The UK thinks it’s influential enough to impose sanctions without EU backing. The rest of the world knows different

Despite Dominic Raab’s announcement, few countries will be intimidated by threats we make to freeze their assets

Lauren Crosby Medlicott
Monday 06 July 2020 12:18 BST
Brexit: Boris Johnson says 'Australian-style arrangement' is a 'very good option'

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


This morning, Dominic Raab announced the government’s intention to independently without EU backing impose sanctions on individuals and states accused of human rights abuses.

While this statement appears to be laced with humanitarian motive, it is a decision that will not produce proposed results and is ill-timed following Brexit and Covid-19. Boris Johnson should be focusing his attention on rebuilding our country and leave the bullying to Donald Trump.

Historically, the UK has partnered with the EU to impose sanctions on countries. This will be its first independent attempt to freeze the assets of individuals and organisations as well as banning their entrance into our borders. It reeks of colonial attitude that one of the first actions of the independent UK is to insert itself into the affairs of other countries, instead of attending to its own. Following Brexit and coronavirus, the UK is in a weak position. We are not in a place to bargain with other countries as all of our chips are gone.

Morale is at an all-time low as we begin to recover from the impact of the pandemic. Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives since March. Even more have been left behind with lost loved ones. We feel broken and traumatised, not ready to take on individuals that “may” pose a threat to their own countries.

As shops, pubs, and businesses reopen this week, we are eagerly awaiting news about our economy and whether we'll see a light at the end of this dark, four-month tunnel. Our economy has plummeted in 2020, contracting by 2.2 per cent, the sharpest decline in 41 years. There aren’t going to be many nations intimidated by any threats we make to freeze their assets. We aren’t necessarily the epitome of financial success at the moment.

The UK is a joke to many countries watching our meagre attempts to strike a deal with the EU. It is almost comical to witness Johnson trying to barter with European officials after throwing away the UK's relationship with them. Now that he is swinging his finger around, threatening sanctions, you can’t help thinking we look like an ant trying to intimidate a bear.

Peter Mandelson says the UK government will not go for a no-deal Brexit

This is the wrong time to impose sanctions. The UK needs to focus its attention on strengthening, regrouping, and healing. The mental health of our citizens needs to be addressed. Our economy needs to slowly be rebuilt as consumers begin to shop, eat, and drink on the high streets. And we need to sort out this Brexit business and move on. Our country feels war-torn by the pandemic and leaving the EU, now is not the time to assert dominance abroad.

Unfortunately, our prime minister does not seem to think this way. Instead, he is mimicking his buddy Trump, gallivanting around the globe with political intentions under a guise of philanthropic purposes. The US has a history of imposing sanctions on countries where their presence and economic privilege is not welcome. These sanctions rarely produce the humanitarian outcomes touted, instead leaving citizens in targeted countries suffering with higher prices of living, poor healthcare, and risk of further harm from the leaders or organisations that have themselves been sanctioned.

Johnson needs to shrug off his colonial perception of Britain as a global leader and face the realities of economic decline, declining national mental health and a country rapidly turning against its political institutions.

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