15 Nov 2016

Brexit and Trump: what’s coming next in Whitehall and Washington?

The Times seems to have got its hands on a consultant’s assessment of the Brexit process in government. Whitehall is swimming with consultants who’ve come in to help out with Brexit, many of them on a pro bono basis. The government says it was nothing more than a bid for work from Deloittes (who can probably safely assume they won’t be getting much of that if Theresa May’s got anything to do with it).

It paints a picture of a bottle-neck at the top of government which you often hear from Whitehall insiders so even if it wasn’t authored by one of them it has a ring of truth about it. There’s even some speculation it was written as a cry of help from Whitehall but by proxy from an outsider.

A Union flag flies from a flagpole near to the Elizabeth Tower, also known as Big Ben, at the Houses of Parliament in central London on November 7, 2016. Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain would become the ultimate free trade champion as she laid the groundwork Monday for a potential post-Brexit deal with India, the world's fastest growing major economy. / AFP / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The FT throws some light on one of the government’s central problems, the tough stance being taken by the other side. As well as putting the exit bill at €40bn to €60bn (including pension liabilities, loan guarantees and spending on UK projects), the FT says the European Commission is insisting the Exit will have to be agreed before the new relationship can be worked on.

Another big item in the papers today is The Times’ article by John Bolton, who could be in for a big job in the Trump administration. In terms that seem to replicate the anti-multilateral institutions approach of Mr Trump himself, Mr Bolton refers to the EU as “the Brussels swamp” and says that a new trading relationship with the UK should be “at the front of the diplomatic queue.” On other multilateral bodies, Mr Bolton says Mr Trump should strengthen Nato by adding Japan, Australia, Singapore and Israel as members. He also says that the IMF, the World Bank and most regional development banks should probably be done away with in their current form.

Donald Trump’s lifelong antipathy to multilateral organisations is one of the most consistent strands in an erratic political journey. He’s not the first US President to come to office laden with scepticism about the post-war architecture but it’s hard to imagine he won’t have more impact than his predecessors on the mission and sustainability of the EU, NATO or the UN and its many affiliated bodies.

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