Friday 16 February 2024

Brexit, Brexitism, and the Trump and Russian threats

In the Brexit debate, discussion of its geo-political damage has often been the poor relation of that of its economic damage. It’s easy to understand why, as the economic damage is more tangible and, to a degree, more quantifiable. The latest evidence of that came this week in a new analysis by Goldman Sachs, the significance of which is that, for the first time, it drew together all of the different counterfactual models, with the headline finding being that that UK GDP is now 5% lower than it would have been without Brexit.

However, ultimately, the geo-political damage may be even more important and more likely to lead to a softening, or even reversal, of Brexit. That isn’t because Brexit is the cause of all Britain’s geo-political problems, any more than EU membership would resolve them, but because Brexit has created additional problems whilst doing nothing at all to help those which would exist anyway.

Geo-politics does not just mean defence, and certainly not just defence in its traditional military meanings, but includes those things along with the wider panoply of security, soft power, diplomacy, and international relations. Thus configured, it is climate change which presents the biggest set of geo-political challenges for Britain, as for every other country, but, for all the urgency of that, those relating to war in its various forms have a particular immediacy.

That immediacy has been ratcheted up several notches by Donald Trump’s latest comments about Russia and NATO, including that he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to members not reaching the 2% of GDP defence spending target. That would be a direct violation of the basic principle of mutual defence, leading the NATO Secretary-General to say that the comments “undermine all of our security”.

This comes at a time when, of course, there is a real possibility of a second Trump Presidency and, if that comes about, there are now multiple signs that it would be (even) more extreme than the first one, and far less constrained. The liberal Conservative historian and journalist Anne Applebaum has argued that Trump would “abandon NATO”, even if not formally leaving it. Whether or not that proves true, there can be no doubt of the close affinities between Trump and Putin, something in plain sight last week when Tucker Carlson – who has been described as “perhaps the highest-profile proponent of ‘Trumpism’” – conducted a sycophantic interview with the Russian leader.

General background

I’ve written at length before about the nexus of geo-political issues around Brexit, Trump and Russia, initially when ‘previewing the geo-political costs of Brexit’ at the time of Putin’s poison attacks in Salisbury in March 2018, and then in March 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Much that is in those two posts still stands, and I will avoid repeating them save to briefly draw out three general points.

First, Brexit necessarily fractured the central tenet of UK geo-political strategy by destroying its role as a US-EU bridge. Burning one end of that bridge was bound to fray the other end, under any US Presidency, and the Northern Ireland aspects of Brexit were always potentially liable to cause further tensions in UK-US relations. Equally, whilst a Trump Presidency would have been difficult for the UK even without Brexit, and will be if it recurs, it is a particular delusion of Brexiters that Trump regards Brexit Britain with some kind of special affection. In fact, whilst he may be happy to heap praise on sycophants like Nigel Farage, the idea that he has any interest in what happens to the UK, or even any loyalty to such court jesters, is preposterous.

Secondly, Brexiters showed a crucial strategic ignorance in configuring NATO as the only international organization needed to meet Britain’s security and defence needs, and the EU as entirely irrelevant to these, when, in fact, the two have become increasingly intertwined. That has become even more obvious since the invasion of Ukraine, which also showed the absurdity of the Brexiters’ vision of ‘Global Britain’ and its associated ‘Indo-Pacific tilt’. As the revised Integrated Review of 2023 recognized, the European continent remains the UK’s primary defence theatre and, within that theatre, Russia its sole, but considerable, threat.

Thirdly, even without delving into the murky question of direct Russian interference in the Referendum (a question which could only really be answered by the intelligence services, who were not asked to do so for the 2021 ‘Russia Report’), Brexit was undoubtedly welcome to Putin, and fully consistent with his longstanding attempts to destabilize both the UK and the EU. It is a point insufficiently made to the plastic patriots of Brexit just how comprehensively they played into his hands, even if it cannot be proved that they were his puppets.

The Russian threat and responses to it

These general points provide the background to the current situation. It is one in which the threat of Russia is undeniable. Putin may not have had the swift victory he expected in Ukraine but may salvage something he will be able to claim as victory, especially if a Trump presidency withdraws US support to Kiev, or even without that, if Republican resistance to such support persists. Nor has prosecution of the war prevented continuing Russian aggression, both overt and covert, elsewhere in Europe.

For example, last year, NATO intercepted over 300 Russian planes threatening its airspace, mainly over the Baltic states, with the RAF responsible for at least 50 of these interceptions. Meanwhile, Russian interference and influence in Kosovo and Serbia, Moldova, Bosnia, and Montenegro continued. Just this week Moscow put the Estonian Prime Minister on a so-called ‘wanted list’, as part of its ongoing attempts to bully and intimidate its neighbours. And whilst the 2021 Russia Report may not have delved into the Brexit referendum, it gave no room to doubt the extent of Russian activity in political disinformation campaigns against the UK, whilst as recently as last December the intelligence authorities revealed the ongoing nature of Russian cyber-attacks.

All of this, and more, is what underlies the recent upsurge of concern about the possibility of a major conflict on European soil, including Grant Shapps’ reference to this now being a “pre-war generation” in his first speech as Defence Secretary. Personally, I don’t take Shapps seriously as Defence Secretary or in any other capacity, but I do take seriously the warnings of the Chief of the General Staff. Such warnings certainly should not be dismissed as coming from blimpish or self-interested military ‘brass hats’; for example, the left-wing journalist Paul Mason has been vocal in making the case for Britain to re-arm in the face of the threat from Putin’s Russia.

Moreover, the same warnings are being sounded in several other European countries, building upon pre-existing concerns about Russian aggression, concerns which led, amongst other things, to Sweden and Finland seeking NATO membership. The last barrier to Sweden’s application, approval by Hungary, looks close to being cleared, and the country is already participating in NATO exercises as well as preparing its citizens for the possibility of all-out war. Finland’s membership has already begun, and is being actively operated, with that country, too, being in an advanced stage of readiness for war. Meanwhile, Germany has embarked on a major rearmament programme whilst Poland has doubled the size of its armed forces (£) in recent years and looks set to continue to prioritize defence under its new government. Given these, and similar, developments, British political and military leaders have if anything been rather slow to prepare the public for the threat we face.

The Trumpist-Putinist-Brexitist axis

However, Britain’s capacity to prepare is hobbled, and not just by the fact that we are economically struggling, the more so because of Brexit. It is also because there is a very powerful, if contradictory, axis which undermines attempts to do so.

On the one hand, there are those on the populist right like Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson (despite his professed support for Ukraine), and Nigel Farage who are openly supportive of Trump’s re-election, and, at least in the case of Farage, public admirers of Putin. They have been joined this week in their support of Trump by John Hayes, a less well-known but highly influential right-wing Tory MP, and it’s noteworthy, in itself, just how many Tories are lining up to offer such endorsements in what is, after all, a foreign election.

On the other hand, there is the unreconstructed old hard left, including Jeremy Corbyn and the Stop the War Coalition, elements of which are “among the worst disseminators of Kremlin propaganda in the UK”. These are not the words of a ‘Centrist’, still less a Conservative, but of the radical journalist George Monbiot, and the veteran campaigner Peter Tatchell has made similar points.

Spanning these two groups is the peculiar, and peculiarly influential and well-connected, one of the Revolutionary Communist Party turned Libertarians who coalesce around Spiked, which constantly mocks and undermines the warnings about Russia, including these most recent ones.  

It is not a coincidence that all three of these groupings are also pro-Brexit and anti-EU. What links Brexitists, Trump, and Putin is a shared hatred of any notion of a liberal, rules-based international order. And whilst it would be fatuous to deny the many criticisms of that notion, and what it has meant in practice, most disgracefully as regards the Iraq War, it is far more fatuous, if not downright evil, to suggest that illiberal, lawless international disorder would be preferable. Yet, although they would never put it in those terms, that is precisely what all those groupings would prefer, albeit for wildly different reasons. Some dream of a global powerplay between Great Nations led by Strong Men, some of the chaos upon which disaster capitalists can thrive, some of the final collapse of capitalism under the weight of its own contradictions to usher in a socialist utopia.

Actually, they only differ wildly in what they ultimately want. They are identical in what they see as the route to getting it: if all the cards are thrown up in the air, then it becomes possible that they may be made to land at the desired outcome. What gets left out of that analysis is the fact that amongst those ‘cards’ are the lives of millions of people which will be disrupted, deformed, and destroyed in the process; the dead, the maimed, the tortured, the dispossessed, the damaged, the broken. And whilst historical parallels are never exact, we’ve seen all this before in Europe. The same utopian dreams, the same subjugation of means to ends, the same grand power-plays in which ordinary lives are just collateral damage in the service of great dreams and causes.

The logic of integration

In this context, Brexit is only a minor event, but with a European war now being widely discussed as a serious possibility it takes on a new importance. Of course, such a war is by no means inevitable, but it is the decisions taken in the period after possibility and before inevitability which are crucial. Those decisions are quite as acute for the EU as for the UK. It isn’t that staying in the EU would have made them go away, and the EU is deeply divided between countries (£), including the Baltic states, Finland, Sweden, Poland and some of the Balkan states, which are acutely aware of the Russian threat and preparing to meet it, and those, including Hungary, Austria, and Slovakia, which are in various ways allies or appeasers of the Putin regime.

Yet such divisions would exist, and probably to a greater extent, if the EU did not exist. And, either way, the UK would have to have a relationship with what is, after all, its own continent. Brexiters may wax lyrical about the days when Britain ‘stood alone’, but forget that this wasn’t its choice, and was its moment of maximum peril precisely because of its isolation. In fact, the EU does exist, so what is that relationship to be? At the very least, there is now a stronger case than ever for a deep UK-EU security and defence pact – something always envisaged by the Political Declaration that accompanied the Withdrawal Agreement, but which got sacrificed by the Johnson-Frost antagonistic ‘sovereignty-first’ negotiations  –  and, unlike any proposals Britain might make to deepen trade and economic relationships, this is an area where the UK genuinely has something to offer the EU.

This is because, despite cuts in personnel numbers, especially army personnel, and despite some recent high-profile equipment failures, the UK still has profound defence capabilities – not in the sense of a capacity to be ‘Global Britain’, but in the context of a European conflict. It remains the world’s sixth military power, and the most powerful in Europe (not including Russia), with on some estimates the best special forces in the world, and has a substantial cyber-war and intelligence capacity, probably second only to the US as a regards signals intelligence. There is far too much self-congratulatory guff about Britain’s ‘world-leading’ capabilities in all kinds of sectors and, no doubt, much hyperbole about its military capacity, but that capacity is real and, importantly, provides a base that could rapidly be built upon, though the longer that is put off the harder it will become.

At the same time, the UK is never going to be strong enough to go it alone, and whilst it has much to offer the EU it has as much or more to gain from cooperation, perhaps even integration, with the EU. The idea of an EU army, for so long the imaginary bugbear of Eurosceptics, has recently been re-proposed by the Italian government, although the reactions from other EU members make it unlikely to gain traction for now, and the barriers to such an entity are technical as well as political. However, post-Ukraine there has been an intensification of integrative measures, and an exercise last October involving the forces of nine EU countries was for the first time conducted from an EU operational headquarters, as part of an attempt to enable the EU to act independently of NATO.

This seems set to be the direction of travel for the EU and, if so, the argument for UK involvement, and ever-deepening involvement at that, becomes stronger, the more so if Trump does come to power. That’s speculative, but it is justifiable given that we have already witnessed the way that the Ukraine war served to improve what at the time were very acrimonious UK-EU relations. In the event of actual hostilities breaking out the logic would surely become stronger still and if, in that scenario, the US failed to meet its NATO commitments it might become irresistible. For it is difficult to over-state just how profound the impact of such hostilities would be, not just in terms of military operations and alliances but for everyday life.

What would war mean for Britain?

During the Cold War it was generally assumed that if there was a conflict with Russia it would be a nuclear one. Einstein supposedly said that whilst he didn’t know what weapons would be used in World War Three, he knew that those used in World War Four would be sticks and stones. Within that climate of Armageddon, many if not most of us became fatalistic: if war happened, survival was highly unlikely and perhaps not to be desired anyway. The kind of advice offered by the infamous 1976 ‘Protect and Survive’ pamphlet, which included making a shelter from a large table surrounded by furniture and bags of earth, seemed, to say the least, hopelessly optimistic.

However, nuclear war isn’t the scenario we are facing. Rather, it is one of forms of more or less conventional warfare, probably conducted mainly on Eastern European soil, though in a wider airspace, and also cyber and information warfare. For the UK, according to security expert Professor Anthony Glees, the consequences would include food, fuel and medicine shortages, rationing, and curfews. Glees also envisages that “a British Quisling government would be established, probably under a well-known domestic politician known to be sympathetic to Putin”. One wonders who he might have had in mind.

Perhaps this is unduly grim, but, on his first prediction, we have already seen with Ukraine, the pandemic, and Brexit the fragility of supply chains, and have ample evidence of how quickly such fragility engenders panic-buying, hoarding, and de facto rationing. As for Glees’ even grimmer second prediction, it is certainly obvious that, at the very least, the strange but powerful pro-Trump, pro-Putin alliance I identified above would be vocal in demanding British disengagement from the conflict.

Indeed, it is all too easy to anticipate that they would cry that here, finally, was the great Brexit dividend: what has conflict between Russia and the EU got to do with us? Once again appeasers would talk of quarrels in faraway countries, between people of whom we know nothing. It is equally easy to anticipate how, just as Johnson dismisses those who are alarmed by Trump as the ‘wokerati’, these voices would be declaring, in their various accents, that it was only the liberal/imperialist/globalist/Europhile elite who want conflict with Putin. So, even if such a war did not produce the Quisling government Glees anticipates, it would be enmeshed within the Brexit or Brexitist culture war, with Brexiters acting as Putin’s fifth column. Just in itself, this is a good reason why Brexitism needs to be driven to the margins of British politics.

The European ideal

To re-emphasize, none of this is to suggest that Brexit is the cause of the threats and challenges posed by Putin and Trump, or that those threats and challenges fall less heavily on the EU and its members. It’s more subtle than that. Brexit doesn’t prevent British military and other cooperation with the EU, but it makes it less straightforward and certainly doesn’t help it. Brexit certainly removes UK influence on the EU’s response to Russia, and to other geo-political threats. And to the ways that geo-politics impinges on supply chains, Brexit adds additional frictions.

But the biggest point is this. Brexit has put a fracture in the basic idea of ‘Europe’, expressed institutionally by the EU, as a defining bulwark of liberal democracy and freedom. The need for such a bulwark becomes more important if the US retreats further from what has been, warts and all, its global role in that respect (£). Any groans from Brexiters about democracy and sovereignty (as discussed in last week’s post) don’t negate the fact that EU membership entails commitment to the EU’s founding values of “human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities”. Nor is that fact negated by any whataboutery relating to Hungary, currently, or Poland, recently: such anomalies as there are don’t detract from the enormity of having united a continent around such values, every word of which stands in stark contrast to Russia, not to mention many other parts of the world.

The word ‘united’ is the key one. Brexiters may say that Britain need not belong to the EU to share its values in these respects. But sharing is not the same as uniting. There is, to coin a phrase from a different context, power in a union. Having witnessed the break-up of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the rise of the European Union, including the alacrity with which the one-time Warsaw Pact countries signed up for it, there’s probably no one who understands that as well as Vladimir Putin.


  1. Excellent post, well up to your high standard. Loss of Galileo with the PRS system is a major loss for UK military capability. Trump withdrew US GPS from the UK in 2017 according to a report to the House of Lords. That is his 'care' for the UK, right there.
    The Conservatives were against Galileo in the 1990s' but fighting a 21st century war without a massive range of drone and GPS capable devices is almost certainly a losing strategy. My MP has been unable to answer any questions I have put to him about the UK's GPS capability. I live near some of the 'golfballs' which are part of Skynet6 and 6a on the outskirts of Oakhanger Hants. Prime communication target for any adversary.
    Former LD leader in the European Parliament described Farage as one who would be a Gauleiter....

  2. A powerful and courageous essay from Chris Grey. In my opinion, this bears comparison with Orwell's My Country Right Or Left.
    We have become used to the Brexit ideologues using false equivalence, irrelevant comparison and statistical sleight of hand to try and justify the disastrous economic impact of Brexit - as the people get steadily poorer. But what they are unable to deny or deflect is the underlying point here - that Brexit was undoubtably welcome to Putin.

  3. Commitment to the EU's founding values “human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities”... except and unless these conflict with the aspirations of those now running what has been called Late Soviet Britain.

    Here's an unelected member of the legislature saying that the wishes of the majority of the people on the island of Ireland and, effectively, adherence to an international peace treaty, should be subordinated to the desire of a minority in Northern Ireland

    The lack of self-awareness on the part of much Britain's elites is of a kind with that of counterparts in the US now busy removing uncomfortable domestic history from textbooks.

    The parallels between Russia's relationship with Ukraine and Britain's with Ireland are clear, and are clearly denied by de facto British imperialists who, to coin a phrase, "haven't gone away, you know".

    Earlier this month we had the Policy Exchange so-called "think tank" publish a paper in which it claimed, without irony, that Ireland's alleged weakness on defence was a threat to the UK's security.

    Now substitute Russia and Ukraine for UK and Ireland.

    Perhaps we are coming to a watershed election which may begin the process of unwinding English domination of their neighbours and, with any luck, coming to terms with the less creditable aspects of their history. It would make them more agreeable Europeans.

  4. It looks as if it starts dawning on the Brexiters that another Trump Presidency might not be such a good thing for their project:

    Different reasoning ("A second dose of Trump’s isolationism will push the UK into Brussels’ embrace") of course, but still quite a change in attitude

    1. I suppose it is the same reasoning, but from a different perspective!

  5. I'm truly amazed when reading that one may consider the UK as the first military force in Europe. Did you forger that Uk Navy carriers serm to lack an effective naval support group ? That the Navy has bot enough staff ? That there is only 20. 000 army staff deemed fit to combat ? That the Navy carriers are lacking planes, not operational and do not allow the optimal use of their planes ? Ammunitions stores are depleted and so on...

    Seriously even the submarine force is not AT its peak form.

    Before going bombastic please be real. UK IS only protected by its nuclear force.

    The recent War in Asia were not even in favor of UK were it not the US support.

    Be real, before imagining being an effective rempart against Russia and look AT thé true figures. I'm not russian just an avid regarder of UK pression.

    1. True. I've just been reading that the US Marine Corps itself has more ships and planes than the UK, and more soldiers than the UK and France together.

  6. I'm truly amazed when you're describing the UK military as the premium force in Europe

    Did you forget that ?
    - 2 navy carriers, not up to combat mission - re recent NATO fiasco
    - 2 navy carriers not equipped with a full complement of planes with the consequence that pilots are not fully trained as that there is not enough planes
    - 2 navy carriers without a support group, not equipped with catapults so not optimally using their planes
    - navy vessels not able to fire sea-land missiles
    - navy and army understaffed, losing personel every year
    - Army not fit for combat (20 000 staff only are fit, the remaining are overweight)
    - Army poorly equipped and not having enough ammunition to fight long battles. Defense industry not able to provide real battle needs (even the US can't provide enough ammunition to Ukraine).
    - Submarine force presently in disrepair
    - Ajax ????
    - RAF...

    Recent combat performance in Asia showed that the UK military could not operate without US support and was located in calmer regions.

    The true force of UK military lies in its nuclear weapons, not its conventional forces.

    Budget of UK military includes service pensions, so it can not be compared to budget of other nations. You don't wage wars with pensions.

    Special forces alone are not not enough even if they may be decisive sometime. See Arnhem and Azovstal.

    Please : we fought for several years against ISIS, not even a serious military force (best western armies against poorly equipped forces - not a full fight but you can wonder). See Israel, they are the dominant force but are having troubles even if they will win on the military grounds, they have already lost except if displacing people.

    1. I don’t think this contradicts what I said in the post, and I did in fact briefly gesture towards some of the weaknesses you identify. And I certainly wasn’t being “bombastic”, and went out of my way to say that we should avoid over-stating UK military capacity!

  7. " the European continent remains the UK’s primary defence theatre and, within that theatre, Russia its sole, but considerable, threat..Brexit was undoubtedly welcome to Putin, and fully consistent with his longstanding attempts to destabilize both the UK and the EU"?
    Change a few names and this could have been a Times leader in 1873.
    What is it about Russia that drives Brits mad? Russia does not, and never has cared about Britain, which has never been more than an ankle-biting propaganda outlet for Western militarism.

    1. Except of course for Cambridge Four, Portland Spy ring, Salisbury.

    2. Russia cares very greatly about what it is careful to call the "Anglo-Saxons"; that this term is used shows that the UK is included, otherwise why not simply say "US"?
      Try reading RIA Novosti online sometimes to see just how little Russia cares about the UK (Clue: it's a lot), also see the aforementioned interference in the Brexit referendum to which I'd add the same happening in the 2014 Scottish referendum.
      Here's a fascinating summary of what Russia did around Brexit and why:
      Key quote:
      "According to Luke Harding in his book Shadow State: Murder, Mayhem, and Russia’s Remaking of the West, [former Russian Ambassador to UK Alexander] Yakovenko told a fellow diplomat: “We have crushed the British to the ground. They are on their knees, and they will not rise for a very long time.”
      But the Russians don't care about the UK. Not at all. You're right, no doubt about that . . .

    3. Well said, 17/2 @ 14.08, and btw the link you give is also linked to in my piece (General Background, last paragraph, third link), and the 'Russia Report' is further evidence. The idea that this is some sort of reflex, 19th century Russo-phobia is fatuous.

    4. Had to wonder when I read it...could it be the weird name "Godfree" that gives it away as a pro-Putin bot?

  8. As usual, fascinating post, I've a lot I would like to suggest, but i'll try to refrain from ranting.

    Disagree with AG that the Russia could get to the Pyrenees without nuclear war. Surely by then even UK (or France/Germany) are well past deterrence stage. Overall, the media narrative is woeful, perhaps start at the Suwalki gap. People are naive if they think countries (EG Nordic neighbours) don't have plans in place and ready to press go on their own programs, eg; dissolution of NATO.

    It's a somewhat rite of passage for leaders to proudly say "I would order nuclear strike, that's the point of deterrent". Obfuscated and stultified in equal measure. While logical, if voters don't believe in billion£ deterrent systems due to politics then why would they believe in politics/state being able to achieve.provide anything? Client Journo MSM has a helluva lot answer for.

    West Minster 2P system very poor for long term foreign policy+strategy. Especially when partisan culture war, "your enemy is my friend", is played alongside 'EU / AntiEU (Mogg,Farage China vs EU),
    "Bucaneering Britain in the Pacific against wishes of small minded europhiles"(Pacific Pivot) and 'family values' vs 'liberalism'. I agree with AG that a chameleon-like Farage-type would be fantastic outcome for Putin. I would not be surprised if NF replaces Sunak before a GE. A frightening prospect. Trump/Farage elections within months. I fear the Tories and press barons will try anything to remain in control of power... Why fight a war when you could elect 'your people"? Does anyone know who owns the telegraph?

  9. The enemy is both weak and incompetent and powerful and threatening at the same time - isn't that a chapter in Propaganda 101?

    It remains truly astonishing the extent to which even those in Britain who appear nominally self aware and in touch with the real world remain almost universally and wholesale under the spell of Pax Americana propaganda.
    NATO is today more than ever nothing more than a tool of US power projection and influence.
    The reason the US maintains the posture it has in Europe is because some in Washington still understand that "pulling out" would inevitably be followed by europeanisation of defence with profound consequences for the US - not least the loss of captive markets for Lockheed et al.

    The alarmist narrative being pushed so hard by transatalanticists in politics and media, especially shrill in the UK, is a doomed attempt to somehow recreate american supremacy and legitimacy or at least to preserve the status quo. So far it has had limited success.

    As to the UK, just look at the force it has deployed for it's stint as VJTF lead this year, a complete farce! It belies the proclaimed urgency and seriousness being talked up entirely.
    But more importantly it is highly instructive how complete the media is covering up the failure to deploy a credible force.

    1. As ever, always interesting to hear from the good people at Spiked. And of course, the EU is just a Capitalist club !

    2. Yawn. Not only is this tedious student politics cliches, it’s not even relevant to what the primary theme of the post, which is what the implications of the end of US commitment to defending Europe.

    3. Of course it is. The idea that european countries are not doing enough for their defence and the US is somehow doing europeans a favor. Pretending that's the underlying dynamic here is ridiculous!
      I mean the naivité is abolutely out of this world.
      No country does any other any kind of favor just simply out of some pure sense of altruism!?
      And most certainly not the US considering they're the most unrestrained and excessive ubercapitalists in history!

      Thus the whole premis for the idea that the UK might yet get a new special relationship with the EU is deeply flawed...

      But you know what? It's also the fact that after 8 years of being the told the exact same thing over and over and over..
      There persists this almost universal english commitment - even among most "pro-europeans" - not to accept or comprehend the EU's shared instinctive determination to maintain their collective integrity above all else.

      Even suggesting it should be dismantled

    4. 18 Feb @ 01.01. You say:

      “Thus the whole premis for the idea that the UK might yet get a new special relationship with the EU is deeply flawed...”

      Yet, just today: “Call to urgently revive Theresa May’s plan for EU-wide defence treaty. Leader of centrist Renew group in EU parliament says defence must be main priority over next five years”

      “… defence must now be the number one priority for the next five years of EU policymaking, said Valérie Hayer, the recently selected head of the Renew group, the third-biggest voting bloc in the European parliament.
      “I know that in Theresa May’s time, there was a defence treaty on the table. I think that would be very, very useful. We already have close cooperation, but it would be very, very useful to put this subject back on the table,” she said. “One of our priorities is to accelerate European defence.””

      Maybe I know a bit more about it than you do.

  10. A sobering and thought-provoking reminder that Brexit is about a lot more than masses of new red tape for importers and exporters and freedom of movement being stripped away. Thanks again Chris.

  11. Focus on and consideration of this extraordinary excellent post by Chris Grey is imperative.

  12. I'm unclear as to whether the authoritarian government you envisage is the result of a Russian land invasion or of a home-hrown extreme-right takeover.

    1. Well, it was Anthony Glees' scenario not mine, in the first instance - but I think he meant the latter, not the former

    2. To me the Johnson/Truss/Sunak Regime is pretty far right.
      Especially considering its total disregard for the rule of international or for that matter domestic law

  13. Another aspect of Brexit, was the trade with the Commonwealth which Brexiteers like to present, wrongly of course, as a kind of alternative to the EU. It is quite interesting to view the long-term specialrelationship which India has with France, almost never mentioned in the British media. Look for instance at the Firstpost English-language Indian news channel on youtube. Type in for instance "What makes India's relationship with France special?" I have a feeling any trade deal with Britain will be strictly on India's terms.

    1. Which probably explains why an Indian trade deal now seems to be on the back burner. But Badenoch has announced an economic partnership with Nigeria - despite the fact that no British firm is going to want to export to Nigeria.

    2. Trade with the Commonwealth was surpassed by trade with The Six in 1963 well before entry into the EEC. The Brexiters seek to reverse history.... Note things going forward, like Australia has no car manufacturers as too small a market etc etc. But still requires defence capability and US military might to back it up.

    3. This is the key point. Brexit attempts to blithely unwind powerful forces of economic history - while at the same time somehow navigating through the existing problems of high debt and low productivity.

  14. "an exercise last October involving the forces of nine EU countries was for the first time conducted from an EU operational headquarters" This would have been inconceivable before Brexit since the UK fastidiously torpedoed any such EUropean efforts. So these developments can genuinely be regarded as a "Brexit dividend".

  15. Talk of war should always be taken into context, and with reference to the maxim that the first victim of war is the truth. In the UK’s case, post Brexit, and in the context of any wider conflict on a global scale, other contexts need to be appraised.
    War can itself be divided into two camps, asymmetric war, which is ongoing and perpetual, and one that Brexit certainly forms a part of in the European arena, and symmetric war, the kind of one on one engagement we can see in Ukraine. Most people are exposed through mainstream media to the later category, and are actively discouraged from thinking about the asymmetric war that essentially guarantees the quality of life for a minority at the expense of the exploitation of the majority- think about the Cambodian girl earning 21c an hour, six days a week, to make the shirt for sale in any High Street fashion outlet- her only alternative as the sixth daughter of a poor family is to lie on her back. This is violence, the currency of war for profit.
    Essentially, this is how the world works, and currently, the American Empire holds and wants to hold the cards, cards that the British Empire held and used to exploit the world’s resources for its own benefit for several hundred years, to the world’s detriment and for the benefit of very few. (As an aside, it was only recently that the British government stopped paying compensation to the slave trade owning families out of tax payer’s money- reparations? Perish the thought…).
    These cards are simple to describe in layman’s terms, being the control of global natural resources and the control of the means of exchange by which these resources are traded (many, markets and transport), with profits going to the ruling Empire at the time.
    Brexit, in this context, is just one more self inflicted wound by a country that has lost its way in the world after it lost its Empire, a last gasp attempt to feign relevance and a desperate, delusional cry of bravado (think holding up two fingers to the French if you were an archer) based on a mix of saccharine nostalgia and misguided leadership, and a dumbed downed electorate that have literally given up hope that things will get better and are susceptible to whatever useful idiot can sell the circumstantial propaganda (hyper- normalisation). Not much has changed structurally since last century when Bernays constructed the world we live in, it’s the same set of conflicts with fluctuating players, albeit made more complex by technology and shifting alliances.
    The UK, currently in a terminal decline that has been fast- forwarded by Brexit, is fairly irrelevant on the world stage, apart from being a large arms manufacturer. Sterling isn’t backed by anything (20% devaluation after Brexit, the less said about Truss the better) and without control of the means of exchange of materials, historical posturing and claims of special relationships are worth nothing.
    The dollar hegemony must be preserved. Currently the debate is about how much the EU must shoulder the burden for itself as the USA withdraws to dispute its own internal contradictions. This leaves the EU, with USA support via NATO, to find its own solutions, and the UK, having ludicrously excused itself from any serious consideration and having proven itself an unreliable partner, just isn’t in the room anymore, despite the desperate posturing of the failing and flailing ruling class that is bringing the country to its knees.

  16. The paragraph beginning "Actually, they only differ wildly in what they ultimately want. They are identical in what they see as the route to getting it" is extraordinarily powerful. Sometimes, I wish Chris was wrong.
    Even as we endure the economic losses of disconnection from the European mainstream, I regret the alienation from our friends and allies more.

  17. If we're talking about actual conflict, is anyone thinking about cyber, interuption of internet communications & the consequencies - military AND civilian (which has implications for the military) - of even short-lived interuptions of internet dependent communications?
    Before Year 2000, I did a thought experiment on insulin (DOI - GP): looking at the dependencies: manufactured in 3 countries - US, Sweden, France. That meant that for UK, at least one of these countries would have to have their components supply requirements intact (power, workforce, raw materials, transport, finance, orders etc) & the UK be able to order as usual.
    In the UK, the normal IT dependent systems of issuing prescriptions, pharmacies being able to receive the prescriptions, & order supplies from wholesalers in order to dispense the supplies, & the wholesalers able to order & get supplies from continental Europe - all dependent on communications - semed to be at risk.
    Fortunately this nightmare scenario didn't happen (probably due to the work done to prevent it).
    My question: how possible/probable is it that communications - at a strategic level - could be shut down on an enemy rendering them temporarily impotent *without* effecting the capabilities of the attacking forces?
    (in wars, effects on civilians appear to be irrelevant)

  18. The idea that he (Trump) has any interest in what happens to the UK, or even any loyalty to such court jesters, is preposterous.
    Indeed, countries don't have friends , they have interests..
    A fundamental fact that successive Brexit regimes fail to understand..
    The 27 nations of EU are not necessarily friends (eg Romania/Hungary) but their collective interests in their European Union takes an even higher priority since UK left.

    1. In point of fact when he was in office Trump was far more friendly towards Ireland than he was to the UK.

      With Trump everything is about him and he has a famously thin skin so it did not help that he was/is vilified in the UK and his one state visit had to be extensively revised due to mass protests and uniform condemnation of the visit in the media.

      Contrast this with his reception in Ireland to which he had two official visits and at least two other private visits by way Airforce One stopping off for a night at his golf resort near Shannon.

      Each time in Ireland he was politely received and in Shannon even cheered as his golf club is a big local employer.

      Now I personally don’t think he will win the election in Nov but should he do so President Trump will not have fond memories of the UK.