Anne Applebaum in her perceptive Washington Post column last week wrote: “Johnson, Osborne and many British Conservatives are now quite comfortable with the idea of Britain, or possibly just England, as the Dubai of the North Atlantic, the Singapore of the Western Hemisphere: a small trading nation…” The headline was: “New cabinet may signal Britain’s retreat as a Western power.”
This morning comes the news that ARM, the British company which leads the world with its chip designs at the heart of connected world — the internet of things — which is developing very fast, is to be taken-over by Japanese Softbank business for £24 billion.
Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s technology correspondent wrote:
It’s hard to exaggerate just how important ARM is to the UK tech sector – and the shock many are feeling this morning at the news that it is about to lose its independence.
Its brilliance was to realise that if chips were about to come with everything, you didn’t have to make them – designing them was the key.
The British Government is to nod through the takeover, with Philip Hammond, the new Chancellor, telling the Financial Times: “Just three weeks after the referendum decision, it shows that Britain has lost none of its allure to international investors.”
That is one way of spinning the story but it is not necessarily the way it is seen in other parts of the world.
Anne Applebaum is based in London and has written widely for serious British publications. Her Washington Post column provides a chilling insight into how the United Kingdom is being portrayed in the District of Columbia and, no doubt in many other capitals. It is a column which should be read in full but here is an extract:
… May’s choices also suggest a more profound change, visible for some time but only just now swimming into focus: Britain, or at least Tory Britain, no longer aspires to be a leading Western power. Surely May knows that Johnson is a hated figure in Brussels. Surely she guessed that the reaction to his appointment would be laughter in Washington. But she doesn’t care because — like the leaders of all small countries without aspirations to international leadership — her concerns are more parochial. She doesn’t need a foreign secretary who is taken seriously in foreign capitals.
Nor was she bothered by the further implications of the choice. Johnson has been a brilliant cheerleader for Britain in the past — a great ambassador for London — and some people now hope he will continue in that role. But in his recent columns and conversations, he has also made it clear that Britain’s traditional alliances — with the United States, with Europe — mean little to him. Instead, he has flirted with Putinism, praised Bashar al-Assad and gone on trade junkets to China. Johnson’s admiration for rich foreign dictators echoes the views of many leading Tories, even George Osborne, the just-retired chancellor of the exchequer. Johnson, Osborne and many British Conservatives are now quite comfortable with the idea of Britain, or possibly just England, as the Dubai of the North Atlantic, the Singapore of the Western Hemisphere: a small trading nation, an offshore home for Russian, Chinese, Malaysian and Nigerian money, a place comfortable with oligarchs of all kinds — even with Americans, as long as they have cash — and very distant from old Thatcherite ideals about democracy and rule of law.