WEEKLY COMMENT 5-01-2017
By Barry Edwards
Brexit and Trump
The Christmas and New Year period has given people time to reflect on the prospects for 2017. There seems to be a lot of doubt that the British politicians can achieve the ideal arrangement for Brexit and the impending inauguration of Donald Trump could have long lasting implications for the balance of world power. Although many people are quietly hoping for a real improvement in economic growth and world peace, the commentators and economists are still pessimistic about that scenario being achieved.
The resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers has exposed the unpreparedness and competency of government concerning the approach to the Brexit negotiations which did not seem to be a big surprise to anyone. It is unusual for diplomats to be so forthright but the event has made it clear to everyone that there is nothing certain about the outcome and the time the free trade agreement will take to be agreed has now been confirmed to be about ten years. Despite this, many colleagues with whom I have discussed this matter, most of whom are adamant Brexiteers, are still eager for the UK to leave the EU.
The continental Europeans have always looked upon the EU as a political undertaking with the ultimate objective of a federal Europe. The British and some of the countries that joined latterly have seen it as a commercial enterprise first and possibly many years in the future as a more closely united union but still with distinct sovereign control. This diversity has never been properly discussed and explained making many people confused about the real purpose of the EU. It has been made very clear to me that some of my colleagues have never understood the reasons behind all the rules and regulations that have been imposed on national parliaments mainly because of the much distorted reporting by some media organisations.
When you explain that most of the work to make it possible to sell and deliver products and services to everyone in the EU has been done so that there is no need for a mass of paperwork other than an invoice or contract and the reasons for it, many said that had never been explained properly to them before. I was surprised at these comments but when I asked would that have made any difference to the way you voted, the response was always probably not. When asked to explain that, the points raised where that the EU and the Eurozone are likely to disintegrate and the support from the people of the EU is not really behind the project.
That is clearly a matter of opinion because it is very unlikely that the EU politicians will allow that to happen. The much talked about forthcoming elections will decide the future development of the EU and it may well change direction to compensate for the message people send to the politicians. It is almost certain there will be change and hopefully that will fully reflect the view of the people which would certainly be a new concept for the EU leaders. All unions of countries and states evolve, adapt and reform as they progress to improve their effectiveness in the world and cooperate with their neighbours to prevent conflict. The EU is no different and we are experiencing that evolution take place without any say in the eventual outcome.
The other major subject is the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the USA. Surprisingly, there seems to be a reappraisal of his potential and many people are looking forward to see how he performs as a new style President. My own view is that I agree with his financial objectives but have some doubts about his approach to foreign policy and trading relations. The people he has appointed to his government are mostly business or specialist orientated which could conflict with the long established diplomatic protocols that have kept the world in some kind of order for some time. Running a government like a business may improve governance in ways we cannot predict but we will just have to wait and see how it plays out.
The few Americans I have met recently are mostly willing to give him a chance but tend to agree with me about his diplomatic skills. When a fresh attitude is adopted especially by the most important county in the world at the moment, the anticipation of unexpected situations developing is rife. However, nobody can really be certain if he will truly be different or not until he has been in power for some months. All we can do is wish him luck and fortune in his new position as world leader.
That’s all for this week, more observations next week.