It is only a fortnight since Westminster HUB warned of upcoming moral dilemmas during Brexit negotiations. The UK took its first shaky step away from Europe last week as Theresa May met Donald Trump finding it to be morally unstable. As Theresa May flew out of the United States of America, Trump began banning millions from coming in. Brexit has changed Britain’s approach to international relations dramatically and it will take much adapting to for British politicians and public.
In just over a week Donald Trump has signed executive orders on trade policies, abortion rights, environment issues and of course a ban on arrivals in to the country from seven countries. Many, if not all, of these issues go against Britain’s long standing beliefs, actions and moral codes. However it was UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, who was the first major foreign leader to meet the new US president.
While this may have been portrayed as a sign of power or of a ‘special relationship’ it in fact showed a deep desperation and a lowering of moral standards from a leader who has set her country on a path to isolation. When the Conservative leader announced we would be leaving the single market, it forced the UK in to a position on foreign policy where it had no influence, the desperation for deals and investment outweighing any principles on climate change, religious rights, climate change or torture. Last week was a glimpse in to the UK's future in the world.
Picture the scene. It is February 2019 and Theresa May comes back to Parliament without a trade deal with the European Union having been negotiated. A very likely outcome as trade deals take years to agree and before even starting this area of negotiations Britain must first conclude its exit including the potentially thorny issue of debts owed.
As promised she suggests the UK walks away and operates under World Trade Organisation rules, meaning tariffs on goods and services. The UK faces the prospect of entering the world without a single trade deal to its name, facing tariffs on the goods it exports to its biggest market and businesses relocating away.
Enter stage right, Donald Trump. The man who wants to impose massive tariffs on Mexico because the country stood up to him and who this week threatened a deal with Australia for the same reason. In its desperate haste for trade and investment the UK looks to the American President who, needing to look tough as the 2020 election looms, offers the UK a quick deal done on hugely preferential terms for the USA. American businesses are granted access to the NHS, workers’ rights can be sidelined and any differences the UK may have on a travel ban, a close relationship with Russia or climate change are overlooked in exchange for money.
This is the very real predicament that could be facing the United Kingdom in its efforts to break free of so-called European anchors. This is the type of people that the country and its negotiators will have to face up to with very little bargaining power because Theresa May decided the single market was not worth the effort. Brexit and Trump are heavily intertwined, the latter will not be a positive for the former. Only Britain could choose to go global when the world decides to go nationalist.
Only serving to emphasise the moral code that Britain will have to side-line in it’s not so distant future, Theresa May left the hands of President Trump for the golden throne of President Erdogan of Turkey. This is a man who has arrested hundreds of members of the press, who is pushing through constitutional changes that would give him executive power over his government and who faces reports of torture and abuse of his own citizens. Under normal circumstances this is not a person, or a country we would or should be increasing ties to however Brexit Britain is different, more desperate, so naturally a deal was agreed to help Turkey boost its military.
The world of trade and foreign policy is admittedly already a murky one, the UK currently has deals with Saudi Arabia for example who is accused of using British-made cluster bombs and equipment in a highly controversial war in Yemen. However it would appear that this is merely an appetiser for the unsavoury and morally questionable deals which Britain will be forced in to making once the single market has been disposed with.
The likelihood is that the British public will also be likely to accept deals with more questionable and controversial world leaders. Having actually left the European Union in 2019, not just voted to do so in 2016, and the economy begins to shrink, public service funding is cut again, jobs dry up and the cost of living increases, there will be an appetite for any good news, investment of any sort, from any source. That is when the Conservative government; home of the bedroom tax, welfare sanctions, food banks, NHS crisis’, grammar schools, corporation tax cuts. That is when they will really flourish, unrestrained by Europe and with a public hungry for trade news.