The ‘Trump-Brexit’ (2016/2017) impact occupies a lot of media space, not surprising as it is an easy way of expressing what we worry about most: uncertainty. The foundation of much risk management thinking.
Among the many words already written is it possible to make any predictions or useful assessments on the likely developments in geopolitics for the immediate future, post-2017? It all depends on where you are standing. What is sure, context always matters!
The UK may have made a fundamental economic mistake in leaving the EU, but those in power will reassure themselves that they have the reins of power to combat any economic downturn and their ultimate weapon: it was the fault of the referendum and the electorate’s own choice. Those in power also have the reins of power in the other game of identity politics: namely nationalism.But will this be enough in the contemporary context?
The seeming mind-numbness (political dilemmas) of the UK plans for Brexit – a demand for EU access without payment for fundamental political cooperation – is not the substantive matter but the wider world geopolitics which is at play. It is the overall geopolitical relationship within a European geography which dictates to all the relevant states and that is what is being re-questioned.
The EU may be rid of an awkward state but without its own political union and a strong political identity, its fate hangs in balance. And that, most of all, depends on profound political and economic change for Germany, Italy and France, which, so far, has proved elusive – security, immigration, euro stability and dispersion of wealth, practical defence and a foreign policy strategy all show weaknesses at present.
If a workable security and political identity remain difficult for the main EU member states, let alone the others, the project of integration will founder or need to alter.
Put another way. The geography of security and neighbourhood collectivity is the only game worth an effort, but to succeed demands solidarity and relying on German economic strength and leadership is not enough.
What we see are tectonic geopolitical plates on the move: global, sectoral urbanisation pushing against community sectional interests.
The result: disturbance and disruption. All summed up in confusion, icon-like. For example, by a bewildering, conflicting amount of Twitter-led policies coming from Trump’s election as USA President, and the mishandled Brexit process.
Conclusion: the present geopolitical scene is like emerging volcanic activity. We can measure the impact of volcanoes by looking at the past for sure, from Pompei (79AD) in Italy to St. Pierre (AD1902) in Martinique or even the latest in Iceland (AD2014). What we can’t be sure of is when they are going to erupt and by how much. But at least some preparation is better than no preparedness.
In European terms, this may mean working toward a new restructured EU with a new mandate, and one which will encourage the UK to return as a full member. But this seems a faint hope as Europe heads for another set of national elections.
However, the trouble with volcanic activity, as with sudden shifts in politics, the damage is often done first before we can think of rebuilding. That is in the ‘nature’ of such forces.