Rishi Sunak Charts Post-Brexit Role With Pivot From ‘Global Britain’
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak canceled the large and small projects of his predecessors from Liz Truss. trickle tax cut Boris Johnson’s arrival Royal yacht refurbishment. But one of Mr. Sunak’s most iconic changes since take over as prime minister five months ago received less attention: withdrawing the slogan ‘Global Britain’.
no more phrasea controversial relic of debate in Britain over the role of post-Brexit; appearing in speeches by cabinet ministers or in the government’s updated foreign and military policy blueprints. This was announced last Monday.
Instead, Mr. Sunak has struck the necessary deals on trade and immigration with Britain’s closest neighbours, France and the rest of the European Union. In the process, analysts and diplomats say, for the first time since Britain left the European Union, Britain is beginning to map out a realistic role on the international stage.
Global Britain, as suggested by Mr Johnson, intended to evoke a Britain, unconstrained by Brussels, able to be nimble and opportunistic, a lightly regulated, free-trade power. In fact, it symbolizes a nation with far-fetched ambitions and, under Mr Johnson, a habit of quarreling with its neighbours.
Mr. Sunak changed all that, with a pragmatic approach that, to some extent, reflects down button, technocratic style. (In domestic policy, he also shied away from Ms. Truss’ ideological experimentation and Mr. Johnson’s political rhetoric in favor of a more methodical approach to Britain’s deep-seated economic problems. )
But a leader’s style matters, and on the international stage Mr. Sunak’s unpretentious approach is yielding compelling benefits.
Over the past few weeks, he has reach an agreement with Brussels on trade in Northern Ireland, ease years of stress related to Brexit with France, inaugurating the next phase of submarine alliance with Australia and the United States, and announced an increase in military spending by £11 billion (about $13.3 billion) over the next five years, reinforcing Britain’s role as leading arms supplier to Ukraine.
Peter Westmacott, who served as Britain’s ambassador to France and the US, said: “It is too early to say whether Sunak will find a role for post-Brexit Britain. “But he has removed the much mocked Johnsonian ‘Global Britain’ slogan, fond of under-promising and over-executing. He also acted quickly to overcome some of the obstacles to a better relationship with our partners.”
There are lingering obstacles to Britain’s new role, particularly the right wing of Mr Sunak’s Conservative Party, which remains skeptical of the European Union and could stymie his trade deal on Northern Ireland. Human rights experts have also condemned new government plan to prevent asylum seekers from crossing the English Channel, saying it would violate international law.
However, Mr. Westmacott said: “Let us not underestimate the value of restoring trust and mutual respect at the leadership level of government at a time when like-minded liberal democracies are more prevalent. more reasons than ever to work together.”
Mr. Sunak has embarked on an epic fence repair tour. Unlike Mr. Johnson, who used to fight with President Emmanuel Macron of France on sausageMr. Sunak called Mr. Macron “mon ami” after they meet in Paris this month and agreed to work together to try to prevent migrant crossings.
When Mr Sunak and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced an agreement on new trade rules for Northern Ireland, called Windsor framework, she calls him “Dear Rishi.” It was in stark contrast to the tense encounters she used to have with Mr Johnson.
President Biden also sympathizes with Mr. Sunak, although not always helping the prime minister in the country. During Mr. Sunak’s visit to San Diego to Inauguration of the submarine allianceMr. Biden noted that Mr. Sunak graduated from Stanford University and owned a house on the beach. “That’s why I’m so nice to you,” Biden said, “Perhaps you could invite me to your house in California.”
Mr. Sunak’s Santa Monica mansion is a reminder that he is rich and had a green card of the United States as prime minister of the Exchequer, problems that plagued him when he unsuccessfully ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2022. (He received the job several times. Months later after Mrs. Truss .’s economic blunders forced her to resign.)
The White House, in its statement, did not specify Mr. Sunak’s role in reaching the Northern Ireland deal with Brussels. The prime minister told Mr Biden in November, at their first face-to-face meeting as leaders, that he hoped to resolve the issue in time for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April.
Simon Fraser, a former top civil servant at Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said: “I suspect that the US is being cautious. “There have been a lot of false starts with the UK since Brexit.”
British officials said the wording of the White House statement was helpful, because checking Mr Sunak’s name could give him headaches in Northern Ireland’s complicated political landscape, where his support Mr. Biden is a mixed blessing. Many there assumed that the president, a proud Irish-American, was sympathetic to those in the region who wanted reunification with the Republic of Ireland.
Despite that, the deal opened the door for Mr. Biden to visit Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, next month to mark the quarter-century since the Good Friday Agreement, ending decades of sectarian violence known as the Troubles. The president also invited Mr. Sunak to visit the White House in June.
The submarine treaty is a reminder that Britain remains the most important military power in NATO after the US. US officials say they are encouraged that Mr. Sunak has not softened British support for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that started under Mr. Johnson and reinforced recently on Thursday, when Mr. Sunak and Mr. Zelensky talked about Russia’s relentless attacks on Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
Additionally, the government’s budget, announced on Wednesday by Mr Sunak’s prime minister, Jeremy Hunt, pledged to increase UK military spending to 2.5% of economic output, although there is no specific date possible to achieve that goal. The additional money will be used to build new nuclear submarines and fighter jets, and to replenish reserves depleted by weapons pipelines sent to Ukraine.
“This past week told us something very important about how Rishi Sunak sees the world and how he wants the world to see Britain,” said Sophia Gaston, head of foreign policy at Policy Exchange, based in London. London, said. thinking tank. “We’re connected, open-minded, ambitious, but realistic in delivering on our promises.”
Ms. Gaston argues that British foreign policy is more of a continuum than a change in language would suggest. For one thing, the updated military and foreign policy review was written by John Bew, the same foreign policy adviser who wrote the 2021 review titled “Global Britain in Time great competition”.
And while the new document uses less exaggerated language, it still underscores Britain’s ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region. That could soon be raised if, as expected, Britain joins the 11-nation regional trade bloc known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
However, it also says a lot about Britain’s cooperation with its European neighbors, which was not in vogue three years ago.
Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director general of the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank, said: “It stems from the fact that the UK is a significant mid-range power – but not a superpower – cooperate with other countries.