‘GLOBAL Britain’ will struggle to send sausages to Northern Ireland. ‘Global Britain’, which is ironically enough hosting the G7 summit tomorrow in Cornwall, is so global it’s cutting aid to the world’s poorest nations, contrary to a manifesto pledge by the man who coined the term ‘Global Britain’, Boris Johnson.

A declining Britain should consider itself lucky to have G7 status. The UK economy has suffered the deepest recession of all the G7 nations. The International Monetary Fund upgraded world growth earlier this year, but singled out the UK as the only G7 economy to downgrade in 2020.

A new Cold War looms with China. The world may focus on the sub-James Bond antics of Putin, but Russia is a failing state. It’s Beijing which really threatens the West. The UK will be a bit player in the geopolitics of the 21st century. Washington loved London for bridging the transatlantic gap between Europe and America. Brexit Britain is little more than a satellite state now in the eyes of Joe Biden.

Global Britain scrabbles around to make half-baked trade deals. It’s wearying to keep saying it but Brexit has reduced Britain to a nub of its former power. The 21st century is about transnational relationships and team-playing – not splendid isolation.

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The Sausage War – a phrase so absurd it sums up the entire futile state of British power in 2021 – is a neat example of the UK’s harsh decline. In essence, Brexit trade rules mean there must be checks on chilled goods going from mainland Britain to Ulster. The EU won’t budge, nor will London – both sides are stubborn and foolish. Northern Ireland, as ever, simmers dangerously. Marching season approaches. Of course, the metaphor for this stand off had to be the sausage – the ‘Great British’ banger.

London’s weakness is highlighted by the paucity of its arsenal. Brexit minister Baron Frost warned Brussels that trade war threats wouldn’t wash with British voters. Why would Brussels care about British voters? It’s like me warning you that if you punch me in the face I’ll feel pain. That’s the whole point of your punch.

Biden, soon touching down in Cornwall, is a big fan of Ireland. He’s made clear his disapproval of Brexit, and not solely on the grounds of US self-interest. Biden worries about the effect on the peace process. Johnson will be under pressure from Biden at the G7.

The Sausage War – which sounds more like Dadaist performance art every time you hear the term – shows that Northern Ireland really isn’t a part of the UK anymore, if part A of Britain cannot trade with part B without the approval of Europe. Take back control, indeed.


The row over cuts to international aid also proves the erosion of UK power. Just like with the ridiculous Sausage War you don’t have to pick a side to see British folly. There’s plenty of arguments to be made around the need for a wiser use of taxpayers’ money when it comes to aid, but that doesn’t mean aid should be cut, just better spent. Cutting aid symbolises declining clout.

Clearly, there’s a moral imperative to help poor countries, but we don’t even need to rehearse that argument to see the self-harm caused by cutting aid. Look at the issue from a position of self-interest: aid is power. Aid, like culture and the military, projects Britain globally. Slashing aid shows London sadly shuffling to the corner of the stage.

All Western powers are struggling to define what they stand for, and where they stand, in the 21st century. Among the liberal democracies, though, Britain seems the most lost and confused. London sneers at old allies in Paris and Berlin, yet Johnson glad-hands with petty demagogues like Hungary’s Viktor Orban.

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Britain is at war with the truth. It cannot see itself any more for what it really is, what it’s become. It’s not that Britain has become something awful – it’s not a dictatorship for pity sake, it’s not evil or a menace to world peace.

Britain has simply declined. Brexit hastened that decline. Yet the Westminster government – and its cheerleaders in the increasingly deluded London press – still imagine Britannia ruling the waves.

It didn’t have to be like this. A wise, steady hand could manage decline without making the nation feel shamed and small. Britain could have positioned itself as a deal-maker, trusted friend, wise adviser. Instead, Britain appears a squabbling wreck.

The UK could have began a slow transition towards accepting – and exploiting – life as a ‘middle power’. Would it really be so awful to be Sweden, Spain, Austria or Ireland?

The disjoin between reality and the delusions of grandeur which the current UK government pushes is truly rather pitiful to behold. But then again, Johnson is a living symbol of mere ambition superseding talent and ability.

There’s a sadness to Britain’s inability to understand its place in the world. Decline should be handled elegantly. In UK terms, it would be more dignified not to rage against the dying of the light, given it is Britain itself which extinguished the lights. There’s something small and petty, weak, cruel and hypocritical about a country shouting about its global clout and significance when every action it takes undermines clout and significance.

This fantasy of Britain still being ‘global’, let alone ‘Great’, will play hard into Scotland’s constitutional debate. If Scotland should ever leave the UK, the last vestige of British power would evaporate like dew in the sun. Britain would find itself like Edgar in King Lear, suddenly poor and naked in the eyes of the world.

That G7 position would certainly start to look peculiar – and more importantly the permanent seat on the UN Security Council may be put at risk. Russia and China would unquestionably ask why a rump state – with the location of its nuclear deterrent in question – should wield global power. Brazil and India and a host of rising nations would rightly say ‘it’s our turn now’.

Britain’s decline has been slow. Independence for Ireland and India both marked significant stages of diminution. Scotland’s exit would be the final step. A crumbling power will ruthlessly, angrily, resist such an endgame.

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