Although she’s resigned herself to the role of a de facto caretaker Prime Minister whilst her Conservative party works to elect a new leader that will most likely be Boris Johnson, British PM Theresa May still hasn’t lost her inverse Midas touch which turns every golden opportunity into a rusty scrapheap.
At the G20 summit, leaders of every nation that Britain should eventually sign a free trading agreement (FTA) with were present. America’s Donald Trump, China’s Xi Jinping, Japan’s Shinzō Abe, Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong, Australia’s Scott Morrison, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Turkey’s India’s Narendra Modi, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and many others were all present and waiting to do deals with their fellow top twenty economies of the world.
This was a golden opportunity for any British leader to at the very minimum lay the foundations of a Brexit Britain that is ready, able and willing to rekindle the traditions of free trade that once made the UK the wealthiest state in the history of the world. But instead of talking trade with every leader in the room, she instead had a totally dismal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman which given domestic UK public opinion about arms sales to Riyadh, wasn’t exactly a good look. To put it another way, May’s most notable meetings were with leaders of the two G20 members with whom an FTA would mean the least whilst she skirted meetings with leaders with whom an FTA could mean the most.
Her grim demeanour and her failure to say anything positive about a Britain ready to break out of a parochial fortress Europe and into a wider world of free trade is yet another demonstration of May’s utter contempt for the very concept of Brexit. Perhaps the last political act that Theresa May conducted in an manner of sincerity was when she voted to remain as part of the European Union in June of 2016.
On a personal level, May is peculiarly scandal free by 21st century standards, but her time at No. 10 has been utterly scandalous at a political level as she feed the Frankenstein monster which seeks to paint Brexit as a matter of difficulty rather than as a golden opportunity to do the things that Britain should have done decades ago. A Britain that is out of Europe and into the world is one that can re-assert its true identity at home and abroad once again. The country that Napoleon Bonaparte once slandered as a “nation of shop keepers” can once again engage with the great economies of Asia, the Americas and the emerging economies of Africa in a manner that is confident at home and proactive abroad. A spirit of trading relations that brings the best of Britain to the world and the best of the world to Britain is the spirit that should define Brexit Britain.
Whilst someone like Nigel Farage could have mingled with world leaders in a spirit of optimism and good humour, there was nothing optimistic nor good humoured about a scowling Theresa May hectoring a bemused Russian leader and later effectively begging the Saudi prince to buy her weapons. To top it off, a leader who herself is soon to be blown out of office by the winds of chance saw fit to focus on climate change agreements that the world’s two biggest economies clearly have no interest in when she should have actually stood up for the interests of her own country.
It was a shameful G20 for Britain. The only silver lining is that it will be Theresa May’s final G20 summit.