Political jet-setting usually has a strategic purpose such as peace missions or trade talks. From Khrushchev to Kissinger in past years through to the now regular summits that take place at Davos or the G7, most are workmanlike though a few can be exceptional.
But, Theresa May’s latest jaunt to Berlin and Paris was none of that. Instead, it was simply humiliating for her and embarrassing for the country.
Her arrival in Berlin not only lacked any cannonade in celebration but also the German Chancellor to greet her. I’ve no doubt that wasn’t deliberate but it was certainly indicative of the whole Brexit debacle.
For the blustering’s now well and truly over and the revolting rhetoric of arch-Brexiteers is at last coming to an end. The delusion of Empire power that was to be reignited has turned into the reality of a nation diminished and weakened, all perpetrated by the follies of a few. It can only be hoped that the offensiveness of some towards European allies has been insufficient to erode their natural warmth and empathy towards the UK.
At its height, the language used by those stridently pursuing the Empire mirage reminded me of captions in comics I read as a boy.
That was a time when a game of the “British” and the “Gerries” was played with imaginary guns, alongside fitba with jerseys for posts during what seemed like interminable summers. Phrases from the Victor or Hotspur or whatever other comic were repeated and supposed commands were issued in German such as “hande hoch” by wee Scottish laddies.
Yet, I never imagined then that any credible, let alone elected politician could spout such rubbish as been uttered by ardent Brexiteers.
The jingoism of Johnson, the fatuousness of Fox, the denseness of Davis, let alone the martial comments of Francois, all contained phrases almost reminiscent of those comics.
The British fighting spirit, the dastardliness of Europeans, the glories of what was to come, were all repeated glibly and, sadly, ad infinitum. It was embarrassing to see not just backbench Brexiteers but leading Government ministers parrot trite soundbites and waffle incessantly, whilst EU counterparts were dignified and intellectual, almost always whilst speaking in a second or third language.
The bluster of demanding the EU do this or expecting that they’d simply capitulate once they realised that it was a new resurgent Britain that they were dealing with was as laughable as it’s proven to be pathetic. The war comic phrase that sprung to mind watching May arrive in Berlin was “for you Britisher, the war is over”.
For the reality is that May has abandoned her red lines, shorn herself of any credibility and gone seeking any deal that the EU 27 can offer. A fig leaf of a Brexit to cover her total abandonment of it.
Ironically, far from setting the terms of global deals with a resurgent Asia, the UK has been left hovering outside hoping for an extension to its membership, all the while as the EU negotiates with China.
Of course, for some, the blustering still continues. Francois will fight them on the beaches and Rees-Mogg threatens to carry out insurgency but it has as much credibility as their original promises of a new golden age for Britannia.
Indeed, many of their partners in crime have already long since deserted them, whether to Singapore or Monaco, whilst others have simply relocated their ill-gotten gains to Dublin or wherever.
Instead of restored sovereignty, Britain is now ever more dependent on the EU. But perhaps some good can come from it once the country works its way through the morass. Most empires collapse through war or revolution. Britain’s has simply faded away and, as a result, many have been unable to come to terms with the reduced status.
This is the wake-up call as jobs are lost, the economy diminished and our social cohesion threatened. There is a way back but it requires some humility and acceptance of Britain’s place in the new world order. The post-war British Empire is over. A major role in the EU is still available, but it’s on their terms not our command. Let’s hope the country seizes it.