As Global Britain is quickly discovering, when it comes to friends and allies the truth matters and perceptions eventually catch up with reality, writes Damien Phillips.

"It is not a matter of what is true that counts, but a matter of what is perceived to be true." The former US Secretary of State and doyen of realpolitik, Henry Kissinger's cynical take on politics seems depressingly accurate in our current world of undeserved reputations. But as Global Britain is quickly discovering, when it comes to friends and allies the truth matters and perceptions eventually catch up with reality. Whether it is the EU, the United States or our allies in the Middle East, the true colours of our professed friends are steadily being revealed.

Some are unsurprising. When it comes to the EU, anyone who had studied their actions in recent years knew that their reputation as a beacon of moral righteousness and competency was a mirage, and that their promises of a "new economic and social partnership with the UK" were hollow. Whether it was the ongoing fiasco of its vaccine procurement scheme, its narcissistic inability to shoulder responsibility for the failure, or its continued bullying of a British firm offering them a way out of the Covid crisis without making a penny, the truth about the EU has finally struck home.

Likewise with the US. Joe Biden's cheerleaders promised that Mr Biden was a "big believer" in the trans-Atlantic trade alliance and the special relationship with the UK. And yet critics warned that Biden could not be trusted to prioritise a deal with the UK. Since becoming President, the Biden administration has put a deal with the UK firmly on the backburner, clashed with Johnson's government over the Internal Market Bill, sided with Irish nationalists over Brexit and dangled the potential for trade barriers on US agriculture in any agreement when it eventually makes its ponderous way to the front of the queue. Sadly, the naysayers were spot on.

While we could have predicted the EU's duplicity and Biden's reverse-ferreting, it was harder to foresee the fall from grace of one of Britain's key allies in the Middle East. For years, the United Arab Emirates has seemed one of the most promising of the Gulf States and many hoped that it might help to inspire the modernisation of others in the region. Regarded as one of the most progressive places in the Middle East outside of Israel, the UAE's shining skyscrapers and sandy beaches have made it a leading tourist destination and business hub, known internationally for its culture of easy living and tolerance.

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The UAE is also ostensibly one of the Britain's closest allies in the Gulf, part of a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States intended to check the power of Iran's theocratic regime. And yet it is becoming increasingly clear that its reputation as a stalwart ally of the West is a mirage.

In recent months, it was revealed that the UAE has been working with Venezuela to get around Western sanctions, assisting the brutal Maduro regime in funding the repression and murder of its own people. A UN report found that Venezuelan security forces are estimated to have killed 9000 people for 'resistance to authority' over an 18-month period. Maduro's illegal mining, distribution and sale of the country's gold has been a lifeline for the embattled regime to bankroll this savagery – a funding stream we have been keen to shut off. Yet the UAE has allowed its firms to help Maduro to obtain nearly $1.21 billion through gold sales in their country.

This comes on top of an exposé by Reuters late last year that three UAE-based companies had emerged as the leading buyers of Venezuelan crude oil, in defiance of our efforts to prevent Maduro sponsoring his dictatorship through crude exports. Were it not for the UAE's repeated helping hand, Maduro would be in deep financial trouble by now, his regime would be under significant pressure to come to the negotiating table and many of those butchered by his death squads might still be alive.

This is not the first time the UAE has acted against its Western allies. In November 2020, it was found they had assisted Russia in waging a proxy war in Libya against the legitimate, UN-backed Libyan government. The US Defence Department Inspector General found that the UAE was financing Russian Wagner group mercenaries. The Wagner group is considered to be acting on behalf of the Russian Ministry of Defence. This action, the UAE's support for the military dictatorship in Egypt, not to mention its deepening diplomatic and economic ties with both Russia and China, are worrying signs that the UAE may soon be joining Saudi Arabia as an "ally from hell".

Be it the EU, US or the UAE, a post-Brexit Britain is finding out who it can count on and which alliances have any substance. It helps to know who your real friends are and Global Britain is learning fast.

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