Darroch Affair: Brexit Britain Losing Control
By Graham Vanbergen: If one thing that Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have just demonstrated in the Darroch affair – it is that the UK’s postwar self-image has been all but destroyed in full view.
Britain’s Foreign Office Chief, Simon McDonald went before MPs yesterday and told them straight out what was actually happening. There had never been an event in Britain’s history where any government, friend or foe, had gone this far as to get a senior diplomat removed from post – never. Two world wars, Russia, Argentina and various other enemies of the state through the ages, made up or otherwise, have not once achieved such an event.
And then, as if some sort of confirmation of the gravity of this event was needed, McDonald made the most extraordinary remark about the resignation of Britain’s Washington ambassador, Kim Darroch:
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“Nothing like this has ever happened before, there must be consequences. What they are in detail I can’t tell you this afternoon.”
The government, about to be led by Boris Johnson has lost the confidence of the Foreign Office and its boss has just put out a full warning to Johnson. Never in Britain’s history has this happened – ever. This is a hallmark of Brexit Britain. It’s shameful that the head of the FCO has been put in this farcical situation in the first place.
But there’s another story going on here. Who is the leaker of critical memos from the Washington embassy and who gave them to one of Britain’s most effective pro-Brexit journalists. And was this the same person who informed Theresa May about Gavin Williamson’s leak from the National Security Council over the Huawei scandal (Williamson has a very senior role in Johnson’s campaign to be PM). And was it the same leaker that divulged information that Theresa May had deliberately withheld information of national security intelligence from Johnson when he was Foreign Secretary?
Laura Kuenssberg, senior political correspondent at the BBC wrote – “Once he (Johnson) was in government, on occasion Downing Street would even convene smaller meetings, or “pre-meets”, to discuss sensitive subjects rather than include him as foreign secretary, a senior figure has told me.” Keunssberg went further – “However, Number 10 did not want Mr Johnson to be shown a category of sensitive secret intelligence after he was appointed in July 2016, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of events, none of whom is involved in the leadership campaign or politics.”
Can you imagine a British Prime Minister who had information of national security deliberately withheld because of trustworthiness issues? And let’s not forget why he was there in the first place. Theresa May appointed Johnson to the cabinet to placate the grassroots, as well as the rightwing of the party eager for the front bench to be stocked with Brexiteers. Again, Brexit is the pumping heart of Britain’s political meltdown.
We should not forget that it was Johnson’s action that led directly to Darroch’s inevitable resignation. The seniors at the Foreign Office, its diplomats and other senior civil servants will be seething about this event. British diplomats – already stretched to the max trying to show typical British calm while the Brexit storm rages around them, with civil servants working flat out to prepare for a hard-Brexit – the inevitable new government has lost the confidence and therefore control of the very departments it desperately needs to be firing on all cylinders come October when the storm turns into thunder and lightning.
The leaker of these events must be someone senior and close to the government. One can only hope there is only one leaker because multiple cracks at the heart of government would be utterly disastrous. The damage being done internally to the government is unprecedented.
If anything, this demonstrates just how damaging Brexit is to Britain. This is no storm in a teacup. What is this; spying – no, not really, ‘alternative loyalty’ – probably. Just another daft phrase to add to the lexicon of Brexit Britain.
We should also consider something I have been rattling on about now for several years. Trump was at the very centre of this diplomatic scandal. He pushed for Darroch’s sacking not once but twice. And Britain has bent over backwards and taken his instructions straight up the rear. What message does that send to Trump’s America? What does it tell the heads of state of other powers? Britain is weak, a vassal state about to be exploited.
As Simon Jenkins at the Guardian just put it – “Tuesday reminded us that, in Johnson’s world, other people are always expendable. Ask the former London police chief Ian Blair, sacked by Johnson in one of the most disgraceful acts of his mayoralty. Ask Iran’s prisoner Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, innocent victim of Johnson’s lazy mind and incontinent tongue. Now ask Darroch, whom Johnson casually hung out to dry. Each of them simply got in the way. If Johnson becomes prime minister there will be more, much more, of this.”
All of this, including the Tory leadership non-battle to get Johnson’s knees under the table at No10, has been as politically unedifying as it gets. This is Brexit for you because, without it, none of this would have happened and Johnson would still be in the political wilderness. And when Johnson is in No10 who is he looking up to – Trump – a president that in under two years has lost 48 of his own (high-profile) appointees in what can only be described as a chaotic Whitehouse.
In the meantime, let’s also not forget that Brexit has caused foreign investment to swan-dive an eye-watering 13 per cent in just twelve months. Growth in the UK’s dominant services sector came to a near standstill in June and manufacturing and construction industry plunged into contraction and The City of London has already transferred £1 trillion of its assets to the EU.
While the economy grew 0.3% last month from the month before, after declining 0.4% in April, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the reason was that the car makers in Britain had shut down in readiness for the last Brexit deadline, they have since restarted – hence the small increase in June’s economic performance. But this is not to be lauded – another set of storm clouds are gathering. Next October, business will not need to stockpile – that has already been done.
And when Britain’s forced exit from the EU happens, which has been emphatically promised, Britain sails into uncharted waters economically and politically weakened on all fronts.
Graham Vanbergen is the Editor of TruePublica, a columnist for the European Financial Review and author of Brexit – A Corporate Coup D’Etat