I don’t normally comment on foreign policy in these columns; I prefer tackling the issues that directly face the people of Peterborough. From time to time, however, the international situation is worthy of discussion.
Many who watched Donald Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un felt that this was a moment of hope.
I do not want to suggest that any desire for peace is misplaced: for once, I actually agreed with President Trump when he said it’s courageous to make peace.
However, I believe that a fair degree of scepticism is warranted.
My training is in the law. This education has given me a sensitivity to what words are being used. Words can either convey meaning or obfuscation, clarity or obliqueness, commitment or lack thereof.
At first glance, the so-called historic agreement between the United States and North Korea is less impactful than I would hope.
There is a commitment to “de-nuclearisation”: but by when? What does “de-nuclearisation” actually mean? What is the process by which this will be achieved? What are the milestones? Which sanctions will be removed?
Also: are we really sure that the North Korean regime can be trusted? Chronicles of life within North Korea describe a harsh police state: during periods of famine, people were forced to consume bare scraps of food, even tree bark. North Korea’s gulags are so large they can be seen from orbit. Look down at North Korea at night, and it’s a patch of darkness (with the exception of Pyongyang) compared to the bright lights of South Korea and China. Yet, in exchange for a few uncertain assurances, it seems this is to be forgotten, if not forgiven.
I can’t say that the British state is particularly good at making words mean things either: the word around Westminster is that Theresa May is still using hackneyed phrases like “Brexit means Brexit”.
The hour is late, March 2019 looms; yes, there is a transition period, but surely at this point we should have moved beyond platitudes which merely use fudge to plaster over deep ideological cracks.
To lead is to choose; choosing will tend to please some, anger others. Not choosing, however, eventually will please no one, particularly when the consequences of indecision arise. We’ve already seen that Land Rover is moving production to Slovakia, manufacturing numbers have dipped, and the investment climate is uncertain, as they cannot decipher what the Government means, nor the methods by which it intends to achieve its goals.
I hope peace does arrive in North Korea; I hope we do find a clear path for the country out of the EU. At the moment, however, I doubt it. I will do my best to hold our government to account.