Global crises are met by perplexity

The people in the hall at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel were supposed to know the answers. Government officials, policy experts, business people and journalists, had come from all over the world to attend Chatham House’s third London Conference on June 16-17.

The World Today Published 2 August 2016 Updated 26 November 2020 2 minute READ

The range of questions they were debating was astonishingly broad – from oil to China to Ukraine to migration to Brexit. They heard what the British foreign secretary Philip Hammond had to say about the inevitable failure of the Leave campaign, only one week before polling day. They listened to Hamid Karzai and his plea to let the Afghan and Syrian people decide their own fate without the intervention of foreign powers. António Guterres, the recently retired UN High Commissioner for Refugees, argued bitterly that ‘mainstream politicians who try to imitate more extreme views just to win some votes in the short term only legitimize the more extreme views in the long term’.

But what everybody in the room felt acutely was a sense of insecurity and the lack of a solution at hand.

They could not have known that Britain would vote to leave the European Union, or that Hammond would shortly be chancellor in a new government.

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