Peter Hoskin

Is Britain still relevant on the world stage?

Is Britain still relevant on the world stage?
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Britain's place in the world is under increasing scrutiny.  There's the continuing debate over the Lisbon Treaty; mutterings that the "special relationship" may break down; and questions about the viability of Brownite free trade.  And now - in a comment piece for the Independent - Mary Dejevsky notes the lack of major British players on the diplomatic stage:

"It is hard to date the beginning, or the end, of our retreat, but the return of Mark Malloch Brown, then Deputy Secretary General, from the United Nations to join Gordon Brown's "government of all the talents" might be seen as a moment when we pulled up one of the last drawbridges linking us to the outside world. Similarly, the retirement of Sir John, now Lord, Kerr, after serving as Secretary General of the Convention drafting the European Constitutional Treaty.

But the absence of senior Britons from international gatherings is becoming conspicuous. At the Munich security conference last weekend – perhaps Europe's premier defence gathering – it was noted that this was the first time in 40-plus years that no Briton spoke from the platform. What was that about our diplomacy 'punching above its weight'?...

...Most striking, though, is the ascendancy of the French. The European Central Bank, the European bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund are all headed by members of the French technocratic elite. Britons are nowhere to be found at the apex of these organisations, which have at least as much clout as the more hidebound diplomatic and security groupings."

Will having Tony Blair as EU President change this?  I suspect not.  For starters, Blair is being championed far more by France and Germany, than by the British, for the role.  And all signs suggest that it's little more than a figurehead position, from which Blair will be hard-pressed to help Britain influence international affairs.  As Dejevsky states, it all presages "a future in which we British will punch well below our weight".