Observations of an ex pat: 2018

It won’t improve. The world is in a mess. The economy is a bright spot, but politically there is turmoil in every which direction.

Only a fool would offer predictions, but it is worth nothing some of the big events and issues for 2018 that could prove to be important catalysts and platforms.

Catalonia: The unilateral independence referendum declared in favour of independence from Spain. The Madrid-approved election also declared in favour of independence. Now it is up to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to make concessions that will prevent his country’s break-up.

It won’t be easy. Rajoy is a dyed-in-the-wool federalist. It was his 2006 clampdown on the Catalan language and the region’s constitutional status that provided the independence movement with its latest spark.

Brexit: What appeared to be an historic pre-Christmas agreement was an exercise in papering over the political cracks.

Talks have now entered the meaty and more difficult phase—trade. The negotiators have to balance the special interests of hundreds of different industries, professions and trades in 28 countries. Each country, plus the European Parliament, can veto the result.

The EU: Spain and Brexit are victims of competing cyclical movements which are affecting Europe and beyond. On the one hand are the forces of globalism which offer a higher standard of living for all, but at the cost of the acceptance of the lowest common denominator. On the other is the traditional power of nationalism and national identity.

If the European experiment is to succeed it must find a way of balancing these competing forces or, even better, construct structures that turn the competing forces to Europe’s advantage.

Mid-Term Elections in the US : The anti-Trump brigade took heart at the end of year in Democratic victories in Alabama, New Jersey, Virginia and New York. Perhaps they can regain control of Congress in the November mid-term elections and block the second half of Trump’s term or even impeach him.

It will be tough. Of 33 Senators up for re-election, ten of them are considered vulnerable, and eight of the ten are Democrats.  The US mid-terms election race will start early, be hard fought, dirty and vitally important.

The Middle East :The Trump Administration effectively removed itself from any future Middle East peace negotiations by moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Russia has injected itself more firmly by rescuing Syria’s Assad and providing Iran with an expanded political and military role.

An event to watch is the Iraqi elections. Prime Minister Al-Abdi has done a reasonable job of balancing Sunni and Shia factions, but the latter still represent 65 percent of the population and many Sunnis have been displaced by the war against ISIS. A solid shift towards the shi-ites would be a big plus for Russia and Iran.

Russian Elections : Putin will win a fourth term in March/April. He controls the media. He controls the courts. His tentacles spread to every corner of a corrupt political and economic system which equates the glory of Putin with the glory of Mother Russia.  People will cast their ballots freely but  in the context of a structure where the thought processes are controlled by a state controlled by Putin who suffers from the same fate as the rest of us—mortality.

North Korea and the Winter Olympics : The Winter Olympics will be in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang  in February—a tempting target for North Korean’s unpredictable and nuclear-armed Kim Jong-un. Will the latest harsh sanctions keep him in check? Can the rest of the world—especially America—learn to live with a nuclearized North Korea? If so, how?

Other events and issues for 2018 : The Islamic State is gone from Syria and Iraq but thousands of its radicalised European-born fighters are returning home and jihadism continues to fill political vacuums in other parts of the Islamic world.  Climate Change is always on the agenda with both France and China keen to use the issue to further their political aims. In April, Raul Castro will step down as Cuba’s leader. Will the Trump Administration take the opportunity to extend an olive branch? The list goes on, add your own and be sure to have a Happy New Year.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War” and “America Made in Britain". To subscribe to his email alerts on world affairs click here.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Why do we use the term ex-pat for British people living abroad, but economic migrant for those moving here?

  • Helen Dudden 29th Dec '17 - 9:52am

    Having a Spanish family connection, I think from the view I have, you can’t control the views of others. I see a country that is still having issues on a way forward.
    Housing, employment and several other problems have caused some comments and reactions.

  • paul barker 29th Dec '17 - 3:13pm

    I would add the probability of Economic/Political turmoil in China & the possibility of Stockmarket Falls caused by the Crash of Bitcoin.

  • William.
    I think it’s an “our man in Havana” type conceit designed to emphasise a connection to Old Blighty so that one may simultaneously appear as removed and as a compatriot at the same time. Whenever anyone uses it, I imagine Denholm Elliot talking nervously and swatting flies away as he invites people for a gin & tonic at a local watering-hole.

  • nigel hunter 29th Dec '17 - 9:51pm

    Another possibility is Turkey turning away from the West. They have just accepted a weapons system from Russia. Could this be because it has been a hard slog to get into Europe? Also the Brexit campaign. The comments etc. referring to a flow of migrants from Turkey, the indication that they are not welcome in the West could drive them to Russia’s side due to all the rhetoric thrown in their direction.

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 29th Dec '17 - 10:51pm

    It’s “A historic”, not “An Historic’. “An Historic” is a rhetorical affectation from rather grand statesman and the media, but isn’t grammatically correct.
    The article is a broadly fair, incomplete summary of Britain’s perspective on parts of the world- except for Russia. Thought processes aren’t controlled by the state, it’s simply that the Russian people experienced what ‘the West’ approved of in Russia during the 1990s Yeltsin years, which- surprise, surprise- consisted of the West having free reign to suck capital and resources out of Russia, mafia and plutocrats run rampant at the expense of 98% of the population! The ‘corrupt economic and political system’ of which Tom Arms writes isn’t half as severe upon the lives and prospects of the 98% as the far greater corruption that took place before Putin’s autocracy. But the west didn’t care as its corporations and NGOs set upon feeding upon the soviet corpse.

    Nigel Hunter hits upon a major issue- Turkey- which exposes the weaknesses and inadequacies of established Western political leadership. It’s a NATO country but has a more autocratic govt than in Russia and already looks to Russia as a more honest regional competitor than its NATO “allies”- given the Kurdish question. This itself is a testament to far greater understanding and competence demonstrated by Putin, for all his faults, in managing the world as it is, when compared against all our delusional, virtue-signalling, two-faced, hypocritical leadership in “The West”.

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