Kenny MacAskill: Mad Brexiteers would send us on a wild goose chase against enemy that no longer exists

The spectre of the Falklands was raised and references to an Armada made in recent comments. What next, a rerun of the Battle of Agincourt and a return of the Plantagenet's? The madness of some Brexiteers appears limitless. Moreover, it was hardly a forceful put-down to them by the Prime Minister either, which doesn't portend well with fraught discussions with the EU commencing.

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Invincible leaving Portsmouth to a patriotic send-off. She is to lead the task force to the Falkland Islands.

When wise counsel is required and delicate diplomacy needed, they’re insulting to many and inflammatory in their tone. Caution is needed as these coming negotiations affect the lives and livelihoods of millions, yet they seem oblivious to the risks. Moreover, with good weather increasing the number of desperate migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean, the Royal Navy and Spanish fleet should be uniting to save lives and scuttle traffickers’ boats. Instead they’re being encouraged to face off at Gibraltar.

Equally, at the same time as insulting our major trading partners on the European continent, they seek to set sail to a new promised land. Yet the destinations being visited by Theresa May and Liam Fox in recent days are Saudi Arabia and the Philippines. Trade is doubtless necessary with these regimes but they’re hardly the sort of societies to cosy up to.

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The House of Saud has an appalling record on human rights in almost every category and currently has its hands covered in blood from the atrocities perpetrated in the Yemen. The Philippines has a President who boasts of killing people and has unleashed death squads within his own land. Whatever the ills of Europe, I prefer the civilisation established over centuries on that continent, to the new world that ilk seek.

Puffed up like peacocks, though, there seems no end to some of their absurdity. Yet it’s all highly delusional and based on ignorance and arrogance. There’s no promised land awaiting in the South China Seas for HMS Brexit to sail to. Instead, hardship awaits and the risks caused by its wake abound, here and on the continent.

It’s ignorant as it takes no account of the difficulties and complexities in international trade. Not simply minor nuances argued over but the pace interminably slow. All at a time of globalisation when the competition is as much from new kids on the block, be they Indonesia or Ethiopia, as the old power house whether European, American or Asian. The idea that the world outside the EU is just waiting to trade with the UK is fallacious.

What’s much more realistic are the words of President Trump’s new Secretary for Commerce who was quoted as saying it was a “God-given opportunity to take trade from the UK.” That was no more repudiated by Trump than was “America First”. Not only is there no promised land awaiting but our, so-called, major ally is eyeing up opportunities itself, rather than supporting our voyage.

Whatever, the Mad Brexiteers may think there’s no Empire 2 awaiting, any more than there’s a crock of gold at the end of a rainbow. That world was long gone before even my great grandfather was born. This isn’t the heyday of the British Empire when Clive of India could set sail and discover new and wondrous opportunities in the sub-continent. Nor is it the days of Jardine Matheson when two Scotsman on the make could roll into Shanghai and peddle drugs, as well as make their fortunes. Those ventures were conducted at the point of a gun and through gunboat diplomacy. Those days are long past, even with a spat over Gibraltar.

They also ignore more modern realities that are experienced on a daily basis by those who already operate in that world. Friends and colleagues who have worked in or trade with the likes of India and China say it’s a nightmare. Complexities and rules abound often to make it deliberately difficult for foreign trade or investors. That was with the power of the EU, as the world’s major trading block, behind them. That won’t change with Brexit but the power to address it will be greatly lessened. Any trade deals eventually offered will be on a take it or leave it basis; and almost certainly poorer than what was on offer before.

But, it’s also arrogance. The idea that their economies are just waiting on our return is absurd. Some seem to think that the Union Jack being lowered in Delhi or Hong Kong was a time of great sadness in those lands and the return for the British has been longed for ever since. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

I know from meeting counterpart ministers that there were some great contributions made in those lands during those days, which is acknowledged. However, there’s no regret for their passing and indeed some more bitter memories live long. The Chinese Justice Secretary knew all about the sins of Jardine Matheson, which I had lamented. occurred before prisoner transfer or proceeds of crime legislation was invoked.

Likewise, the idea that the old Commonwealth has been lying dormant and is desperate for a reinvigoration of a new order. The days of young men from Canada, Australia or New Zealand volunteering to die for the mother country on the beaches of Gallipoli or the shores of Dieppe are long gone. So too, the idea that the UK can be their major trading partner. Their societies and their economies have changed markedly. There’s almost an assumption that Britain’s innate superiority will triumph and all others should be grateful for, if not eagerly awaiting, our return centre stage. It’s been latent as I recall hearing comments from some regarding countries whether Pakistan or Iran that were indiscrete to say the least, but indicative of a general attitude of superiority. That’s not just foolish but frightening.

It’s a hard and dangerous world out there. The EU kept peace and brought prosperity to a war-torn Europe. The ship may have sailed but a safe port near Europe is still needed. That’s threatened by these Mad Brexiteers.