, 12 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
The conviction that what the world really needs from Britain is "leadership" - indulged by a govt that can barely tie its own shoelaces - is a fallacy with deep historical roots. It has bedevilled British foreign policy since 1945 - & its relations with the EU above all. [THREAD]
2. After the Second World War, Britain's power in the world was severely weakened, but its commitment to global leadership remained undimmed. So govts turned to the Commonwealth as an organisation that "has only to develop its resources to match the power of the United States".
3. Yet hopes that the Commonwealth would provide a new platform for British power were swiftly disappointed, as it became less white, less "British" & less amenable to UK leadership. The result, on the British Right, was a backlash that anticipated later criticism of the EU.
4. In the 1970s & 80s, the Commonwealth featured in right-wing debate chiefly as a problem: as a body that did things *to* Britain, rather than *for* it, allowing ungrateful foreigners to fleece Britain of cash, interfere in its affairs & take advantage of its immigration laws.
5. Its reluctance to accept British leadership made the Commonwealth an object of angry derision for many on the Right, rendering Britain "the ever-open wallet on which the sun never sets". Boris Johnson dismissed it as a source of "cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies".
6. Over the 1960s & 70s, govts slowly transferred their leadership ambitions to the EEC. George Brown, a Labour Foreign Secretary, urged Willy Brandt in 1967 "to let us in" so we can "take the lead". For Margaret Thatcher, the EEC offered a new vehicle for Britain's imperial role
7. The Daily Mail celebrated entry in 1971 with the headline: "Now we can lead Europe!" The Sun, which also backed entry, told readers that membership offered "an unrepeatable opportunity for a nation that lost an empire to gain a Continent".
8. That rhetoric persisted into the 1990s & beyond. Tony Blair promised in 1997 to "give Britain the leadership in Europe which Britain and Europe need", and "to use our leadership position in the EU" to put Britain "once again at the centre of international decision-making".
9. Gordon Brown called his book on the 2016 referendum "Leading, not Leaving", insisting that Britain should be "not just a member but a leader" of the EU. David Cameron, likewise, proclaimed that Europe needed "‘a big, bold, brave Britain at the heart of [its] institutions".
10. Yet this set an impossible standard for membership of a multinational community. The British refused to reimagine themselves as an equal partner - and in the imagination of the Brexit right, if Britain could not be a king, it must be a "vassal", a "prisoner" or a "colony".
11. Britain is fast becoming the King Lear of the diplomatic world, rampaging insanely around the stage & blaming everyone else for the loss of his kingdom. For "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless Commonwealth/Continent!"
12. The liberation that Britain so urgently needs is not from Brussels, but from its own illusions. A lesson in humility may be fast approaching; but a chaotic, disorderly Brexit would be a cruel teacher. As ever, it will not be the worst delinquents who take the punishment.[END]
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Robert Saunders
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls (>4 tweets) are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!