Who are our friends and foes in this brave new world?
Friends? Well it certainly isn’t the French in this brave new, post-Brexit world. At government level certainly, that famed entente cordiale between them and us has given way to mistrust, insults and fall-outs, major and minor. The French complain that in their considered opinion the UK government’s “unjustified” move to raise France to Covid-19 amber plus level for travel destinations, meaning that Brits have to quarantine for ten days on their return, will potentially bring down its entire tourism industry.
And England isn’t exactly bosom buddies with the rest of its former EU friends. Most of the Spanish press urged readers to support neighbours, and normally arch sporting enemies, Italy, in the final of Euro 2020 – and they did. And after the Italian victory it wasn’t only in Rome where they were dancing in the streets. So, moving swiftly and bravely on, who exactly are our friends? Well, we’ve done a trade deal with Liechtenstein; they reckon we’re all right, although the nation boasts a population of around about the same number as Herne Bay. And we’re getting on famously again with Australia.
The Aussies are going to send us meat and all sorts from over 9,000 miles away. In fact they’ve already started the process by deporting former Apprentice star and general loudmouth, Katie Hopkins, after she blatantly and boastfully ignored quarantine rules as soon as she arrived there. But is that actually the act of a true friend? Do we really want Katie back? And what about the mighty USA? Are the Yanks still our best buddies, and do we still have that reassuring “special relationship”?
According to our survey, a combined majority of 69% either “strongly” or “tend to” agree that the USA remains the UK’s most important foreign ally. But when it comes to the relationship still being “special” as President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed when meeting earlier in the year, the survey results are not quite so encouraging. A small majority, 55%, say the relationship is either “very close” or “fairly close” although a considerable combined number, 40%, reckon it’s either “not very” or “not at all” close. So if special friends are a little hard to find, what about enemies?
Well there’s always the Russians of course, and according to our survey, 29% reckon they remain public enemy No 1 and the greatest threat to UK peace and security. And following a defence, security and foreign policy review, entitled Global Britain in a Competitive Age, which warned that China is the “biggest state-based threat” to the UK’s economic security, the Asian super-power comes in at 19%. A further 17% say that international terrorist groups are the greatest danger, while a perhaps surprisingly high 26% believe the greatest threat comes from an unnamed “other” source. It seems that close friends are currently thin on the ground, but maybe most of the rest of the world considers that with friends like us, who needs enemies?