STEPHEN GLOVER: From empty shelves to Joe Biden cutting us loose
26th August 2021

STEPHEN GLOVER: From empty shelves to Joe Biden cutting us loose, Remainers love to blame Brexit. In fact, they’re both an opportunity for Britain

Remainers. Do you remember them? They were the people who, in some cases, attempted to frustrate Britain’s withdrawal from the EU in spite of a democratic vote.

Well, the Remainers haven’t all gone away. Some of them are having a field day. There’s an awful lot of gloating going on in Parliament and the Press. Most of it is thoroughly misplaced and utterly wrong-headed.

Gloat One arises from the empty shelves in some supermarkets, which ardent anti-Brexiteers attribute to a shortage of foreign lorry drivers they claim has been caused by our leaving the EU.

Gloat Two concerns what Remainers see as the humbling of Global Britain as we are ignored by President Joe Biden over Afghanistan. They assert that, separated as we are from our former EU partners, and ditched by the United States, we are in effect all alone in the big, bad world.

The Remainers haven’t all gone away. Some of them are having a field day. Gloat One arises from the empty shelves in some supermarkets, which ardent anti-Brexiteers attribute to a shortage of foreign lorry drivers they claim has been caused by our leaving the EU.

Indispensable

Let me return later to the empty shelves, and concentrate first on our alleged isolation and humiliation.

It is true that we have been shafted by Mr Biden. He pulled the plug on a war in which the lives of 457 British servicemen and women were lost, and many billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money spent, without consulting us. As I wrote last week, the U.S. has turned out to be an overbearing and unreliable ally.

But where Remainers get it wrong is in supposing that our predicament is unique. It isn’t. France, Germany, Italy and Canada have also lost lives and spent billions in Afghanistan, albeit on a smaller scale than Britain. And Sleepy Joe has dumped them in exactly the same way.

They’re certainly not happy about it. Last week President Emmanuel Macron of France had a fraught telephone conversation with Mr Biden in which he emphasised that the West had a ‘moral responsibility’ to evacuate Afghan allies and not to ‘abandon them’.

In its subsequent account of the phone call, the White House excised Mr Macron’s more colourful language. And in a Zoom meeting of G7 leaders on Tuesday, President Biden rejected calls from Britain, France and Germany to extend the deadline so that more Afghan lives could be saved.

Gloat Two concerns what Remainers see as the humbling of Global Britain as we are ignored by President Joe Biden (pictured) over Afghanistan. They assert that, separated as we are from our former EU partners, and ditched by the United States, we are in effect all alone

In Germany there has been much criticism of Mr Biden. Markus Soder, the governor of Bavaria and an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, has said the U.S. should provide funding and shelter to people fleeing Afghanistan because it bears the ‘main responsibility’ for what has happened.

The fact is that most of America’s allies are angered by blundering Biden and they must be asking themselves, just as we are asking ourselves, whether it is sensible ever to rely on Washington quite so much again.

Instead of exulting in Britain’s supposed isolation, patriotic Remainers should be wondering whether Boris Johnson isn’t in a perfect position to rescue something out of the shameful debacle of Afghanistan — and in so doing repair some of the bitter wounds left by Brexit.

For if the U.S. is an inconstant friend intent on partially withdrawing from the world, it follows that second-tier powers such as Britain, France and Germany — which have relied so much on Uncle Sam since World War II — should be looking more to one another in the future.

As Europe’s leading military power, a short nose ahead of France, Britain would be indispensable in any rebalancing of old alliances. To be blunt, France and Germany and the others cannot do without us in a world in which America is less proactive.

Here I can hear a one-word objection: Macron. This clamorous Napoleonic retread and inveterate critic of Brexit loses no opportunity to throw ball bearings under Boris Johnson’s hooves. Many will say that it is ludicrous to imagine forming any alliance with this infuriating popinjay.

My answer is that Macron is not France, and he won’t be around for ever. It is even possible that he will be sent packing by French voters in next April’s presidential elections. Let’s hope so.

Few are seriously interested in Macron’s notion of a European Army. Angela Merkel has paid lip service to it, but nothing is ever done, not least because the Germans have no desire to pay for it.

It is true that we have been shafted by Mr Biden. But where Remainers get it wrong is in supposing that our predicament is unique. It isn’t. France, Germany, Italy and Canada have also lost lives and spent billions in Afghanistan (pictured, Kabul airport on August 16)

By contrast — and notwithstanding Mr Macron’s ceaseless anti-British tirades — Anglo-French military cooperation is a successful reality. The Franco-British rapid reaction force is able to deploy 10,000 men and women on land, sea and air. It is more formidable than the so-called Franco-German brigade.

I don’t suggest for a moment that a more introverted America will cease to be Britain’s most important ally. Her military resources are vastly greater than those of any other western country. Despite everything, there remain strong ties of friendship and history between our two nations.

Lesson

But a gradual shift is taking place. It was President Trump who envisaged the U.S. unilaterally withdrawing from Afghanistan, and President Biden who cheerfully executed it. That’s two high-handed and isolationist Presidents from opposing parties in succession. Only a fool would ignore the lesson.

At that G7 meeting on Tuesday we saw Britain, France and Germany acting together, though unable to get Mr Biden to see sense. That coming together of fundamentally like-minded countries with many common interests should be seen as a portent of things to come.

Far from being the setback to Global Britain that some Remainers suggest, this is an opportunity for Boris Johnson to put the divisions of Brexit behind us by reaching out to allies in equal need.

By the way, I don’t suppose any western alliance is going to find it easy to do business with the narrow-minded and bigoted Taliban. Afghanistan is a disaster zone, but it offers the possibility of enhanced cooperation with old friends in other fields. Better things may lie ahead.

Celebration

The same can be said about those empty shelves which have occasioned so much cheer among obdurate Remainers. Although there may be shortages caused by a lack of lorry drivers — no milkshakes at McDonald’s or chicken at Nando’s — these are likely to be temporary.

Covid is one factor behind the dearth of drivers. Brexit is another inasmuch as several thousand of them have returned to the EU and have so far not come back.

But isn’t this a cause for celebration? The low wages of lorry drivers were kept down by the plenitude of East Europeans prepared to work for poor pay. The same effect was felt across the British industry. It was one reason why many people voted Leave.

Having fewer East European drivers will entail shortages in the short term. That in turn will lead to employers (who have benefited greatly from cheap labour) raising pay rates. And that will in due course attract more home-grown people to lorry driving.

Instead of gloating over the empty shelves, and seeing them as one more horrible manifestation of Brexit, Remainers should be delighted that the wages of lorry drivers, for so long depressed by cheap labour, are at last increasing.

Equally, Remainers should be glad at the thought that Britain and its former EU partners find themselves in the same boat set adrift by Sleepy Joe, and are capable of finding common cause if only they have the imagination.

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