated. In fact, it has been largely shunned in the rudest way imaginable.
For those claiming that a Brexit on World Trade Organisation rules would be a disaster, having a generous offer for an FTA from the world’s most powerful economy completely dispels such a notion. And yet, by leaving the US in the lurch, Britain is treating a hostile Brussels as a closer friend than a United States that shares a common language, the common law and a similar culture to that of the UK.
And then there is the world’s second biggest (soon to the be first) economy that also would welcome an FTA or even an expanded trading agreement with post-Brexit Britain. China has been clear that it looks forward to working on expanding trade with the EU and a post-Brexit Britain simultaneously. China does not pick favourites in the disputes of others and as such, Beijing is willing to strike FTAs with as many partners as possible. That being said, given northern continental Europe’s traditional Sinophobia when it comes to trade, Britain stands a far better chance of securing an FTA with China from outside of the EU than from within.
And yet, not only do many of Britain’s liberal elite politicians have cold feet on China but it would appear that certain members of the UK government are going out of their way to insult and provoke China at a time when the UK should certainly not be doing so.
Even a child would know that one cannot have a friendship with someone whilst simultaneously threatening them with lethal force. And yet, whilst Brexit Britain is very much in need of a dynamic trading partner like China, British Defence Minister Gavin Williamson has taken a bizarre approach to Anglo-Chinese relations. Speaking earlier this week, Williamson stated that Britain is prepared to use “lethal” force against China after threatening to send more UK Naval ships to the Pacific. As a result, Chinese Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua cancelled his previously scheduled trade talks with Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) Philip Hammond.
Not only did China’s Ambassador in London make his feelings known, but members of the British Cabinet and other members of the ruling Conservative party expressed their dismay at Williamson’s threatening remarks which have no place in the 21st century. Former Chancellor George Osborne went on record to express his dismay over the remarks whilst it was reported that a UK government official responded in the following way to Williamson’s threatening remarks about China:
“His idiotic speech wasn’t received well in China”.
With the European Union proving to be a difficult if not impossible negotiating partner for Britain and with both major UK political parties facing their own profound internal divisions on how to approach the deadlocked Brexit process, threatening a much more militarily mighty and economically powerful China is the fastest way to alienate what could potentially be Britain’s most valuable trading partner in the very near future.
While some conspiracy theorists will claim that alienating the US and China are intentional moves by the liberal pro-EU elite designed to sabotage Brexit, it is instead highly likely that such politicians are both incompetent and supremely arrogant. Consequently, they simply do not realise that they are damaging Britain at a time when much of the world and Donald Trump’s United States in particular sees Brexit as a historic opportunity for new highly positive trading arrangements.
At a time when Britain should have legally already been out of the EU, it almost passes belief that so many elites would sooner alienate Britain’s two most important post-Brexit trading partners rather than actively court them and make sure that two substantial FTAs can be signed as soon as possible – something that both the US and China are still willing to accommodate without prejudice.