26.07.2020 Author: Vladimir Danilov

UK in the Midst of a Full-Blown Existential Crisis


Based on news reports and political commentary in the UK, at present, the country is experiencing a full-blown crisis, and it remains unclear how it plans to resolve it.

The outcome of negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship after Britain exited the European Union is uncertain. It is possible that a deal will not be reached or, on the contrary, UK’s “wise” negotiators could strike a bargain with their counterparts from Europe. Having embarked on the path to exit the EU with the Brexit referendum four years earlier, the UK seems hesitant as it prepares to leave the EU fold and appears unsure of what awaits it…

In such a climate, it is important for Britain’s leadership to gauge the current mood in various regions of the, for now, United Kingdom, i.e. the rise in popularity of Scottish nationalists and the waning influence of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland. And there is purportedly growing talk of independence in Wales. A majority in Northern Ireland, i.e. about 56% of its residents who took part in the referendum, voted to remain in the EU. Local unionists, “who tend to identify as Protestant”, “wish to remain part of the UK”, while nationalists, “who tend to identify as Catholic”, have a greater affinity for the Republic of Ireland and the EU. For the latter, the prospect of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic became an issue. Hence, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government and the EU negotiated Brexit withdrawal terms that ensure that “there will effectively be a customs and regulatory border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom in the Irish Sea”.

The issue of another referendum on Scottish independence still remains on the political agenda. In fact, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon “requested the Prime Minister bring forward an order allowing the Scottish Parliament to approve” the second referendum. After all, 62% voted to remain in the EU in Scotland.

Even Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory, “could stay in the Schengen Area after Brexit”.

Despite Britain’s attempts to intervene in the situation in Hong Kong, China has shown both London and Washington that Beijing is capable of dealing with it single-handedly without any outside assistance, which must have dealt a blow to UK’s self-esteem and sensibilities.

In addition, Britain’s relationship with Washington, despite the former’s desperate attempts to prove its loyalty and to show its willingness to be a part of any US escapades, for now, does not guarantee that London will reap rewards from such ties. In fact, it is possible that it will not. In February 2019, the US government set out the Summary of Specific Negotiating Objectives for the Initiation of United States-United Kingdom Negotiations, showing its willingness to work out “a trade agreement with the UK” after Brexit, in accordance with the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015.

Aside from the aforementioned political, economic and territorial problems that could arise, Brexit may result in substantial financial losses for London, which could reach 1 trillion pounds according to some estimates. EU countries could withdraw their gold from the Bank of England, and EU as well as global financial institutions could leave the UK.

Britain appears to be at a loss. As a result it has, for the sake of the public, tried to shift the blame onto an external player. London has chosen to focus its efforts on its anti-Russia propaganda campaign, as part of which the UK accused Moscow of allegedly trying to interfere in the 2019 general election, and to steal information about Coronavirus vaccine research conducted in the UK.  At the same time, British intelligence agencies and some UK media outlets they have possibly infiltrated are so fixated on spreading such provocative information that they have even resorted to criticizing their own Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He has been repeatedly accused of delaying the release of the findings made by the UK parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) on the possible Russian interference in the landmark Brexit referendum.

UK’s Minister of State for Security James Brokenshire also contributed to the anti-Russian campaign by publicly stating that Britain was “95% certain that cyber attacks against labs developing a Covid-19 vaccine were carried out by the Russian state”. Moscow does not need to steal Coronavirus vaccine research because, in fact, as recently reported, the Russian pharmaceutical company R-Pharm had “signed a deal with AstraZeneca for it to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine being developed”.

On July 17, 2020, Britain’s newspaper The Times published an article that said the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures taken, which forced millions of people to radically change their lifestyles, had had a serious effect on mental health of Britain’s inhabitants. Reportedly, the number of people suffering from mental disorders has increased rapidly and mental health of those who were already affected has deteriorated in the UK.

Nowadays, it is becoming increasingly clear that problems with mental health experienced by Britain’s current political elite do not only stem from the Coronavirus pandemic. In fact, in the author’s opinion, they are suffering from chronic Russophobia, which has seemingly affected their ability to sleep, think and recognize reality for what it is. Hence, the UK leadership has chosen to blame an outside enemy for Britain’s current troubles, including all the issues associated with Brexit. According to the New York Times, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was even “planning to give security services more powers to stop foreign interference in Britain”. But, in fact, the 21 July ISC report found that it was “difficult to prove” allegations that Russia sought to influence the referendum.

It is also quite clear that the cure for such an affliction is certainly not psychological therapy.

Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.