Great Britain and the western world is sailing in perilous waters. More perilous than I can ever remember. And I go back to the days of the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs, the assassination of Kennedy. I remember the grainy public information adverts that were to be shown in the advent of a nuclear attack. Protect and Survive is well worth digging out of the archives. The idea was to soothe the British people into the laughable belief that they would not be fried to a crisp or die a lingering death from radioactive fallout if they taped their windows and hid under the kitchen table. In village pubs there was a discreet grey box which emitted continuous beeps. If they stopped it meant last orders. Forever.
Then, almost by accident, two political giants emerged. I say by accident as Ronald Reagan was always scoffed at as a rather dim B movie actor and Margaret Thatcher a prim grocer’s daughter. They understood the meaning of freedom and set about freeing the Soviet bloc counties from the tyranny of Moscow. I remember the sheer elation at the fall of the Berlin Wall (I still have a piece as my researcher was there by chance when it happened). Gradually country after country was liberated. They are all now part of the EU.
But the monster of European nationalism has once more been unleashed and could sweep through the continent. These dangerous tendencies led to dictatorship in Spain, Portugal, Greece and the then Yugoslavia and of course Germany. With the exception of Germany all this is all in my living memory.
The founding fathers of the EU understood this so they wanted to subsume national pride into a European ideal of oneness. It was noble, but doomed to failure because the gradual stupidification, arrogance and other worldliness of the Commission. Juncker and his crew have a lot to answer for. They float on a tax free cloud above mount Olympus. They are rightly terrified that a successful British Brexit will lead to the rest following suit. These people have no imagination nor leadership. They don’t realise that times have changed. They just dig in their heels and will do their best to punish us. To make us an example of what will happen if any other state dares to challenge them. But time is running out. Theirs.
New EU elections happen in 2019 and the Commission is replaced. If Merkel is still in post and we have a sensible government in France a new blueprint for the EU must be drawn up. The crisis in the Middle East has made the free movement of people a nightmare. But the Treaty of Rome deals with the free movement of workers. There has to be central reforms which benefit the whole of Europe. Cameron understood this, but because of the intransigence of Juncker he failed. This is a time for courage and imagination. It is Europe’s last chance.
Perhaps this is why May will be revealing that it is her plan to remove us from the single Market and the customs Union. At first I recoiled in horror. I still think that it would be very bad for British business. I would imagine that her speech will nuance this a little to give her a bit of wriggle room. But to get results from the Commission a gun has to held to their heads. They must be in no doubt that we mean what we say. There can be no room for that great Brussels delicacy, Euro fudge. But this is a high wire act without a safety net. There will be consequences in the markets and a fear of relocation of some major banks.
The uncertainty and chaos that will soon grip Europe is meat and drink to Putin who is a very dangerous man. He wants us divided. He wants to drive a wedge through NATO. Trump has got to understand that the only way to deal with him is through strength. Putin is the master of manipulation. He can sniff out a weakness at fifty metres. He can outstare and abuse an opponent and then shower them in flattery. He successfully unnerved Merkel by bringing his dog to a meeting. She has a phobia about them. He is massing troops and tactical nuclear weapons along the borders of the Baltic states who are terrified. He is constantly aggressively probing British air space and is adept has cyber disruption. For generations Russia has been the experts of camouflage and misinformation. For the latter they have a doctrine and a name for it, Maskirovka.
So this is the scenario. Putin has cleverly sowed distrust amongst American intelligence agencies and Trump. It means that they will be loathe to brief him fully in case they are compromised.It means that British intelligence will be reluctant to cooperate fully with them for fear of us being compromised. It means that the Five Eyes will be constantly fretting how much information that they should give to the Americans. Putin must be grinning from ear to ear. Five Eyes keep us safe. They have been successful in helping us keep terrorist operations off of our shores. Trump’s election has made the world a more dangerous place. The first thing he must do is reassure the Baltic States that NATO mean NATO.
But how strong will Trump allowed to be? Of course we have to work with him as closely as we can. Yet his Presidency will be hobbled from the start. The American people and both Houses will worry if his business links to Putin are true and damaging. In the light of the resignation of some of his staff because of their Moscow connections and the comments by his son about business interests, there is enough to keep bitter Democrats causing trouble for years to come. One American intelligence source said to me the other day that he would be surprised if Trump survives a full term and that there is a very real chance that impeachment proceedings will be instigated. But the next in line is Pence. To my mind he is far more dangerous just as a creationist.
The first issue for Trump is to decide whether Putin is a sociopath or a psychopath. It might be time for me to dust down Protect and Survive and reinforce the kitchen table.