When did Britain really rule the waves?

Opinion: is Britain turning into a rogue state?

"This will be a fantastic year for the UK," Prime Minister Boris Johnson predicted 2020. He couldn't have been more wrong.

After grueling winter election campaigns, months of parliamentary chaos and years of Brexit dominating British politics, many kept their fingers crossed for him and shared the Prime Minister's optimism about the future of Britain. But with one of the world's highest death rates in the corona pandemic and over a million jobs lost, few are still so optimistic. Worse still, this conservative government does not feel bound by any rules.

Big noise is not a core competence

Many Britons like Boris Johnson's friendly, clumsy demeanor. But an unshakable attitude and loud noise may be useful in the election campaign. But now the British had to quickly discover that governing a country is certainly not a core skill. And aside from being ruthless about international law, many of the key figures in government don't even stick to their own rules.

DW editor James Jackson

Johnson's advisor Dominic Cummings is considered to be the brain behind the government and the Brexit project in the broadest sense. But when he became infected with the corona virus, he did not go into quarantine at home as quickly as possible, as the government guidelines provide. Instead, he drove with his family to his second home, 480 kilometers away. At the latest, his excuse that he had visited a sight in the vicinity "to test his eyesight" completely destroyed his credibility. Despite widespread outrage at home and abroad, Johnson refused to fire him. In this way you lose priceless trust in the meaning of the measures for social distance - namely when the citizens notice that there are rules for politicians and other rules for the people.

Sow discord and chaos

Johnson's parliamentary majority only came about because he refuted the naysayers by promising a no-border Brexit treaty between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The slogan of his campaign was "Bring Brexit to a Close", which attracted swing voters from across the political spectrum as well as those who were simply fed up with parliamentary chaos.

But nine months later, the Brexit deal is by no means in the towel. Rather, the birth turns out to be more and more complicated. The new single market law will break the treaty with the EU "in a specific and limited way," according to one minister. Try this excuse the next time you're caught drinking and driving. This behavior is a disgrace to the country which prides itself on being one of the founders of the international post-war order.

We witnessed a downright Trumpian approach to laws and conventions: for example, when Johnson threatened to no longer accept the Brexit treaty or when he suspended parliament to prevent MPs from examining the exit agreement. In fact, it was only voted on in parliament on the basis of a ruling by the Supreme Court, which the right-wing press then slandered as an "enemy of the people".

Reliably unpredictable

The government is not only making illegal changes to the draft laws to enforce Brexit, which it advocated less than a year ago. Even more insidious is the "Overseas Operations Bill", which decriminalises torture by British soldiers if they are not prosecuted within five years. But the conservatives' disregard for human rights and international law is nothing new: Johnson's predecessor Theresa May was already obsessed with no longer submitting to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and attacking its lawyers. It just lacked the political power to enforce this.

Some will point out that UK breaches of law are nothing new. From colonialism to the Iraq war to the war on terror, Britain's relationship to international law has always been more opaque than most people assumed. But at least the country has been bound by conventions, treaties and alliances that it is now only too happy to throw overboard. Even senior US politicians have raised concerns about the impact of the Brexit law on the Good Friday Agreement, which ended violence in Northern Ireland. This new isolation and lawlessness, combined with its political strength, makes the British government more unpredictable than ever.