There is no longer any trustworthy American news source. By the end of 2016 the Trump/Clinton discussion no longer made any sense (did it ever?) and we are well overdue for a post-election reassessment. The Washington Post has gone nuts, Breitbart was always absolutely cuckoo and there is nothing between those two poles. To make sense of it all you have to read both and synthesise your own thoughts. Is that going to resolve this year? If it does it will be very painful for many senior politicians and journalists who have quite spectacularly gone for broke against Trump. On the other hand, although Trump is isolated within the White House and has unprecedentedly mediocre poll ratings, he does seem to be capable of making deals, and isolating opponents.
The Brexit result was a surprise. Before the vote the media was disconnected from what was clearly the mood of the country. Remain ‘nutters’ overreached somewhat (I’m thinking of Poly Toynbee and her releasing of ‘Furies’). After the vote the mood seems to have cooled, although there is a certain hard-core of Leave ‘nutters’ producing a lot of hot air (not only UKIP and the Daily Express but also Tories like Dominic Raab) who I think will just be ignored, as a consensus view of what Brexit should be forms within Parliament and the country at large. Hard Brexit has now been squashed as an idea in the UK, only ‘nutters’ back it as a preference.
Soft Brexit on the other hand may well be squashed by our friends in Europe. I think Brits are actually quite good at negotiating but I do worry that we have bitten off more that we can chew within the two year time frame of Article 50. Watching and reading German language news I see little evidence of any willingness within the German establishment to be compliant with British soft Brexit wishes. Actually some shows such as the satirical Heute Show on ZDF are rather cruel in their anti-Brit humour – not something that you would typically see on German telly. Strangely nobody in Britain seems to be following what’s going on. It could get ugly.
On the optimistic side I sense that a lot of Remainers have come to terms with their defeat and in 2017 will embrace a far more global outlook in the wake of Brexit – quite the opposite of what many of the more hard‑core Leavers were actually campaigning for. I think this would be welcomed within the country at large given that 77% of leave voters and 84% of voters overall actually want EU citizens in Britain to stay. More difficult for Remainers will be the need to compromise on a new immigration settlement somehow.
For so many reasons the Labour Party has died and seems that it will be decimated in the 2020 general election (RIP Labour Party). I can’t see UKIP being that victorious in England and Wales the way the SNP were in Scotland, but will rather let the Conservatives into some Labour strongholds.
In my relatively new home in Switzerland politics here is becoming more of an interest for me. I can only read about it in German, which I’m still learning, so I am still struggling to entirely contextualise what is happening. The defining theme this year was the implementation of a 2014 referendum result against EU freedom of movement within Switzerland. This has now been implemented in a really watered down way by the national parliament due to opposition from the EU, and there are campaigns to break the deadlock caused by potential legal difficulties that not properly implementing a referendum result can cause with a ‘second chance’ referendum. Second chance referendums, as in Britain, are seen as cheating the people – rather a taboo.
In German media this year was huge coverage of the continuing war in Syria and migrants in Germany from north Africa and the Middle East. There is still a strong commitment to providing safety to asylum seekers, although the consensus forming is that perhaps too many migrants came at once. We’ll have to wait to see whether the effect of the German general election will be as tumultuous for the German political class as recent votes in the US and Britain were, but from last years mixed regional elections I doubt the AfD (or Die Linke) will cause too much of the kind of trouble people fear. Rather Germany will continue playing it’s role as a regional stabiliser. France, well, that may be another matter entirely…
Terror attacks in 2016 were absolutely awful. They emanate from IS in Syria which has destabilised Iraq and still threatens to destabilise Turkey. Fortunately with Trump in power (not something that I thought I’d be glad of) it actually seems that the additional complication of a proxy war developing between the US and Russia might end soon. The time has come to ditch any dreams for a democratic Arab Spring and get behind Assad. I never thought I’d say it, but right now Trump’s ability to start afresh with Assad and Putin is an opportunity not to be missed.