In 2017, citizens in the three largest EU member states have gone (or are due to go) to the ballot box. The general election in the UK was followed by the French legislative elections, while in September, Angela Merkel is facing German voters in her bid to become chancellor for the fourth consecutive time. One of the most pressing issues facing the EU is of course Brexit. And the outcome of this year’s elections in these three key member states will have a significant impact on the way the Brexit negotiations are conducted and the potential outcome. Contrary to most expectations, Theresa May could not increase her majority in the UK’s election and is now dependent on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to govern. Even though in some respects to the right of the Conservative Party, the DUP has arguably a preference for a ‘softer’ Brexit given Northern Ireland’s close trade links to the Republic south of the border. Moreover, the strong performance of the Scottish branch of the Conservative Party with their socially liberal leader Ruth Davidson could potentially influence the balance of power within the party. Finally, against expectations, the Labour Party, which has a more ambivalent position on leaving the EU, increased its seat share, as did the decidedly pro-European Liberal Democrats.
It is increasingly clear that US President Donald Trump represents a departure when it comes to America’s global outlook and behavior. As a result, the United States will no longer play the leading international role that has defined its foreign policy for three quarters of a century, under Democratic and Republican presidents alike. We have already seen many examples of this change. The traditional US commitment to global organizations has been superseded by the idea of “America first.” Alliances and security guarantees once regarded as a given are increasingly conditioned on how much allies spend on defense and whether they are seen to derive unfair advantage from trade with the US. More broadly, foreign trade is viewed with suspicion – supposedly a source of job loss rather than an engine of investment, job creation, growth, and stability. Immigration and refugee policies have become more restrictive. Less emphasis is being placed on promoting democracy and human rights. More dollars are going to defense, but fewer resources are being devoted to supporting global health or development This is not to be confused with isolationism. Even Trump’s America will continue to play a meaningful role in the world. It is using military force in the Middle East and Afghanistan, increasing diplomatic pressure on North Korea to rein in its nuclear and missile programs, and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. And the policies of states, cities, and companies will translate into an American commitment to climate change, despite Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris agreement.
By accusing India of demanding “billions and billions and billions of dollars” as a condition for its participation in the Paris climate agreement, US President Donald Trump has ruffled what promised to be a close relationship between the world’s two largest democracies. After Trump singled out India in his speech renouncing the Paris accord, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj retorted that “there is absolutely no reality” in Trump’s allegation. According to Swaraj, India joined the agreement not “out of greed or fear,” but “because of our commitment to protecting the environment.” India thus has no choice but to build new coal plants in the medium term. As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out when the Paris agreement was concluded, India still needs to “grow rapidly to meet the aspiration of 1.25 billion people, 300 million of whom are without access to energy.”