Welcome to the Rostrum — your weekly dose of insight from The Octavian Report. As the U.S. recovers from Hurricane Irma and President Trump makes unorthodox deals with his nominal political opponents, we checked in on another big uncertainty across the Atlantic: Brexit. The subject of tremendous praise and damnation, the cause for innumerable thinkpieces and broadsides. Despite (or perhaps because of) this endless and in many cases ill-informed rhetoric, the actual issues at stake often remain somewhat obscure. We spoke for our podcast with Sir Christopher Meyer, diplomat and analyst, about the state of Britain’s very public divorce from the European union.
Meyer has served as the U.K.’s ambassador to the U.S. and to Germany, so he knows how insider politics works on both sides of the Atlantic and the highly technical and delicate nature of such high-level, international negotiations. He was not a Brexiteer but as he describes it a pragmateer — someone who recognizes the reality and validity of the Brexit vote despite having voted to stay, and now wants the best possible outcome economically and politically for England. He pinpoint the one issue that will determine whether Theresa May’s team can get a favorable negotiating position firmly in hand and highlights Britain’s secret weapon in case a deal falls apart. He also sheds some light on the thorny historical underpinnings of the political imperatives behind Brexit. They go back hundreds of years and have their roots in the very earliest of early modernity, when England first concerned itself seriously with the geopolitics of the Continent. As such, it’s no surprise that passions have run so high over the issue within England. Connected to that is, of course, the broader question of the E.U.’s future. Meyer has opinions there that might be sobering but are most definitely worth hearing.