In todays ‘Daily Brexit Betrayal’ I mentioned Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s article in the DT today, with the title “Boris will have to play a diplomatic blinder to win over sceptics across the world” (paywalled link). Having quoted the first sentences of that article, I said that I’d look at it in more depth. Here then are some more extensive quotes. Sadly, I don’t think our Remain ‘journalists’ in the MSM or on TV will take much notice. Starting from the top and setting the tone:
“No British prime minister has ever entered Downing Street after such vilification by the world’s elite media.
The portrait of an incorrigible clown leading a diminished and nostalgic nation into a cul-de-sac has taken root. Caricature is the cross that Boris has to bear.
“There is a near universal loss of respect for the UK overseas. Boris has got to play a blindingly good game,” said Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s former UN ambassador.
Part of my job covering the world economy is to read Europe’s press each day and I note the same stories dating back to Boris’s time as the Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent are endlessly recycled with diminishing caveats. […]
The best that can be said is that the further you get away from Europe and the New York Times culture zone the less it matters. “There is not the same animosity towards Boris in Asia because they have not been the target of his attacks,” said one Far Eastern ambassador. “What Asians want to know is whether Britain will now lurch towards US,” said the envoy. To the extent that Boris’s government continues to navigate a Third Way between the US and China – friendly to both but subservient to neither – it creates a strategic space for others across the world to do likewise.” (paywalled link)
That is certainly interesting and, given the manifest and documented hostility in the Foreign Office towards Johnson, it’s something which would depend very much on whom he nominates as Foreign Secretary – and if he can get to grips with the Remain Mandarins in that department. AEP continues with a look to the Far East:
“The immediate litmus test is whether Boris backs Jeremy Hunt’s bid for a ‘European’ naval force to protect shipping in the Gulf, or whether he opts instead for the US Sixth Fleet and Trumpian brotherhood. This is the first crisis awaiting Boris in Downing Street and it has potent ramifications.
The Chinese have no fixed view on Brexit. They regret losing a useful ally inside the Brussels system. Britain has over recent years anchored a blocking minority of free traders against French-led protectionists – over steel, most famously – to the point where London was viewed by some as a Chinese Fifth Column. But they are ruthlessly unsentimental. Brexit offers other opportunities. The Chinese like to pick off weaker European states. They gained a hold on the Port of Piraeus during Greece’s euro crisis. They recruited Italy to the Belt and Road Initiative by exploiting the Lega-Five Star fiscal showdown with Brussels. […] Yet China must calibrate carefully. The cruder the threats, the more likely that a Boris aligns tightly with Donald Trump’s America. Hopes of showcasing Huawei and Chinese nuclear technology in the UK will die. For Xi Jinping there still is some strategic value in preserving what the People’s Daily calls the “golden era” in Anglo-Chinese relations.” (paywalled link)
A bit closer to the East, AEP looks towards Russia:
“Russia is a different animal. […] The diplomatic whisper is that he (Putin) is preparing some sort of offer to Boris. Gone is his first predatory strategy after the Referendum, when he tested whether a wounded UK could be separated from the Western pack. Pin-prick probing of British air space led nowhere. Boris has yet to show ankle on this. During the hustings he said the reset button with Putin’s Kremlin never works. “Russia always lets you down”. Yet Europe knows that temptation lurks if it pushes Britain too far.”(paywalled link)
That then brings AEP to our nearest neighbour, the EU:
“Geopolitics is the difficulty that the EU faces. Brussels can be horrible over trade with relative impunity – or thinks it can – but such an approach risks a political and emotional reaction within the UK that Europe cannot control.
The EU has until now harboured the conceit that it could separate trade from security, and do so entirely on its own terms. This was cherry-picking on a grand scale. Now they have to judge the risk that the British could depart much further from the EU strategic orbit than they had bargained for. This is to “lose” the UK altogether.
Brexiteers control the machinery of British government for the first time. They are no longer relegated to Potemkin departments while pro-EU cadres hold real power through the Cabinet Office.
Parliamentary arithmetic may not have changed. It did not change in May 1940 either when the House switched from capitaluation to defiance over six extraordinary days. What has changed is the mood.
Charles Grant from the Centre for European Reform says EU capitals think a no-deal outcome is now more likely than not. “They don’t trust Parliament to stop it,” he said.” (paywalled link)
That is a most remarkable observation which is then detailed a bit further:
“The Grieve manoeuvers are increasingly dismissed as noise. This is significant. It does not mean that the EU will drop the Withdrawal Agreement. “They think they are well-prepared and can take a no-deal on the chin, and they think we are less prepared,” said Mr Grant.
Yet it changes the calculus and opens the door to “surgical” tweaks – an elastic term. Yes, there are still many in EU power circles who make much of ‘asymmetric’ presumption, the belief that the UK will spiral into crisis while the EU soldiers on. The new argument doing the rounds is that a no-deal clears the way for a deal months later. The pain will force Britain to come back quickly. So let it happen.
But this has powerful critics in Germany and is fraught with diplomatic dangers. “It would be wiser for the EU to take a more strategic approach and not dwell on the Withdrawal Agreement,” said Jean Pisani-Ferry, an economic adviser to France’s Emmanuel Macron and a fellow at the Bruegel institute. “I can see why the agreement is a problem for the British side give the Attorney-General’s advice,” he told me. “ (paywalled link)
It gets even better:
“Nothing is as settled as pro-forma EU rhetoric suggests. Like everybody else, Europeans are waiting so see which Boris becomes Prime Minister, and which advisers gain his ear. Will he push for a revamped Withdrawal Agreement with bells and whistles and a sprinkle of Boris magic, or will he go radical with the ‘clean-breakers’?
Would the EU accept an expiry date of some sort on the Irish backstop? All depends on how Taoiseach Leo Varadkar balances Ireland’s core interest as Brussels steps up pressure, implicitly threatening to mount EU trade barriers against Irish good unless he erects a hard border in the North. “If Varadkar says he can live with a time-limit, France and Germany will agree,” said Mr Grant.” (paywalled link)
Some other encouraging observations form the article’s concluding paragraphs:
“Boris has more to play for in this complex dance with Europe than his foes concede. EU leaders will reach out if only for ‘Nixon in China’ reasons, hoping that a true Brexiteer can deliver the diehards that eluded Theresa May.
“The Europeans don’t want a shambles. They will listen to Boris but he has got to bring something to the table,” said Sir Jeremy Greenstock […] “The UK is not a down and out country. It is in trouble over Brexit only because Brexit is such an extraordinary proposition,” he said.” (paywalled link)
I’m sure I’m not the only one saying ‘Amen’ to AEP’s last sentence:
“The Europeans say it is all up to Boris. One might equally say it is up to them.”
Exactly. I wonder if our Arch Remainers will finally pull their heads out of their [expletive deleted], ahem: out of the sand.