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BBC stars in a vain vitriolic campaign
Britain’s world power status suffered a symbolic loss this month, as it tussled with India over the election of a judge on the International Court of Justice. The campaign stirred up some post-colonial vitriol.

The shape of Britain’s retreat from the European Union remains fraught, even as Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ended the stalemate in negotiations with the completion of phase one. Getting to this point was a struggle, though – and it is just the easy part. Producing broad policy papers will be far easier compared to hammering out specific details

The matter is compounded by the number of factions involved in the process. The Conservative party faces immense internal friction caused by senior members, including Michael Gove and Boris Johnson who campaigned in favour of leaving the European Union. They fear that Theresa May will push for a softer Brexit, given her original support for remaining in the EU. The question of the border between the province of Northern Ireland, which voted to stay in the EU and the rest of the country remains murky. A return to the hard border would mean a return to the sort of checkpoint system and evoke memories of the troubles, the years of bloody strife which pitted Catholics (who wanted to merge with Ireland) against Protestants (supported by British forces). 

 

Diminished role of Britain in global issues…

Britain’s world power status suffered a symbolic loss this month, as it tussled with India over the position of a judge on the International Court of Justice. The power of the UN is certainly debatable.  Nevertheless, the seat represented a remaining vestige of the imperial power which Britain held in the post-war era. 

The campaign over the election stirred up a surprising amount of post-colonial vitriol (perhaps most shockingly in an article by the normally moderate BBC, which painted India as rather grubby in contrast to a dignified Britain). At the end of the day, however, these commentators have pinpointed the fundamental problem which has been exposed – what role does Britain play in the world today? A country with a relatively small military presence, a primarily service-based economy, with quite tenuous ties with its erstwhile colonies – all of these factors point to the importance of being inside a larger trading bloc. The image increasingly pushed by those in favour of Brexit is that of a global Britain, which can make deals with impunity and return to its glorious, pioneering past – but the Britain of the 17th or 18th centuries had the newest technology and manufacturing prowess powering its advances. In even a symbolic defeat by a former colony, Britain’s fading imperial majesty has once again been highlighted. If the country is to progress, it will not be by attempting to emulate a past success built on a path which is impossible to pursue today.

 

London Mayor visits India

These issues were also brought up by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s visit to Pakistan and India. The son of a bus driver, Khan’s visit marks the importance of immigration from the subcontinent to the United Kingdom. His calls for an apology from the British government for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919 will undoubtedly irk imperial nostalgists but offers a blueprint for the UK leadership, which has traditionally been unwilling to accept responsibility for actions committed under previous administrations. 

 

Mallya factor in ties with India

A potential stumbling block for India-British relations remains the case of Vijay Mallya, the disgraced former head of Kingfisher Airlines. The Indian government launched their court case this month to have Mallya extradited, arguing that his actions involved financial impropriety, including borrowing government loans without any intention to repay them. His lawyers, by contrast, argue that Mallya with his health conditions, including diabetes, would not be well looked after in an Indian prison. They have used the case of the so-called Chennai 6 – a group of British ex-soldiers, held in Chennai, on charges of illegally carrying weapons into Indian waters – and their apparent mistreatment. 

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