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Littler England

The United Kingdom’s Retreat From 
Global Leadership

A member of the Scots Guards receives his duties during the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London, April, 2011.  Peter Macdiarmid / Reuters

In the last year, some 39,000 migrants, mostly from North Africa, tried to make their way to the United Kingdom from the French port of Calais by boarding trucks and trains crossing the English Channel. In response, the British government attempted to secure the entrance to the tunnel in Calais, dispatching two and a half miles of security fencing that had been used for the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 NATO summit.

The United Kingdom’s improvised response to the migrant crisis, with recycled fences substituting for a coherent immigration policy, is emblematic of its increasingly parochial approach to the world beyond its shores. The Conservative government of Prime Minister David Cameron appears to lack a clear vision of the country’s place on the global stage. The United Kingdom, a nuclear power and permanent member of the UN Security Council, now seems intent not on engaging with the outside world but on

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