REALITY is all a question of perspective. We see ourselves from the inside out, while others see us from the outside in. What then must foreigners make of Britain in July 2019, a time of incredible change and uncertainty for our island nation? And let us never forget that just as no man is an island, neither is any single country separate from a globalised world.

As the likelihood of No Deal Brexit looms ever closer, driven by hard-line Brexiteers dominating the Government, this is not an academic question. How other nations view the UK will inevitably define our national well-being over the coming century.

Take a few obvious examples. Trade and economic prosperity are dependent on international relations. In 2017, the UK’s financial services sector alone contributed £119 billion to the UK economy, 6.5% of total economic output. UK exports to the EU were £274 billion (44% of all UK exports) while UK imports from the EU were £341 billion (53% of all UK imports).

You could add tourism (worth £billions and millions of jobs), or even the “soft influence” we exert through a tradition of thriving arts and culture. How about defence and cross-border co-operation over terrorism and crime? As for the real crisis of our age, environmental meltdown, the only possible solutions to this world-wide threat must be global.

Other nations’ opinions of us matter in less practical, measurable ways, too, affecting our sense of self-respect, even our self-image. When I was young to be British was to inherit a certain James Bond-like coolness. At our very best, a reputation for fairness, self-deprecating wit and irony, moderation, faultless manners, coolness under fire.

Yet it is with embarrassment, even trepidation, many of us wonder how Britain is viewed currently.

The recent controversy over our ambassador to Washington, Sir Kim Darroch, is a case in point. This career diplomat was merely doing his job when he was forced to resign after confidential diplomatic reports were leaked. Essentially, he was bullied out of his job by President Trump and hung out to dry by our Prime Minister in waiting, Boris Johnson. At the same time, Trump lashed Theresa May’s (admittedly dismal) record on Twitter, thereby adding salt to the wound of our national humiliation.

So much for the “special relationship” with the US meant to replace our reliance on Europe post-Brexit. We are learning the hard way how unbalanced it is. Are we to be viewed as a feeble client of the US, a dominant power to be flattered with state visits and toadied up to by sycophantic Conservative politicians? Post-Brexit, isolated and harried by economic problems, it is not hard to imagine how terrible a trade deal Johnson would sign with the US to buy the illusion of temporary “success”. It is we ordinary Britons contemplating the marketization of our NHS and declining food standards who would pay the price.

Then there is the recent episode in the European Parliament. Let’s be clear, symbolism matters to millions of our fellow Europeans. When newly-elected Brexit Party MEPs turned their backs during the European parliament’s opening ceremony, it was no doubt intended as cheap, point-scoring theatre to satisfy gung-ho Brexiteers back home. Strong reactions in the international press and at home showed it made our country appear pathetic and disrespectful.

Aside from damaging our national reputation for good manners, the stunt demonstrated, in a very physical way, a dangerous tendency towards ‘Little Englander” isolationalism that can only prove self-destructive in a post-Brexit world.

We see this in our country’s attitude to learning foreign languages. According to a recent survey conducted by the European Union, 62% of Brits speak no other language than English. This compares with the EU average of 56% speaking at least one foreign language. One thing is for sure, we will need to learn European and Asian languages post-Brexit if we are to interact successfully with the global economy – and fast.

Perhaps Brexit will be a good thing if it dispels an all too prevalent illusion the mighty British Empire and Commonwealth still exist, and that we can prosper in splendid isolation. It might help us understand ourselves better from the outside in.