Brits do not share the government’s desire for endless conflict with the European Union, according to a new report on post-Brexit foreign policy.
“The Johnson government seems to need the perennial fights of a permanent Brexit,” the European Council on Foreign Relations said, adding that its approach was “eroding the UK’s capacity to cooperate with the EU”.
But the British public “do not have any particular animus towards the EU,” it said – suggesting that they “value British sovereignty and independence” but “would support a foreign policy that worked cooperatively with the bloc”.
EU key partner
Polling found that people remain evenly split on who is most to blame for the current state of relations between the UK and Brussels, with 39 per cent blaming Britain and 38 per cent considering the EU responsible.
That divide was split down party lines, with 70 per cent of Conservative voters blaming the EU and 66 per cent of Labour voters the UK.
Regardless of how they believe to be responsible, 39 per cent of the public considered the EU a key partner in the future – compared to 22 per cent for the US.
The report was scathing on the UK’s “Global Britain” ambitions, aimed at restoring “British greatness as a maritime trading nation”. It said evidence showed it to be little more than “a delusion rooted in a misremembered imperial past”.
Polling showed the public is “at best indifferent to the restoration of Britain as a global military power”.
Meanwhile the government this week delayed new controls on goods moving from the island of Ireland to Great Britain while negotiations with Brussels on the Northern Ireland Protocol continue.
The checks on incoming goods from the European Union – covering mainly food and agricultural products – are due to come into force on January 1, bringing post-Brexit customs arrangements with the bloc in line with those with the rest of world.
However, Brexit Minister Lord Frost said the existing arrangements would continue on a temporary basis for goods crossing the Irish Sea for as long as the discussions on the protocol are ongoing.
“The government believes that this pragmatic act of good will can help to maintain space for continued negotiations on the protocol,” Lord Frost said in a written ministerial statement.
“It also ensures that traders in both Ireland and Northern Ireland are not faced with further uncertainty while the protocol arrangements themselves are still under discussion.”
The government is seeking major changes to the protocol – which covers the movement of goods from Great Britain to North Ireland – arguing the checks required are damaging business and fuelling community tensions.