The epicentre of the crisis of Western civilisation is not Trump’s America

Discussion in 'Politics' started by barryqwalsh, Jul 21, 2018.

  1. barryqwalsh
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    barryqwalsh Gold Member

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    The epicentre of the crisis of Western civilisation is not Donald Trump’s America. In a dark paradox, it’s now Britain, writes Greg Sheridan


    The Australian
     
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  2. barryqwalsh
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    barryqwalsh Gold Member

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    The epicentre of the crisis of Western civilisation is not Donald Trump’s America. The US economy is booming. In his sometimes bizarre statements and tweets, the US President does many good things and many bad things, but in his chaotic fashion he is trying to deal with serious issues.


    American power is not on the wane, nor is there any external enemy that could threaten America without provoking overwhelming retaliation. We don’t know where the Trump adventure will end, but the US is arguing about how to act with its power; it does not face the prospect of its power disappearing.


    No, the centre of the developing crisis of Western civilisation is Europe, as it has been for the past decade and more. Its economic system is dysfunctional, its political system is ineffective and undemocratic, its supra-institution, the EU, is good only for imposing paralysis, its borders are chaotic and uncontrolled, its social problems getting worse.


    But in a strange twist, the centre of the European crisis is London.
    This is a circumstance full of dark paradox. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is by far the most powerful and successful nation in Europe. Yet it is poised exquisitely in a seemingly intractable crisis.


    This was brutally if mournfully laid bare in the resignation speech this week in the House of Commons by former foreign secretary Boris Johnson. BoJo, as he is sometimes known, resigned from Theresa May’s cabinet because after nearly two years of negotiations with the EU over the terms under which Britain would leave at the end of next March the Prime Minister had basically caved in to all EU demands. She was proposing a future relationship with the EU that effectively would mean Britain abiding by all existing EU rules while having no input into them.


    Johnson’s speech was not vicious, it was not unduly personal. In many ways it was quite gracious to May. Yet Johnson’s speech was devastating, painting May, though he did not use these words, as perhaps the most dangerously ineffective British prime minister since Neville Chamberlain.
    The words Johnson did use were powerful enough. Some 18 months ago, May had delivered a striking vision for Brexit in her Lancaster House speech. “But in the 18 months that have followed, it is as though a fog of self-doubt has descended … we dithered and we burned our way through our negotiating capital,” Johnson said. “We agreed to hand over a £40 billion ($70bn) exit fee, with no discussion of our future economic relationship. We accepted the jurisdiction of the European Court over key aspects of the withdrawal agreement. And, worst of all, we allowed the question of the Northern Irish border — which had hitherto been assumed on all sides to be readily soluble — to become so politically charged as to dominate the debate.” Johnson called it “18 months of stealthy retreat”. “We are volunteering for economic vassalage,” he added.


    Perhaps the most devastating passage of the speech was this: “We will be forced to match EU arrangements on the environment and social affairs, and much else besides. And of course we all want high standards, but it is hard to see how the Conservative government of the 80s could have done its vital supply-side reforms with these freedoms taken away.”


    Johnson is talking about the status Britain will enjoy after it has left the EU, with no voting rights in it, and assuming the EU accepts the effective surrender May has proposed. But no one believes the EU will accept May’s terms. It is likely to push for even more humiliating terms of subjugation for Britain. But even in the unlikely event that the EU were to accept May’s proposals in her Chequers compromise, Britain would never again be able to have an economy-reforming government such as that led by Margaret Thatcher because it would forever be bound by EU diktats. That is a shocking outcome of Brexit.
    Johnson’s final verdict is that May is proposing “the miserable permanent limbo of Chequers”.


    Even before Johnson’s speech, Chequers had produced a catastrophic drop in Conservative support in the polls. One in 10 of the people who voted Conservative in 2016 now plans to turn back to the United Kingdom Independence Party, which had all but gone out of business before Chequers. The Turnbull government looks rock-solid compared with May’s outfit.


    All of this makes the advent of a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn much likelier. This is potentially disastrous for Britain. Corbyn is by a considerable distance the most left-wing leader British Labour has had. Most of his parliamentary party have demonstrated time and again that they think he is not fit to be prime minister. But the Labour leader is elected by popular vote from anyone willing to pay £3 for even temporary grassroots membership of the Labour Party. That means the loudest activists elect the leader.


    Corbyn is not only surrounded by card-carrying Marxists, he is poorly educated, has no experience in government and basically has never moved on from student politics, backing Venezuelan Stalinists and Nicaraguan communists, and associating with the IRA at its worst moments as his priority political activities.

    Although Britain remains for the moment an immensely successful and welcoming society, you sense it is about to have a big moment in its history. William Hague, a foreign secretary under David Cameron and a former leader of the Conservatives in opposition, wrote a powerful newspaper column arguing that Britain could prosper inside the EU or outside the EU, but above all the issue had to be settled and Britain could not prosper amid the rancour and polarisation of the Brexit debate.


    The real problem is that though the British public voted decisively for Brexit, the elite has never accepted the legitimacy of this decision and is constantly trying to undermine it. Once the departure is finally and irrevocably accomplished, all the energy devoted to trying to reverse the decision will instead go into trying to make the new situation work well.


    Because May’s Chequers proposals are so unacceptable to Brexit opinion and because the EU will want even more than Chequers, both London and Brussels have come to the public realisation that a no-deal Brexit is now much likelier. If Britain leaves without a deal, it then trades with the EU under World Trade Organisation rules, and the EU doesn’t get its £40bn. If the EU has one scintilla of responsibility — and that is an enormous if — it would work with London to make the transition orderly, as it could easily be, if there were a no-deal Brexit.


    The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, this week told all EU countries to start to make serious preparations in case there was a no-deal Brexit. May’s government similarly started to send out notifications to key agencies and stakeholders about what would be required of them legally if there were a no-deal Brexit. The mistress of fudge is headed for a moment of truth.


    In a long discussion with Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the pro-Brexit Conservative European Research Group in the House of Commons, I put it to him that the world was transfixed by the Brexit saga, not only for its intrinsic importance but because of everything that it symbolised.
    “That’s right,” he said. “Brexit really goes to the question of whether the nation-state can succeed.” Rees-Mogg is 100 per cent correct and it is why you have to see the Brexit drama as the centre of the crisis of Western civilisation.


    With the US, Britain is one of the two pillars of the Western alliance. It is a byword, normally the gold standard, for calm, polite, stable politics. Its leaders are by no means all giants but they are decent men and women generally pursuing the public good in an institutional and cultural framework that historically has produced effective government.


    Calmly, deliberately, in a debate that went for many years, they mulled over their many dissatisfactions with the manifestly hopeless EU. They held elections over whether to have a vote on the EU. Finally they had a referendum and the biggest number of people voted in Britain’s long history. And the result was clear-cut. Britain decided to leave.


    Up until then, the process was a triumph of the British way. Within its institutions, Britain had handled the issue that had bedevilled European politics. After the vote, there should have been a coherent negotiation and if the EU was unreasonable, as is normally the case, Britain had to be prepared for a no-deal exit. Instead May’s government has been sucked into the characteristic vortex of EU death by endless negotiation and unreasonableness. And in the Chequers formulation May has faltered grievously, combining bad policy with bad politics in a way that is acutely dangerous for her nation.


    All this has big consequence for Australia. Perhaps no nation, beyond Britain itself, stands to benefit more from Brexit than Australia. One of our closest friends, a society with which we are almost unbelievably intimate, would be in a position to pursue a new relationship with us, one that would benefit both sides immensely.


    Britain is our second biggest investment partner. Last year, two-way investment stood at a staggering $815bn. There are more Brits living in Australia than in the whole of the EU outside Britain. Even more than the US, we would be the first cab off the rank with which Britain would do a free trade agreement. Britain wants to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Malcolm Turnbull and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe brought back to life after the US withdrew. This would be good for Britain and the TPP. It would add great economic weight to the TPP and would bolster its effect in setting international standards.


    Britain is the fifth biggest economy, a nuclear weapons power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. There is a longstanding and deep relationship of strategic co-operation between London and Canberra. It is getting more intense and more important to both sides, as the $35bn contract to build our nine future frigates, which went to British firm BAE, demonstrates.


    Britain is not a tier-one player in the Indo-Pacific but it is still important. Recently it opened three diplomatic missions in the South Pacific — in Tonga, Vanuatu and Samoa. This is fantastically good news for Australia. There is every chance that some time in the next decade Beijing will seek and secure a military base in the South Pacific. That would gravely compromise Australian security. The chief responsibility for preventing this lies with Australia but we are helped enormously by a greater Western presence in the South Pacific.
    Similarly, there are areas where we can help the Brits. Though they have their raft of experts, the British policy community generally is a long, long way behind Australia in trying to make sense of the political and social dynamics underway in China.

    The British intelligence community is complacent and behind the curve in understanding the import of Chinese directed investment in critical infrastructure in Britain. There is a need for deep dialogue here.
    More generally, the rules-based international order is breaking. This is not solely, or even primarily, Trump’s fault. No future US president will ever think the WTO offers the solution to America’s problems with China over trade and the intellectual property issues that go with it. In this international context, like-minded, capable middle powers such as Britain and Australia have an imperative for closer co-operation.


    This week the inaugural meeting of the Australia UK Leadership Forum was held in London with good buy-in from Australian and British ministers, which was heroic given the crisis unfolding in British politics. For many reasons, we have an enormous stake in how the Brexit drama unfolds. This is surely one of the most important stories in the world.


    Greg Sheridan visited Britain as a participant in the Australia UK Leadership Forum.




    The Australian
     
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    Last edited: Jul 21, 2018
  3. MarathonMike
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    MarathonMike Platinum Member

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    Very interesting, I had vague sense that Theresa May was a weak leader but I had no idea how bad things could get for Great Britain as a result of her dealings with the EU.
     
  4. bripat9643
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    bripat9643 Diamond Member

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    Theresa May is the British equivalent of electing Jeb Bush to be president. She's implementing everything the British people voted against.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 22, 2018
  5. forkup
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    forkup Gold Member

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    So lets get this straight. This article has a problem with May because "she caved in to all EU demands." Yet the article also states that "The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, this week told all EU countries to start to make serious preparations in case there was a no-deal Brexit." How does that work? Yea,we get everything we want but we won't have a deal? Seems contradictory doesn't it?
    It also has a problem with the fallout of this, giving Corbyn a way to become PM. In other words it applauds the working of democracy in Brexit but has a problem with the consequences of that act in regards to their own electability?
    Brexit in my opinion is a huge mistake. Not only is it economically a bad idea, but it also is a political disaster. The EU has absolutely no interest in being reasonable, why should they, being reasonable would just encourage further dissent. They have a vested interest in making it as painful as possible.
    May has been dealt a shitty hand and "strong" leadership will not make the hand any better. No deal means, London as a trade hub is severely crippled. It would mean that millions of people, both EU and UK citizens would have to find a way to get citizenship in the countries they are residing . It could very well mean the independence of Scotland and possibly N-Ireland and as such the end of the UK as such.
    I understand why people voted to leave. The EU is a kind of a far away uncle managing your estate, it doesn't matter if they do a good job, it still feels they are meddling. This is a hard thing to swallow for a country that can still remember the time when they and they alone owned an Empire that spanned the globe. Nostalgia is a nice thing to have. It's a problem when it causes a country to commit economical suicide.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2018
  6. cnm
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    cnm Diamond Member

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    Of course it is Sheridan...

    He has also argued in support of the notion that George W. Bush will be judged "one of the great presidents of the United States".
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
     
  7. cnm
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    cnm Diamond Member

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    Because they were lied to, that the EU was the cause of the effects of austerity rather than the rats now abandoning the ship.
     
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  8. bripat9643
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    bripat9643 Diamond Member

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    The EU was the cause of all the migrants infesting the country. It was also the cause of British fishermen not being able to fish in their own waters. There were many other issues that grated on average British citizens.
     
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  9. georgephillip
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    georgephillip Gold Member Supporting Member

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    Perhaps the epicenter of the crisis lies with declining Empires?
    [​IMG]
    Trump seems like a good figurehead for what an empire in decline looks like.
     

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