By Ai Jun Source: Global Times
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
A “Brexit” may finally come, but not the way the UK had hoped for. Now, it is being cut from the EU with a new identity – “sick man of Europe.”
The term has become a collective self-mockery of British media outlets these days. Reuters published an article on Monday entitled, “‘sick man of Europe’: UK cut off over fears about new COVID strain.” On the same day, the front page of the Daily Mirror newspaper read “Sick Man in Europe” alongside an image of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wearing a mask, looking exhausted.
After a new highly transmissible mutant variant of coronavirus was detected in the UK, a growing number of countries have announced that they are cutting transport ties with the country – leaving it adrift and alone in the North Atlantic.
As of press time, over 40 countries have suspended travel to and from the UK, including its closest European allies, and India, once a colony of the former British Empire.
Recently, London has been cozying up to New Delhi in an attempt to deeply engage in the Asia-Pacific region in the future for its “Global Britain” vision. Yet India’s ban on UK flights showed the latter’s engagement is not welcome right now.
The UK, once an empire on which the sun never set, is becoming an isolated island. This new outbreak caused by a mutant coronavirus might have pushed the country’s international prestige to its lowest level since the British Empire.
The UK, home to over 66 million, is seeing over 2 million confirmed cases of novel coronavirus. Reports show that 67,616 people have died as of Tuesday morning. When it raised the herd-immunity approach in March, it seemed as if it was conducting an experiment on its own people’s health and lives. Such an effort seems to have led to the result – the virus mutated.
This time, London tightened its lockdown measures at a fast speed. Some netizens marveled that the last time the UK showed such efficiency and resolution was perhaps during World War II. Yet it should be noted that the new version of the virus first appeared in September, according to Science Magazine.
The “good” news is that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has pledged a grant of £25,000 ($33,526) to help feed British children hit by the COVID-19 crisis. This is the first emergency response in the UK in UNICEF’s more than 70-year history. Some British opposition party members and scholars call it “a disgrace” and said they were “ashamed to be British.”
“The pandemic has pushed the total number of people in the UK living in poverty to more than 15 million – 23 percent of the population,” The Guardian reported in November. When a once glorious imperialist country faces hard national situations and needs aid from other countries, it can be argued as a shame.
The UK likes to call others “sick man” and has used the phrase to describe not only the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), but also the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Unfortunately, British people now find the title falls on themselves.
The Guardian reported that the UK economy will see “a total contraction of 11.1 percent over 2020”, which is “the worst year for the UK economy since 1709.”
The UK may be seeking fabulous dreams, but has to confront harsh realities. Its national condition can hardly support its imperialistic mentality and ambitions. At this point, the UK should simply quit dancing to US tune, such as sending aircraft carriers and showing off its muscle and influence in other regions. It should take care of itself now.