Priti Patel, it’s safe to say, is the most reactionary British Home Secretary of the last few decades. She has already set about restricting civil liberties, increasing police powers and discouraging as many migrants as possible from arriving in the UK.
Her favorite enemies are climate protesters and “leftist” advocates for the rights of asylum seekers. It was very unlikely that Patel would stand up for Julian Assange of all people. But the British government’s decision to grant Washington’s extradition request also has geopolitical reasons.
Was Boris Johnson will
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to tie Britain more closely to the US after Brexit. With the trilateral security pact between Australia, the USA and Great Britain – abbreviated AUKUS – Johnson recorded an initial success last September. But since then, stumbling blocks have surfaced. Above all, the Northern Ireland Protocol: London’s threats to unilaterally terminate the treaty in order to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain have met with sharp criticism from the Atlantic partner. Recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned that unilateral moves by London that would undermine the Northern Ireland Protocol would have consequences: “If the UK decides to undermine the Good Friday Agreement, then Congress can and will sign a bilateral free trade agreement with the UK not support.”
Britain has high hopes for such a deal – during the Brexit campaign six years ago, a trade pact with the US was sold as one of the big potential gains of leaving the EU. Still, the British government has so far made no move to initiate a de-escalation – but it is all the less keen to risk another row with Washington by opposing the extradition request for Assange.
Priti Patel kills two birds with one: she flatters herself with her US partners – while at the same time signaling to the British people that she has absolutely no intention of abandoning her authoritarian course.