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MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series: “Trump and Brexit – What Impact on Britain’s Relations with the Middle East?” by Chris Doyle

Chris Doyle, Director of CAABU (Council for Arab British Understanding), shared his views on the effect that Trump and Brexit have had on Britain’s relations with the Middle East at the 5th lecture of the 2017/18 MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series. He did so both from the point of view of internal and foreign policy.

Chris’ focus on Britain’s relations with the Middle East inevitably drew attention to its relationship with the USA, Europe and Russia. He stated that the political scenario has changed much since the Arab Spring and today no political outcome can be easily predicted. For instance, Donald Trump has rarely shown that he has a clear political agenda and, when he has, it has mainly been about restrictive measures concerning national security and immigration. Chris referred to the UK government as having let itself get carried away with American foreign policy and that this has resulted in decisions that seem very much in line with Trump’s (e.g. a tendency to oppose Iran and to keep its distance from Russia).

While stating that the UK’s position within both the Middle East and the EU has never been so weak, Chris emphasised that the UK seems to be “paralysed” and is trying to flee from all responsibility in the MENA region, even though it has not retracted its stance on issues such as the “Two States” solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even after President Trump had done so. Furthermore the UK has acquiesced with Trump’s policy of shelling Syria and has not done enough to prevent Saudi Arabia from bombarding Yemen.

Chris also emphasised Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict as opposed to that of Britain; in fact, the former has been playing a prominent role in supporting the Syrian regime since its intervention on the ground in 2015, while Britain has been little more than an onlooker, showing utter powerlessness as far as the situation in Syria is concerned.

Another blemish on the British government’s reputation was its addressing the Balfour Declaration, whose 100th anniversary was marked in 2017 as a great achievement, without mentioning what it has meant for Palestinians. Chris stated that Britain has practically refused all solutions the Palestinians intended to adopt (e.g. the election of a Hamas government in the Gaza Strip), probably expecting them to surrender to anything that foreign forces might decide.
Since the EU referendum, the UK has been trying to reach free trade deals with non-European countries and not all of these are democracies. It seems that the UK might, therefore, be becoming less concerned with issues linked to democracy itself, such as human rights. Chris Doyle also stated that once Britain has formally left the EU, the UK might take a moment to understand and reflect upon its self-inflicted isolation.

The presentation concluded with the audience raising some very interesting questions during the Q&A session and Chris Doyle congratulating the MBI Al Jaber Foundation for raising awareness of issues related to the conflict in Yemen.

The sixth presentation of the MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series on Thursday 19th April 2018 is “Telling Stories in Basrah: a New Museum for Iraq”, by Dr Paul Collins, Jaleh Hearn Curator of Ancient Near East, Department of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. For more details, please go to our Forthcoming Events page at: http://www.mbifoundation.com/events.asp.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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