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Meeting in the age of high-stakes brinkmanship

Politics, on both sides of the Atlantic, has reached a deadlock.

In the UK, at least, things are fast coming to a head and, in one way or another, the seemingly unresolvable must be resolved.

Theresa May’s Brexit deal goes before MPs in the House of Commons next Tuesday. As things stand, it is very unlikely to meet with approval. Then what? is anyone’s guess. The UK’s unwritten constitution, a mixture of conventions and statutes, will have entered uncharted waters.

If the UK is to avoid a no-deal Brexit, something will have to give. Will it finally mean curtains for Theresa May’s embattled premiership? Will Article 50 be revoked? Will the Labour party find a way to force a general election? Or will a second referendum be the only way to break the stalemate?

In America, the dysfunction is no less serious. The Trump-ordered government shutdown over Congress’s refusal to pay for a ‘wall’ along the Mexican border has now entered its third week.

Trump has indicated that he is prepared to continue the shutdown indefinitely, even declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and use military funding to complete the project.

The Democrats, who hold the majority in the House of Representatives and therefore the purse strings, have described the wall as an ‘immorality’. It is difficult to see either side blinking first.

US and UK-based associations will be keeping a watchful eye on developments, as will leaders of the meetings ‘industry’ – the convention centres, bureaux, and PCOs whose livelihoods depend on the ability to attract business events. The reputational harm caused by the political impasse in both countries will be something all parties involved in hosting international events will want to keep to an absolute minimum.

It’s just possible, however, that the fallout from the UK’s decision to leave the EU and the USA’s decision to make Donald Trump their 45th president has not really begun, that the last two years of head-swirling chaos have been a mere primer to the main events. If that’s the case, God Help Us!

Both the Wall and Brexit have become totemic of a breakdown in political discourse that has left ugly scars on both sides of the Atlantic, turning neighbour against neighbour, family member against family member. Whatever happens next, one thing seems certain: it won’t be pretty.