2019 has been an eventful year. The world is changing fast as it moves into a New Year and decade. There may be some upheaval, but I think this will be worth it as the political and economic structure of the world begins to change for the better. 2019 bore out of some of my predictions from last year, such as the ongoing stabilisation of Syria by Assad and Putin, as well as the change of government in the UK (arguably two of them, in fact). India also openly used military force in Pakistan as part of counterterrorism, which is something that I thought would happen.
Below are my predictions for what will happen in the year 2020, laying the foundations of a decade of drastic global change.
1. Brexit will happen, but the economic and political downsides will swiftly become apparent
Nearly three years of Brexit embarrassment is over for the UK. It will leave the EU on January 31 2020, following the Conservatives’ landslide general election win. However the reason for the establishment’s dislike of Brexit will emerge, as the first challenges to small and medium business begin to manifest. There will be an economic slowdown even as Scotland and Northern Ireland begin to chafe at being part of a political and economic disengagement from the EU that they do not want. The seeds of the end of the British Union may well have been sown by Boris Johnson. This will be a fascinating story that will play out over the next decade.
2. The British Labour Party will continue to detach itself from electoral reality
Labour’s humiliating defeat under Corbyn was coming. The difference between now and 2017 is that the public had seen enough of Corbyn, and it hated him. It is not possible to win a general Election in the UK from the Left. However the scale of the 2019 defeat was so big it is likely to need two election cycles to overturn. While it is not impossible to return to power in one cycle (for example David Cameron helped the Tories to the position of single largest Party in 2010 from a worse numerical position in 2005), it is very difficult without an exceptionally charismatic leader. Labour are looking for a Kinnock or Howard. What they will likely get is someone just to the right of Corbyn, but not close enough to the centre to win.
3. The Eurozone will continue to stagnate, China will slow and India will take centre stage
While I consider Brexit to be economically damaging, the economic rationale for intelligent Euroscepticism has a firmer base. Having a central European monetary policy without having a corresponding centralised fiscal policy will continue to be a drag on the Eurozone. Economies like Germany will struggle as the car industry declines in the age of Uber, while China will struggle to rebalance its economy toward consumption without slowing growth. While India is slowing down at the moment due to economic formalisation, it is projected to recover by 2021 if not earlier. It is India that will power global growth in the 2020s, overtaking Germany and Japan to become the third largest economy by the end of the decade.
4. Trump will avoid impeachment, and be re-elected.
It is clear that the Republican controlled Senate has no intention of impeaching Donald Trump. His voter base appears intact and the US economy is growing robustly. More importantly, the Democrats are not in a good position, with myriad candidates typically pulling to the Left. This is not a good overall recipe for the Democratic Party, which will likely lose the election to Trump in November 2020.
5. India will increasingly use military force as a counter terrorism tool
The Indian airstrike in Balakot in February was a drastic change in policy. Delhi can clearly argue that the nuclear bluff of Pakistan has been called. If and when another terrorist atrocity occurs in 2020 the powerful Indian military retaliation will be expansive. Changes to India’s command structure and doctrine point to a more integrated, swift mobilisation and deployment. Indian power today is such that even the Chinese have not dared to attempt a military engagement with it. India’s power and influence will grow decisively, with significant geopolitical consequences.
6. The wars in the Middle East will wind down
While there are powerful lobbies pushing for a more interventionist stance on Iran, this will not happen. Trump has shown no interest in this, and neither will the Democrats if they do capture power. The war in Syria in winding down with Assad and Putin’s assault in Idlib. They have won. This may not be an optimal outcome for human rights, but for the purposes of counterterrorism and stability a sane, rational dictator is much better than terrorists running wild. Even Western leaders such as France’s Macron have acknowledged this, leaning toward working with Assad. The Yemen crisis will also come to an end.
7. The global terrorism threat will continue to morph
Every major power centre now faces a terrorist threat fundamentally rooted in Central Asia and the Middle-East. With the destruction of IS, and pressure maintained on al-Qaeda it is likely that the strategy of terrorists will shift back to insurgency in unstable areas and so-called ‘lone wolf’ attacks in the West. The path to victory against terrorism is to discredit the ideology, but that is a process that will take decades. It is likely that Russia and China will opt for a different, more destructive path to counterterror.
8. The ‘Asian NATO’ to balance China will accelerate with British and French participation
One of the most significant but under-reported news stories of the year is the rise of an Asian ‘Quad’ of Australia, Japan, India and the US to counter China. It will likely include Britain and France before long, as the rest of the world begins to make preparations to robustly face down China. This nascent organisation will evolve, strengthening the bonds and military power of global democracy.