Donald Trump is deservedly guaranteed a place in history as one of that great country’s most short-sighted American Presidents. Take his impetuous decision to unilaterally withdraw soldiers from Syria, where they were working well with the Kurds. That has allowed Turkey’s current brutal attack and could boost terrorism. Trump justified his widely-panned decision by saying that America is 7,000 miles away and will crush Isis, the so-called Islamic State, “if they come anywhere near us.”

He has forgotten that Osama bin Laden was even further away when he devised the horrific attacks on Washington and New York on 11 September 2001. Bin Laden’s successors in Isis will probably get a new lease of life as fighters escape from Kurdish prisons in Syria and regroup. A resurgent Isis presents real dangers to our allies such as the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, and much more widely.

America is self-sufficient in energy but instability, conflict, and disruption could impact on oil prices upon which global trade relies, including America’s economy. Very many thousands of Syrian Kurds will understandably flee from Syria. Some will head for Europe. The Turkish President has also threatened to send millions of refugees to Europe if we criticise him. We should nonetheless urge Turkey to stop its invasion and negotiate.

Trump is limiting American influence and that void requires careful statesmanship from the European Union and the UK. We are leaving the EU but still have many continuing foreign policy and security interests in common with the EU, and as Europeans.

The EU and the UK have both differed on other American foreign policy moves. For instance, we have tried to hold the line on a treaty that America unilaterally abandoned and that makes it difficult for Iran to become a nuclear-armed power because its regime gives every appearance that it could use nukes.

The deal is often criticised as inadequate because its aim was not to rein in Iran’s aggressive behaviour towards its neighbours but had a more limited purpose of putting off the day Iran acquires nukes.

If Iran ever achieves atomic capacity, then Israel could easily be a target and millions of Israelis and Palestinians would die. And the literal and economic and political fall-out would not be confined to the region but spread with disastrous consequences for us all.

We need not remain in the EU to show concerted leadership in world affairs with our European neighbours. We have common interests in encouraging stability and the rule of law. Trump’s erratic and short-sighted foreign policy has exposed the need for all European countries, in or out of the EU, to pull together.

I am not merely making a moral case, though there is a major one to answer, but arguing that if we fail to discharge leadership we will suffer for many decades to come. We don’t have a magic wand that can wave away the deep-seated problems of the Middle East but a powder key on our borders will explode if we don’t try. Distance is little protection in today’s small world.

We clearly cannot rely on President Trump and, therefore, Europeans need to unite to help halt the descent into more chaos. Brexit is a huge issue but the new international context of crisis illustrates that it should be resolved amicably and quickly so we can reset security relations as Europeans.

In 1624, the English poet John Donne wrote that “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Trump has made the stakes very clear. Donne’s moving and wise words should inform Europe’s collective moral and practical priorities in a dangerous world.


The History of Parliament