It is high summer and vacation time, including for me, as this will be my last column here until Labour Day. It is hard not to wonder what the political geography of the West will be like when we are all back at our workplaces like happy little elves in September. The other Western G7 countries, apart from Canada, are in the midst of fraught political landscapes and events. The cyclonic American President Trump, magnificently disdainful of all opinions except those of his followers in his own country, is enjoying every moment in his great office and tumult more than serenity. The British prime minister, Theresa May, has staked everything on a compromise over Brexit between remain and leave. If her proposal is rejected by the European Union, that will dispose of her as prime minister, but its substantive acceptance will not only strengthen her fragile mandate but open the European horizon by the creation of a two-tiered Europe: a common market for all and political integration for only those countries that wish it. This flexibility of options and more accountable government from Brussels have always been the two missing ingredients in a successful European co-operative framework. Unfortunately, Trump may be accurate that there is no middle option between membership in the European Union and complete departure from it. To save Europe from the amputation of the U.K. and incidentally the demise of German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the German and French leaders will have to dictate to the dull, authoritarian gnomes in Brussels.
The life of the German chancellor is almost as complicated as Theresa May’s. In accepting over a million desperate refugees from the Middle East and Africa over the past several years, she has earned the moral homage of all and must surely have gone some distance to expunging whatever remains of the guilt and shame of the German people, which they should logically have long outgrown, for the unspeakable crimes of the Third Reich. It is a magnificent humanitarian feat, but as was foreseen, and was regularly stated, it has rendered the four-term chancellor’s political position very precarious.