Last summer, I had a thought-provoking conversation in Moscow with Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of the journal Russia In Global Affairs. He mentioned that Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, had argued for a “liberal Brexit”, then laughed loudly. Viewed from Russia, the idea that Brexit is anything other than a savage blow to the liberal cause evidently seemed absurd.

The question of whether Johnson and the Brexiters can, in any way, claim to be “liberal” is of more than academic interest. As Lukyanov’s reaction suggested, it has international significance. The Brexit vote in 2016 saw liberal internationalism — championed by the EU and the Obama administration — take a double blow: first, the Brexit vote, followed shortly afterwards by the election of Donald Trump as US president.

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, ProfileData financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Times Select.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now