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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Chaos looms in Europe and Trump wants ‘retribution’ – Starmer’s major diplomatic challenges | World News

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A new beginning for Britain and suddenly we find ourselves in a world turning itself inside out, posing clear challenges to the incoming Labour government.

The swing to the left in the UK comes just as some of our closest partners appear to be veering in the opposite direction.

After the chaos of right-wing Conservative rule, Britain has embraced the opposite: a left-wing government with a huge majority and a future that looks relatively stable and calm, dare we say it, even quite dull.

You cannot say the same for our neighbours and allies. After years of mocking and deriding the British for losing our political marbles, are our friends overseas now dropping their own?

In France, seven years of steady, centrist rule are over and with them, it seems, the career of the man once hailed as the saviour of liberal democracy.

Whatever happens in this weekend’s parliamentary elections, the gamble Emmanuel Macron took in response to far-right success in European elections has backfired.

Either the far-right attain their long-cherished dream of seizing power in the legislative assembly or they do well enough to bring a hung parliament.

The former threatens economic meltdown, to judge from the markets, the latter political chaos and gridlock.

Both will shatter the relative stability of the Macron years.

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Germany is also threatened by a surging far-right, though it may for now have more to worry about from a faltering economy and the repercussions from France’s unfolding crisis.

The European project is in trouble, its Franco-German twin engines sputtering. It may have delivered in the good years but more and more voters are disillusioned with it now.

Across the continent, more instability and more populist uprisings beckon.

And insurgents are mustering in America too. After four years of Democrat rule, the country looks increasingly likely to take a lurch back to the right.

A second Trump term threatens upheaval abroad, the potentially terminal decline of NATO and the acceptance of Russian gains through naked aggression in Ukraine, albeit delivered through negotiations, with all that might mean for the rules-based world order.

At home, Trump says he wants “retribution”. This time his worst urges may not be tempered by an experienced cabinet. If he wins, he will be entering the White House with a team of believers instead. Together they could radically alter US democracy.

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Trump’s opponents are not likely to acquiesce. A period of intense division and conflict, potentially violent, seems likely if he returns to power.

So not for the first time in British history, we can look across both the Channel and Atlantic and whiff the cordite of revolution.

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France faces a new political reality

Britain, some will argue, can also claim to have dealt with forces now threatening to tear our neighbours apart, as it has in the past.

Parliamentary debate and reason, they will say, have helped resolve the demands of populism and European secessionism. But the surge of Reform UK suggests there are more battles to come here too.

Either way, and regardless of who each of us wanted to win this election, we are entitled to a sense of catharsis and relief that our political system is still standing after one of the most turbulent periods in its history.

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The wrenching civil war over Brexit, the sacrifices of austerity, the once in a century pandemic, Trussonomics, a land war in Europe… they have all seen our democracy stress-tested to the absolute limit. But it has come out now on the other side and delivered a decisive result.

That is not to say that Sir Keir Starmer can afford any sense of schadenfreude.

Britain may have weathered its storms but it is heading in a different direction to some of its allies.

That will pose major challenges and steering a course in a rapidly diverging world will need astute, surefooted diplomacy and, judging from events looming in France already this weekend, right from the start.

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