Letter from Edinburgh - Friday 6th January 2017

Will 2017 be the year of two Germans? In politics Angela Merkel faces her most difficult re-election campaign. 

She has ruled out not only Germany but European politics for more than a decade. She predates Barack Obama as an elected leader. She is the one constant among European leaders.

But her decision, based on compassion and a keen sense of history, to allow a million refugees escaping the hell of Syria and Afghanistan into Germany, has caused voters to question her leadership. She is being attacked by the far right – Germany’s equivalent of Ukip. But her political future will be decided by everyday voters who will judge whether anyone else has a better plan. That is not obvious.

Merkel’s future is fundamentally important to the fate of the EU. The French elections in the spring look like being a contest between the right and the far right. So immigration – a big issue across France – will lead to a change of police on open borders across Europe. It seems unlikely that continental Europe’s open borders will close. But security in France is the number one election issue after the atrocities in Nice and Paris.

Much will change in 2017 across Europe. Less will happen on the endless shambles that is the UK government’s position towards Europe.

If the Tories in London manage to work out how they plan to remove the UK from the EU it will be the surprise of the year. They said there would be no running commentary on the negotiations. But that is precisely what has happened.

During last June’s referendum, we were told that leaving the EU would save the UK taxpayer £350 million a week. This would then be invested in the NHS. Now some Tory ministers openly concede that if businesses and companies keep their ability to sell goods and services into Europe without charges for this, the government will have to pay an annual fee.

So rather than more money for key medical services, the decision could cost even more.

And the other German? Jurgen Klopp is box office. The English Premiership is full of genuinely fascinating international coaches. Yes, they are paid a fortune. Millions.

The money washing around football caused by the lucrative TV deals has made many people very rich. Obscenely so to many.

But the game is certainly entertainment and Liverpool create games that neutral fans, never mind the diehard Reds, want to watch. Klopp had a fabulous career in Germany winning every honour in the game. He was brought into Liverpool to resurrect a famous club who have not won the league since 1990. And he’s giving it a heck of a go.

The brand of football is wonderfully exciting and Klopp kicks every ball. His post-match interviews are genuinely funny. Whatever happens, he has made football fun again.

Have a wonderful 2017.

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