Is the UK turn­ing into a rogue state?

DT Next - - EDIT - JAMES JACK­SON — This ar­ti­cle has been pro­vided by Deutsche Wel

The UK is more iso­lated than ever. Boris John­son’s Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment is break­ing in­ter­na­tional treaties, ig­nor­ing po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tions and at­tack­ing hu­man rights. “This is go­ing to be a fan­tas­tic year for Bri­tain” was Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son’s pre­dic­tion for 2020. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Af­ter a gru­elling win­ter elec­tion, months of par­lia­men­tary chaos and years of Brexit dom­i­nat­ing Bri­tish pol­i­tics, many wished him well and sup­ported the prime min­is­ter’s op­ti­mism about Bri­tain’s fu­ture.

With one of the pan­demic’s high­est ex­cess deaths rates and over a mil­lion jobs lost, few are feel­ing quite so up­beat now. Worse yet, this Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment does not feel bound by any rules. John­son’s af­fa­ble, bum­bling per­sona is some­thing many Brits like. But while a gung-ho at­ti­tude and plenty of blus­ter can be use­ful on the cam­paign trail, Brits are rapidly dis­cov­er­ing it is no way to run a coun­try. As well as a cav­a­lier ap­proach to in­ter­na­tional law, many of the key fig­ures in gov­ern­ment don’t even fol­low their own rules.

John­son’s ad­viser Do­minic Cum­mings is seen as the brains be­hind the gov­ern­ment and the wider Brexit project. But when he con­tracted COVID-19, in­stead of fol­low­ing gov­ern­ment guide­lines and self-iso­lat­ing at home, he drove with his fam­ily to a sec­ond home 300 miles (480 kilo­me­tres) away.

His ex­cuse of driv­ing to a lo­cal beauty spot “to test his eye­sight” stretched cred­i­bil­ity be­yond its lim­its. De­spite in­ter­na­tional out­cry, John­son re­fused to fire him. In­valu­able pub­lic trust in so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures was lost when cit­i­zens saw that it was one rule for their rulers and an­other for them.

Sow­ing dis­cord and chaos John­son’s par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity came on the back of dis­prov­ing the naysay­ers and get­ting a Brexit deal with­out the back­stop for North­ern Ire­land. His cam­paign’s slo­gan was “get Brexit done,” which at­tracted Leave vot­ers from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, as well as those fed up of par­lia­men­tary chaos.

But nine months later, it seems like far from be­ing “oven-ready,” his Brexit deal is more of a dog’s din­ner. The new In­ter­nal Mar­ket Bill will break the law “in a spe­cific and lim­ited way,” ac­cord­ing to a min­is­ter. Try us­ing that ex­cuse next time you get caught drunk-driv­ing. This shouldn’t be the be­hav­ior of a coun­try that prides it­self as one of the founders of the post-war in­ter­na­tional or­der.

We saw hints of this Trumpian ap­proach to laws and con­ven­tions with John­son’s threats of no-deal Brexit and when he sus­pended Par­lia­ment to pre­vent scru­tiny of the Brexit With­drawal Agree­ment. It was only ac­tu­ally voted on in Par­lia­ment due to a rul­ing by the Supreme Court, which was at­tacked by the right-wing press and la­belled as “en­e­mies of the peo­ple.”

Re­li­ably un­pre­dictable

The gov­ern­ment isn’t just ram­ming through il­le­gal changes to Brexit bills that they cam­paigned on less than a year ago. More in­sid­i­ous is the “Overseas Oper­a­tions Bill,” which ef­fec­tively de­crim­i­nal­izes tor­ture by Bri­tish sol­diers if they aren’t pros­e­cuted within five years.

Con­tempt for hu­man rights and in­ter­na­tional law is not new for the Con­ser­va­tives. John­son’s pre­de­ces­sor Theresa May dis­played an ob­ses­sion with leav­ing the ju­ris­dic­tion of the Euro­pean Court of Hu­man Rights and at­tack­ing lawyers, but she didn’t have the po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal to pull it off.

Some will point out that Bri­tish law­break­ing is noth­ing new. From colo­nial­ism to the Iraq war and the war on ter­ror, the re­la­tion­ship of the UK to in­ter­na­tional law has al­ways been murkier than as­sumed. But in the past, the coun­try was bound by con­ven­tions, treaties, and al­liances that it is now all too happy to jet­ti­son.

Even senior US politi­cians have ex­pressed con­cern about the Brexit bill’s ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the Good Fri­day agree­ment that ended the trou­bles in North­ern Ire­land. This new iso­la­tion and law­less­ness, com­bined with its po­lit­i­cal strength, makes the gov­ern­ment more un­pre­dictable than ever.

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