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Other countries have told me what they think of Brexit. It's bad

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The American Congresswoman reeled off the list to me: Basil Fawlty, Mr Bean, Alan Partridge, David Brent. "No-one does comedy heroes like you Brits ... but we preferred it when the characters were fictional."

A Lebanese Minister, only half-joking, gave me a similar take: "When you used to say that you hoped that the parliaments in London and Beirut would be more alike, we didn't realise that this was what you meant."

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You don't need to go to Washington or Beirut to notice that Britain's treble-A reputation for competence, built over centuries, is under threat. And that this is less about Brexit itself than the perception that we are — collectively — handling it by inviting the world to watch us drown.

With the extension of the process until October, EU leaders have now thrown Britain a lifeline. Or more rope to hang ourselves, depending on where you stand on Brexit. But if we are to emerge from this prolonged period of introspection, self-doubt and division, Leavers and Remainers will need to reunite around a reinvigorated international approach.

With the world becoming more perilous, there will be a temptation to focus purely on domestic security or local squabbles. Let’s be in no doubt: whatever happens on Brexit, a retreat from the world is the path to drift and decline. Our national interest........

© Independent