British Prime Minister Theresa May blinked more than once as she prepared to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon and initiate Britain’s exit from the European Union. According to May, Brexit will transform the United Kingdom into what she calls “Global Britain.” But what lies ahead is really anyone’s guess. The UK has long been shorn of its empire; now it will be shorn of Europe, too.
She is venerated around the world. She has outlasted 12 US presidents. She stands for stability and order. But her kingdom is in turmoil, and her subjects are in denial that her reign will ever end. That’s why the palace has a plan.
The approaching referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain in or leave the European Union marks a defining moment for the country’s foreign relations. In addition to determining the UK’s future status in Europe, it will affect Britain’s ability to thrive in and help shape a rapidly changing world.
It is hard to imagine, say, the monarchs of Saudi Arabia, Thailand, or Norway as global brands in quite the same way. And while the successful branding of the British royal family is partially a product of Britain’s historic role in the world, it also has causes closer to home—in the evolving relationship between British royals and their subjects.
David Cameron has defended the UK’s business links with China as he said deals worth £40bn had been struck during President Xi Jinping’s visit. Cameron hailed a deal giving China a 30% stake in a new nuclear plant. The PM said the two countries could maintain a “strong relationship” while having “necessary and frank discussions” about issues like the steel industry and human rights.
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as the new leader of the British Labour Party is a reminder that life is rich with paradox. Globalization – the web of travel, technology, trade, and information that binds the world ever more closely together – is hardly a new phenomenon. But politics in many developed democracies has lately been disrupted by populist insurgencies seeking to exit this shared reality. What these groups do not seem to recognize is that the alternative they wish for is a fantasy.