This seems to be shaping up to be a future counterfactual in the grand tradition of soc.history.what-if (which only chewed over historical counter-factuals), but what the hell.
The story of 2017 ("Things can only get better!") continues below.
May Marine Le Pen invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, to take France out of the EU. (France also leaves the NATO single command structure at this time, but that's nothing new: they were out from 1967 to 1998). A run on the Euro ensues: the EU can survive one of France or the UK leaving, but not both. By the end of the month, Greece and Italy are threatening to leave as well. Monte Paschi Bank and Deutsche Bank experience runs due to loss of retail depositor confidence.
For no explicable reason (unless one imagines that President Trump is a sock puppet for the Kremlin) POTUS throws one of his now familiar tantrums and announces an end to nuclear weapons co-operation with the UK: there will be no more joint ownership of Boeing UGM-133 Trident 2 missiles with the Royal Navy. Theresa May, on the back foot, catches the Eurostar to Paris for an urgent summit on nuclear cooperation with Le Pen (it's a Hail Mary plan to buy French M51 missiles) to plug the gap in the UK nuclear deterrent), but Le Pen is inexplicably reluctant to sell SLBMs to the old enemy. On the way back, all the toilets break and her train is delayed inside the Channel Tunnel for 8 hours by a Border Agency exercise simulating post-EU border controls.
In Iraq, the Mosul Dam on the Tigris collapses due to poor maintenance and lack of grouting during the civil war; despite last minute attempts to relieve the dam by opening spillways, a wall of water 40 metres high washes downstream and destroys Mosul, then subsequently inundates downtown Baghdad, including the Green Zone. An estimated half million people are killed, and over 10% of the population of Iraq are rendered homeless. In the ensuing chaos, fighting between militias escalates and a second Iraqi civil war commences.
Also in May: the Trump regime issues a contract to compile a database of Muslim-Americans to a hastily-acquired Trump Organization subsidiary, and there are race riots in Marseilles, Paris, and Dearborn. The President spends four weeks of this month on vacation, tweeting angrily and threatening to sue news agencies for libel.
June Barclays Bank announces plan to move to Frankfurt. Bank of Scotland announces plan to move to Dublin. The Royal Bank of Scotland announces plan to move to Paris then cancels it 24 hours later and announces plan to relocate into low Mars orbit "to escape the contagion". Sterling continues to slide and dips below dollar parity for the first time ever, but maintains Euro parity because the Euro is also slipping. Speaker Paul Ryan proposes to address the economic malaise now affecting US exporters (due to the relatively strong dollar) by switching to the Gold Standard. Melania Trump books an 8 hour slot on QVC pushing sales of Trump-branded gold bricks. (Early purchasers complain that their gold bricks are actually a thin layer of gold plate over a lump of (much cheaper) tungsten: the Trump Organization sues them for libel.) The retail price inflation index in the UK rises to 9.5%. British economy officially in recession (although whether this is due to Brexit or the death of the Queen is unclear).
Rumors begin to circulate about the construction of concentration camps outside Paris.
The Russian army conducts its biggest peacetime exercise of the new century just outside the Estonian frontier, simulating a response to a NATO invasion through the Baltic republics. Vladimir Putin announces that Russia has only peaceful intentions and has no historic claim to Latvia. President Trump congratulates him and invites him to the opening of a (non-existent) hotel in Talinn.
Boris Johnson announces the British response to this naked aggression against a NATO member: the UK will send two Eurofighter Typhoons, a destroyer, and an infantry platoon. He then plagiarizes a speech by Winston Churchill, is called on it during a live Sky News interview, and resigns in a temper tantrum.
Donald Trump spends only 3 weeks on vacation in June: his plan to visit Fife for a round of golf is cancelled when Police Scotland say that securing the approaches against Mexican marching bands and mooning Glaswegians is impossible.
Race riots break out in multiple US cities. Race riots break out in multiple French cities: state of emergency declared.
Britain is not facing race riots or war at this time, but has a different crisis: the King has announced that it is vital for national food security during the time ahead that everyone adopt an organic vegan diet, and raising the top marginal rate of income tax to 96% (as it was during the second world war). The Daily Mail and Daily Express, for the past 20 years pro-royal family, begin running headlines about "Loony Lords" and "Charlie Chuckles", and editorials with titles like "Nigel Farage for President?"
The banking crisis in Italy accelerates. Monte Paschi is effectively bankrupt, and despite government denials contagion takes down several other Italian lending institutions and spreads to German institutions that acted as guarantors for short-term loans.
Finally, on June 30th, just as Russian tanks roll across the Estonian border, Deutsche Bank files for bankruptcy.
July Despite the invasion of a NATO member nation by Russia, Donald Trump announces his intention of taking the first week of July as a vacation. Finally losing patience, VPOTUS Pence invokes Section 4 of the 25th amendment and seizes power. He institutes an immediate cabinet reshuffle and it is noted that all the new faces are hardline dominionist Christians. Quietly and without any fuss Ruth Bader Ginsberg has had a stroke: Pence indicates that her replacement will be a pro-life fundamentalist Christian. (Goodbye Roe v. Wade and, quite possibly, Griswold v. Connecticut.) A bill to revive the Comstock Laws is introduced simultaneously in the Senate and House, but nobody is paying any attention because ...
Following a tense 48 hour period of negotiation, Pence announces to the world that he has reached a consensus with the Russian government and the tanks will be removed by the end of the week. This doesn't happen, but by the end of the week the media news cycle has moved on, because ...
Sterling has dropped to 80% of dollar parity and the Euro has dropped below dollar parity for the first time since 2003 as the liquidity crisis originating in the European banking sector spreads to China. The ECB and Bank of England attempt quantitative easing prematurely, to no avail. Gold spikes to $4000 per ounce; the spot price of oil triples.
A challenge to the May government's process on Brexit is heard by the European Court, which rules that Article 50 was triggered when the referendum result was announced, not by the government declaration nine months later; the UK is already halfway out of the EU, with no transitional deal under consideration much less agreed. A challenge to the Brexit referendum is heard by the UK Supreme Court which rules that Brexit violates international treaty law in the shape of the Good Friday Agreement. An entity identifying itself as the Cyberspace Irish Republican Army announces that if Brexit results in violations of the GFA or in checkpoints along the Irish/NI (EU/non-EU) border, they will resume the armed struggle "by any means available". The most ferocious distributed denial of service attack ever is then launched against UK government websites—now the only supported way for citizens to access government services—by over five million internet-connected lightbulbs worldwide and every smart meter owned by British Gas (they've been pwned). Public sources attribute the attack to Russian hackers, but the possibility that the CyIRA is a real grass-roots organization using zero-day tools provided by state level actors has to be considered. (Hacking tools are much easier to smuggle across borders than AK-47s and Semtex.)
The Campi Flegrei super-volcano caldera, which has been showing increasing activity for years, burps: Monte Nuovo begins to emit smoke, and the ground level rises 50cm.
August Begins with the 2017 global financial crisis in full swing, NATO in disarray, a Russian army group parked in eastern Estonia, and a super-volcano rumbling ominously in Italy. Then everything gets worse.
In the UK, HSBC, over-exposed both in the UK and the far east, declares bankruptcy. HSBC is the world's sixth largest bank and the largest bank in the UK sector; with equity of over $530Bn the collapse is on a similar scale to that of Lehman Brothers in 2008.
The Pence administration executes a 180-degree foreign policy turn on Russia with respect to the Trump administration. US military advisors are dispatched to Syria to back the rebels instead of bombing them. A Patriot missile battery scores its first kill against a Russian bomber over Syria; protestations that the missile crew thought it was a Syrian air force plane are ignored, and "Syrian" air strikes against the US missile batteries in theater prove alarmingly effective. (The "Syrian" air force apparently now operates state-of-the-art Russian planes, and the 30 year old US SAM batteries are showing their age.)
Pence is reported as having made an after-dinner speech, before an approving audience of fellow Dominionists, in which he announced that the Kingdom of Christ is at hand and that the US Army will triumph over Da'esh within 30 days "at a place called Armageddon".
The following day, Air France flight 007, the daily Airbus 380 super-jumbo service from Paris to New York's JFK airport, deviates from its approach path two minutes before landing and explodes in mid-air over Manhattan. There were 492 passengers and crew on board, and another 38 people are killed on the ground, making it the worst air disaster in history ... until the claims of responsibility begin to trickle in from, variously, Da'esh, the Estonian Resistance, and 4chan.
Merely dealing with an aviation disaster over Manhattan is bad enough, but two days later rescuers and commuters who were under the area of the explosion begin to come down with a mystery respiratory ailment. 24 hours later the first deaths from weaponized anthrax are reported. Wall Street is closed; downtown Manhattan is cordoned off, causing chaos: USAMRIID and the CDC are called in: the White House announces that they are dealing with a terrorist biological warfare attack on the scale of 9/11, and declares that "Middle-Eastern Islamic Terrorists" are responsible. Suggestions that the disease vector strongly resembles an Anthrax strain weaponized at Biopreparat are ignored by the media: Ken Alibek is unavailable for comment, having been found dead in his apartment. (A later autopsy will reveal the presence of a tiny bead containing a cocktail of conotoxins and Irukandji venom). Curiously, web sites promoting the theory that AF007 was blown up by the GRU as a false flag operation to induce a US invasion of Syria come under heavy attack by the CyIRA, and their owners are doxxed by wikileaks.
A second Russian army is poised on the Latvian border. Finland mobilizes the army reserves. The Polish government declares a state of emergency, and calls for Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty to be activated. France declines, citing secession from NATO. The US State Department, facing an angry Chinese carrier battle group in the Taiwan Straits (a legacy of former POTUS Trump's mishandling of Sino-American relations) and a likely war in the Middle East, is over-committed and opts for negotiation rather than ultimatum.
Then, at the end of August, just as Germany heads into its federal elections, Angela Merkel loses a vote of confidence in the Bundestag over her handling of the Baltic crisis and the simultaneous global financial crisis and has a stroke.
And the Euro collapses.
September The UK's retail price index shows inflation hitting 12.5%. If the current rate of increase is extrapolated, Sterling will be experiencing Weimar levels of hyperinflation within 15 months. In an attempt to reassure the markets the Chancellor of the Exchecquer announces that there will be no quantitative easing. A liquidity crisis ensues and what's left of British industry grinds to a shuddering halt as no banks are lending and no businesses can operate without credit.
A panicky interim manager parachuted in from Serco, who have been awarded site operating responsibility on an emergency basis due to the sudden bankruptcy of the previous contractor, takes one look at the accounts for Windscale and orders the immediate closure and laying off of staff for some of the storage units on site, notably the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond. An anomalously warm summer has led to algae overgrowth on the pond and loss of water through evaporation, and without monitoring, the buildup of radioactive sludge becomes critical—literally. Greenpeace estimates that the pond contains 1300Kg of dissolved plutonium: this is discovered to be a regrettable low-balling when the unattended and badly eroded concrete pond comes to a rolling boil and begins to spew fallout across the Irish Sea. Initial attempts at denial only make matters worse, and by the time (a week later) the British government admits to what's going on, the radioactive discharge exceeds the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daichii and is second in degree only to the Chernobyl disaster.
This is not the only radiological disaster of the month. Chaos and confusion arising from the global financial meltdown—gold has now hit $8000/ounce, but the proliferation of fake gold bricks has resulted in many people refusing to accept it—is leading to industrial accidents. Airliners across the USA and EU remain grounded in the wake of the AF007 attack as operators work to add biowarfare safety to their security screening protocols: international supply chains are beginning to shut down as container ships reach their destinations and nobody will pay for their cargo or fuel. In the UK there are reports of food riots in Newcastle, Liverpool, and the West Midlands: things are much worse elsewhere. Optimists with flush Bitcoin wallets—BtC is trading around $16,000 or £22,500—are keeping quiet: there are reports of organized gangs hunting down BtC traders and murdering them for the contents of their laptops.
The Greek government defaults on its Euro debt, nationalizes its banking industry, and issues an interim New Drachma—plans have apparently been in place for over a year, and the transition goes relatively smoothly, in contrast to the proposed French transition to the New Franc, which leads to anti-FN demonstrations on a scale of millions and a march on the Elysee Palace that results in 14 deaths and hundreds of injuries when troops open fire on the crowd.
USAF and Army units begin to deploy to Syria, but are hampered when Monte Nuovo begins to erupt continuously, blasting a cloud of volcanic ash into the skies that drifts north into the great circle route from the eastern US seaboard to Syria.
Quietly, and without any great fuss, the Chinese People's Liberation Army crosses the border into North Korea and brings food and (relative) freedom to the DPRK. There's no significant opposition; King Jong-Un has spent the past two years purging any conceivable internal opponents then lost his nerve and fled to a six-star hotel suite in Dubai.
Power brown-outs begin to affect the UK as autumn closes in and the price of Norwegian and Russian natural gas rises beyond the ability of cash-flow-kneecapped operators to pay. There are widespread fuel shortages at the pumps and the government announces plans to bring in petrol and diesel rationing.
The Russian army remains poised on the Latvian frontier, and the troops on Estonian national soil do not start the anticipated drive west on Talinn. President Putin has not been seen for some time and rumors are circulating about heated arguments in the Kremlin. PRIVATE EYE runs a cover cartoon showing Putin yelling at Alexander Dugin: "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"
(TO BE CONTINUED) ...