Friday, May 13, 2016

Just supposing...

Although the opinion polls are close, the betting markets barely move: the punters are still backing the United States to vote for Hillary Clinton and the United Kingdom to vote to stay part of the European Union. 

Yet, just suppose the punters are wrong?

Just suppose that the polls are right and the UK does vote to Leave. Firstly this would trigger an immediate resignation from David Cameron. His luck would have run out. The Prime Minister himself suggests that his successor is most likely to be a "leaver", "that is where the heart of the Conservative party beats". Despite his unhappy performance so far, that still probably means that Boris Johnson would be the next Prime Minister. The new PM would have a massive pile of problems to deal with on day one. Quite apart from the critical choices that he will have to make on behalf of the UK and it future relations with the EU, he would also have to steady the economic ship, which would be more than a somewhat rattled by Brexit. An old fashioned Sterling crisis and a significant fall off in investment would just be the start of the new world of turbulence in the UK economy.  Then there is the growing prospect of a significant political crisis. The investigation into allegations of Conservative cheating is continuing, and if charges are preferred, then it is quite possible that the government would face a series of bye-elections that could take away their majority. All of this, of course comes on top of the calls for a second Scottish referendum. The UK could be facing economic, constitutional and political crises all at once.

Then there is the prospect of President Trump. Mr. Trump has won his nomination. Come November, there is a significant chance that he gets elected. Just suppose that he does. From the point of view of the West, the reputation of democracy will have taken a severe knock, the relations of the United States with its neighbours will clearly deteriorate, but the impact of Mr. Trump's declared wish to disengage from NATO and cut a deal with Putin would have catastrophic implications, and not just for Europe. The friction between the US and China would become outright animosity. All of the conventional security platforms would be weakened and the position of the UK, which bases a great deal of emphasis on the special relationship with the US, would be weakened drastically.

The outcomes of just two simple votes could undermine decades of progress, cooperation and peace.  

When people say that Mr. Cameron is exaggerating the scale of the crisis, then just maybe they are wrong: we may not be scared enough.  

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