Big Ben has bonged for the final time in maybe four years. It’s expected that we won’t hear the Elisabeth Tower Great Bell peal again until 2021 as maintenance work is carried out.
Big crowds gathered on Parliament Square outside the Palace of Westminster to hear the final bongs, marking midday on 21 August.
Tourists were left a little disappointed and MPs showboated in the gardens of House of Commons.
I just spoke to a tourist from Shangai who expressed disappointment that 'Theresa' doesn't appear to have shown up.
— Verdict (@VerdictUK) August 21, 2017
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Stephen Pound quotes old saying that "no one is as conservative as a Labour MP" as he watches Big Ben chime. Not sure what is real here. pic.twitter.com/SyvJe3BdUB
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) August 21, 2017
Between now and 2021 we’re likely to see some pretty big changes to the UK, the European Union, the US, the global economy, technology, and the way we live and work.
Here’s the way a few things might have changed when we next hear the bells ring out.
Brexit and the UK
The UK — probably — will have left the EU. This is due to happen in March of 2019, though the UK may still be in some kind of transitional segway out of the trading bloc.
If all goes to British prime minister Theresa May’s plan, the country will have left the EU and have done deals that the remaining 27 member states are happy with so it can keep trade flowing over the channel.
Of course, if things don’t go to May’s plan then the UK will be relying on World Trade Organisation rules to trade with the bloc, potentially hobbling business.
There may also be a square mile-wide City shaped hole in London if the country’s biggest banks don’t get the passporting rights to the EU they so badly want and decide to up-sticks to Paris, Frankfurt, or Amsterdam.
Scotland and #IndyRef2
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold a second Scottish independence referendum before May 2021, the date of the next Scottish Parliament election.
The last referendum on Scottish independence saw a 55 percent vote for the country to remain a part of the UK, with enthusiasm for a second vote dipping somewhat over the last two years as Brexit uncertainty and election fatigue have taken their toll.
Sturgeon’s bid for a second poll also took a hit during the UK’s June snap general election, in which the Scottish National Party lost 21 MPs and a big chunk of its vote.
Those pushing for another vote on the country’s independence are banking on pro-EU sentiment in the country and frustration over the Brexit process leading to a resurgence in support.
However, if Brexit goes to plan (and the oil price fails to return to the heady heights of 2014) the Scottish people may feel the risk of leaving is too great, with the negative risks outweighing any potential benefits.
The European Union has been throw into an existential crisis due to Brexit. While many within the EU are focused on making sure the UK’s exist is smooth (though not so smooth as others want to follow suit), after 2019 it’s likely attention will swiftly turn to reform of the trading bloc.
Countries that have struggled economically as part of the Euro zone or feel freedom of movement is putting too much of a strain on their resources may hold referendums of their own.
There are loud voices in Italy, Spain, and Greece for serious EU reform and if the bloc doesn’t take calls seriously we might be looking at a Grexit, Ita-Leave, or even a Frexit.
The global economy
China will still be transitioning to slower growth and India will be picking up more of the slack.
Developed economies will likely be either coming out of or in the midst of another recession, possibly caused by the burst consumer debt bubble or artificial intelligence wiping out millions of jobs in a stroke.
The oil price will almost certainly be still be stuck under $50 per barrel and oil rich countries will be fumbling to re-align their economies towards sustainable energy and technology.
Russia will have become far more insular and protectionist with its own payments processor and be clamping down on internet dissidents. Putin, will, of course, will be well in control.
Maduro will probably be still in charge in Venezuela and the county will have sunk further into recession as countries pile on sanctions.
At least one country will have made bitcoin an official currency and it will be worth more than $5,000 per coin.
The US and Donald Trump
Who even knows anymore?
Markets are still betting US president Donald Trump will see out his full four years in office and then run again, but if he doesn’t begin a nuclear war with North Korea, Trump may spark a domestic race war that further divides an already fractured country.
There’s a good chance 2021 will see Trump still in the White House and the world’s media still tuned into the Donald Trump show 24/7.
Technology is the reason for most of the changes listed above and will be the prime driver of global change will into the 21st century.
The rise of AI and automation is likely to wipe out jobs on a massive scale and will just be getting into full swing by 2021.
Self driving cars will have arrived in force, Amazon will make massive lay offs as factories become automated and big business will begin replacing office drones with faster, more efficient algorithms.
Some of the world’s AI experts are already warning the technology could spin out of our control.
Tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook will all have passed the $1trn market cap and will appear more stable than most countries with almost everyone in the world relying on their services every day.
Mark Zuckerberg still won’t have signalled his intention to become a politician but tech reporters won’t have stopped suggesting he will.