analysis | Boris Johnson is undermining Britain’s single superpower.


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Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants “Global Britain” to become a superpower once again. His Conservative government doesn’t seem quite sure how to manage this, but in a landmark policy document last year he argued that the goal had already been achieved in at least one area. Britain was a “soft power superpower”. “

According to the government, this power is “rooted in our identity as a nation: in our values ​​and way of life, in the vitality and diversity of unity.” So it’s odd that Johnson and his ministers are working hard to undermine Britain’s soft power in almost every way at the same time.

The policy document stated that “The BBC is the world’s most trusted broadcaster, reaching 478 million users in 42 languages ​​each week.” The Conservative Party’s cultural secretary wants funding. The paper also boasted that Britain is a “global leader in diplomacy and development”. But Johnson and his prime minister gave up long-standing bipartisan commitments to keep aid spending at 0.7% of gross national income, through good times and bad times.

Now it appears that the government is trying to redefine “British values” to exclude human rights that have been understood for over two decades.

Earlier this month, Queens’s Speech, which the government uses to explain its proposed legislative agenda, announced that a “Bill of Rights” would be introduced to replace the 1998 Human Rights Act and restore the balance of power between the legislature and the legislature. court.”

HRA protects certain fundamental rights, including the right to life, freedom of speech, privacy and property, and prohibits discrimination, torture and forced labor. Congress doesn’t seem to think its powers are limited. A joint committee of both houses of the UK concluded last year that the legislation was “designed to uphold parliamentary sovereignty” and “will not change the human rights law”. It is the basis for the influence of the British separation of powers.” The Bar Association agrees that “HRA’s central machine … worked well and stood the test of time.”

The real problem with the Conservatives is that human rights laws are incurable Europe. This essentially allows the British courts to enforce the rights guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights, devised by the Council of Europe in 1949. Ironically, Britain was the first country to ratify the convention urged by Winston Churchill, president of the First European Congress in 1951. .”

Obviously, the Council of Europe is not in any way identical to the European Union. But Tory Europhobia is unfathomably deep and unimaginably wide. To apply this in Europe, the British government has already been willing to restrict the rights of its citizens, for example free movement.

The Johnson administration is clearly hoping to open up another round of voting-winning fronts against “Europe” and “the indomitable” at the expense of the soft power it claims to be rewarding. We know this because Attorney General Dominic Raab told the Daily Mail (obviously) that the purpose of the new law is to prevent being “reduced” by “anxiety and political correctness.”

This is just weird. In practice, human rights law is usually used to give an example by pensioners who demand appropriate treatment from local authorities. It’s unclear how preventing vulnerable Britons from using rights-based legislation to hold the state accountable would defeat political correctness.

Depending on how it is written, what it can do is reduce the state’s legal requirement to respect civil rights. In the past, it was through a rights-based challenge that patients were subjected to forced reform in British hospitals accused of poor treatment, and families of soldiers killed in Iraq held government accountable. Without legislation, legislative and administrative violations of fundamental rights would almost certainly increase in the UK.

If none of that moves Johnson, the price of British fame must put him to rest. Is the marginal benefit of declaring that he got rid of another European levy worthy of being regarded as another government that defies the values ​​of the Council of Europe? (Russia was deported earlier this year.)

As the government self-review asserts, Britain’s soft power is based on “shared values ​​fundamental to national identity, democracy and way of life”, primarily “commitment to universal human rights”. When British diplomats address an increasingly less liberal foreign country, they want to point out their country’s reputation for defending those rights.

Deciding to give up decades of dedication to these values ​​for the sake of a fad, Britain will be less respected and weaker on the world stage. It’s not the new superpower Johnson promised.

More from other authors at Bloomberg Opinion:

• Ukraine should beware of British people bringing gifts: Pankaj Mishra

• London does not need regulatory reform: Paul J. Davies

• Brexit isn’t Northern Ireland’s biggest problem: Therese Raphael

This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP or its owners.

Mihir Sharma is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. A senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, he is the author of “Restart: The Last Chance for the Indian Economy”.

More stories like this can be found here. bloomberg.com/opinion

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