Home / UK / Sky Views: The world used to see UK as bastion of stability – Brexit has changed that – Sky News

Sky Views: The world used to see UK as bastion of stability – Brexit has changed that – Sky News

By Deborah Haynes, foreign affairs editor

It feels weird to be overseas covering a big foreign story only to be met by people who appear just as interested in the instability and uncertainty consuming my own country.

I’ve spent a chunk of the past 20 years reporting on hostile events happening in other places as life bumbled along as normal back in Britain.

There might be a change of government, a flood or even the horror of a terrorist attack but nothing that changed the world’s fundamental perception of the UK as a bastion of stability.

Not anymore.

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Weekly protests have been taking place on the Gaza border for a year

In Israel this week, amid fears of a new conflict with the militant group Hamas in Gaza, I was struck by the deep awareness of Brexit and the political crisis consuming Westminster.

“Have you seen my country recently?” I asked one Israeli politician as he talked to me about the rough and tumble of an election battle underway in Israel.

His response: “Oh yeah…” – before breaking into gales of laughter.

“That’s a mess. I feel like a very organised country… a stable democracy. It’s crazy, crazy!”

Then there were those who just looked at me with bemusement when I said I’m from the UK, this as Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza were met by Israeli airstrikes and tank rounds.

I’m by no means implying the Brexit drama is in any way comparable with the decades of conflict and suffering that underpin relations between the Palestinian territories and Israel.

I’m simply observing with interest and not a small amount of despair that people who understand crises and insecurity deem the rows over Brexit significant enough for them to take note of what is happening in a country that previously would have been put in the category of advanced-peaceful-predictable nation.

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Paramedics carry a man away on a stretcher during the protests on the Gaza border

As a budding journalist back in the late 1990s, all I dreamt about was the chance to go overseas to be a foreign correspondent and report on important, global events.

I had that chance in 2004 when I went to Iraq to help report on the aftermath of the 2003 invasion and the escalating sectarian conflict that would nearly tear the country apart.

I remember my frustration every time I visited Britain at how people took for granted the security and predictable way of life they enjoyed in stark contrast to Iraqi civilians.

The majority of Britons would never question whether a light would come on when a switch is flicked, or water appear when a tap is turned, or food be on the shelf at the supermarket – quite aside from the daily threat of violent death that ordinary people in Baghdad faced.

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Tear gas canisters have been fired at Palestinian protesters in Gaza

I would find myself wondering how the UK population – so used to living in relative (compared with a lot of the world) comfort – would cope if ever faced with a real crisis.

Fast forward 15 years and fears about fuel and food shortages – whether or not they come to pass – are actually being talked about in the event of border disruption if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal.

While for the rest of the world, Britain and Brexit have become one of the biggest (for them) foreign news stories around, with debates in the House of Commons – including meaningful votes and speaker John Bercow shouting “order” – regularly making headline news.

Sky Views is a series of comment pieces by Sky News editors and correspondents, published every morning.

Previously on Sky Views: Adam Boulton – Brexit has replaced my long-standing anxiety dream

Sky Views: The world used to see UK as bastion of stability – Brexit has changed that – Sky News

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