PETER OBORNE ON POLITICS AND POWER: 2017? Mrs May’s masterstroke, death of the euro – and a nasty surprise for us all…
By Peter Oborne For The Daily Mail, published on December 30, 2016
At this point of the year, it is customary for pundits to look back and explain how the previous 12 months witnessed seismic world events.
But 2016 didn’t need such hype. What’s more important is whether 2017 will be equally sensational. This is what I predict could shake the world — both for good or ill — next year…
Evermore migrants coming to Europe
The Turkish government — urged on by its new ally, Vladimir Putin — decides to allow hundreds of thousands of Syrian and other asylum-seekers through its land to EU countries.
This follows the collapse of a deal between Germany and Turkey to limit the number of refugees in return for Turkish citizens being granted visa-free travel to the EU’s Schengen (open borders) Area.
The move is seen by many as revenge on Brussels for the humiliating rejection of Turkey’s application to join the EU. Inevitably, the new influx of migrants will give a huge boost to Right-wing nationalist parties as they head into elections in France, Holland and Germany.
Right-wing extremist leader of France
In May, the French will elect the most extremist president since the Fifth Republic was created in 1958.
A victorious Marine Le Pen of the Right-wing Front National will swiftly pledge to take France out of the euro, thus shattering the political and financial system that has evolved to create stability in Europe since the end of World War II.
For their part, stunned EU leaders will blithely proceed with plans for closer European union.
In effect, this model will be an increasingly German-dominated body looking mostly to embrace former Communist countries in the East such as Poland and Hungary.
Theresa May goes for broke
As she promised, Mrs May will trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU by the end of March — but then call a snap General Election in May to give her strengthened authority to play hardball with Brussels over the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
This will prove to be a masterstroke. Exploiting Labour’s weaknesses, the Tories win more than 400 seats and secure a larger majority than Margaret Thatcher ever achieved. Jeremy Corbyn steps down after Labour gets fewer than 200 MPs. There’s a minor Lib Dem resurgence, having fought on a pro-EU platform.
At the eighth attempt, Nigel Farage is elected as an MP.
President Trump’s love-in with Putin
Ignoring Obama expelling 35 Russian spies, Trump, vows to strike a so-called ‘buddy deal’ with Russia.
However, aghast, Washington’s Cold War era-educated hawks are determined to stop him. The most significant of these are in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) which is institutionally wired towards confrontation with Russia.
The CIA views Trump as an irrational man who has been suborned by Russian security interests. During the ensuing confrontation between the White House and the CIA, Trump orders his National Security Adviser to sack senior intelligence officers. For their part, in London, MI6 chiefs fear for the future safety of Europe.
Saudi ruler deposed
Decades of repression, overspending and corruption will finally come back to haunt the Saudi royal family. There will be a palace coup against the country’s effective ruler Prince Salman and the regime he has led with his infamous ‘iron fist’.
Paying the price for meddling in both the Syrian and the Yemeni civil wars, he is likely to be replaced by former security chief Mohammed bin Naif, who has long-standing links with Washington.
Mugabe toppled in Zimbabwe
For years in bad health, the 92-year-old despot is finally ousted. With the economy still in freefall and despite his supporters saying he’ll ‘rule for eternity’, Mugabe is forced out because his government no longer has enough funds to pay civil servants, the police and — most crucially — the army.
Tragically, his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is best-known as the bloodstained architect of the genocide in Matabeleland in western Zimbabwe which claimed 20,000 lives in the Eighties.
Trade War between China and America
As Trump tries to honour his campaign promise of retaliation for the Beijing government ‘raping’ America, he slaps tariffs on Chinese imports. In response, China liquidates U.S. Treasury bills it has bought — pushing U.S. interest rates higher and tilting both countries’ economies towards recession. Meanwhile, the possibility of Chinese/U.S. military confrontation in the South China Sea grows.
Another Global Financial Crash
The world will pay the price for years of indebtedness and overspending. According to International Monetary Fund figures, world indebtedness stands at $152 (£122) trillion. That’s well over twice global output.
Much of that debt — such as loans extended to embattled eurozone countries Greece and Italy — will never be repaid.
The crisis in confidence will start with a crash in the bond markets, setting off a surge in interest rates and quickly lead to a series of bank failures across the world. This financial crisis will be more difficult to solve than the 2008 crash because national governmental finances will no longer be strong enough to come to the rescue as they did eight years ago.
Collapse of the eurozone
This financial crisis will be a turning point for the EU’s flawed currency system. Greece will be forced to return to the drachma — triggering a chain reaction which will quickly see Italy, Cyprus, Spain and other southern European countries follow suit and abandon the euro. Greece, Italy (by now back to using its old currency, the lira) and others will declare national bankruptcy and refuse to pay their debts.
Small savers and depositors across Europe will see their investments wiped out, setting off riots. Paralysed by such chaos, the European Central Bank will fail as member states will refuse to fund its losses.
Watch out for an acrimonious battle over who owns the European Central Bank’s billions of worthless debt. In the short term, this will set off a round of crashing stockmarkets and economic depression.
However, there is an up-side. Freed from the straitjacket of the euro, many European countries will bounce back to economic health.
Red puppet master of the Middle East
A new order takes shape as the long-established hegemony of America in the region ends — the result of Trump taking the U.S. along a path of international isolation.
Russia, led by Vladimir Putin, right, will be joined by Iran and Turkey as the dominant powers in the Middle East, creating a new security umbrella and making threats to Saudi Arabia, to a string of smaller Gulf states such as Bahrain as well as traditional allies such as Jordan.
At last, victories against terrorism
Islamic State will be heavily defeated in Syria, Iraq and South Asia. Meanwhile, the Pakistani army will drive the Taliban further out of the tribal areas of the country. Christians will be allowed to return to the Syrian city of Aleppo and other areas previously held by extremist Muslim groups. In Iraq, too, Christians may make a wary return to areas vacated by ISIS.
The welfare revolution (part 2)
The reforms begun by former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith start to make a big difference. Universal credit — the new simplified system replacing Jobseeker’s Allowance — will be introduced across much of Britain.
It will have a profound effect by making it far easier for people to move from unemployment into work.
Increasingly, other countries will follow suit as the Duncan Smith brainchild is seen as the most important legacy of the Cameron government.