Columnists > The UK and the US have now become destabiliser nations in the world

01 February 2017 | by Peter Hennessy

The UK and the US have now become destabiliser nations in the world


Kenneth Baker, who served in several Cabinet posts during the Thatcher and Major years, said to me just after Donald Trump won the US presidential election: “We know already that 2016 will be one of those years, like 1939 or 1945, of which we will come to say, ‘before 2016’ or ‘after 2016’.” First, there was the Brexit referendum in June, and then the US result in November. He’s right.

As the year turned into 2017 there were more uncertainties, perils even, facing the UK than at any time since 1945 (if you exclude the crisis moments of the Cold War, admittedly a big “if”). This became still more apparent in two set-piece speeches – Theresa May’s on Brexit, at Lancaster House in London on 17 January, and Mr Trump’s, in Washington DC on 20 January, on his plans to remake his country’s politics, its economy and its international relations.

Both speeches illustrated, albeit in different ways, the degree to which the UK and the US have now become destabiliser nations in the world. This is certainly not how we Brits imagine ourselves. Quite the reverse. The speeches also fleshed out some of the broad gauge consequences of those two pivotal events of 2016. Both, inevitably, left a quantum of uncertainty about what might be about to become of us and of the architecture of international institutions on which we have come to rely for our peace and security: in the case of Nato, for nearly 70 years.


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