Wednesday

22nd Nov 2017

Column / Brexit Briefing

Trump’s 'Brexit plus' will strengthen May’s hand

  • President-Elect Donald Trump's election reinforces many of the messages of Brexit. (Photo: Reuters)

The similarities between watching Donald Trump’s victory and Britain’s vote to leave the EU in June were eerie.

An unpopular establishment candidate defeated by loudmouthed, scare-mongering populist - check. A revived nationalism and anger among the economically dispossessed - check.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Even the pattern of election night was the same, as the pundits’ confidence in the accuracy of the exit polls gradually unravelled as Hillary Clinton’s so-called ‘firewall’ of safe states were either lost or too-close-to-call.

In both upsets voters blindsided the opinion pollsters. Timid Trump supporters, like the silent Brexiteers of June, were missed by the polls only to vote in their millions.

Despite all the warning signs, neither result was supposed to happen.

It is Brexit Mark II.

The stark divide

The young and the university educated voted by large majorities for Mrs Clinton, just as in Britain they voted for EU membership.

The victims of globalisation, rightly aggrieved at having been ignored by the Democrat and Republican establishment alike, for a generation, voted for the anti-politics insurgent.

The ‘rust-belt’ states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and their white, blue-collar Americans - natural Democrats - backed Trump.

Of the various common dynamics at play, only the "whitelash" theory doesn’t translate quite so well to the June referendum.

While African-American and Hispanic voters overwhelming backed Clinton, Britain’s Asian and African communities actually tended to lean towards Brexit, in large part because of complaints that it was harder for them to get jobs and visas to the UK than migrants from eastern Europe.

It is no coincidence that Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, and Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, were among the first foreign politicians to congratulate him.

In particular, Farage who campaigned with Trump, speaking for him at the Republican National Convention, is now hoping Donald will give him a job.

On Friday (11 November) he joked that “I would quite like to be his ambassador to the European Union.” It’s not such an outlandish idea.

Yet Farage is not the only extremely pleased British right-winger.

UK possible big winner

Trump’s election is a huge fillip to those in the UK who campaigned for Brexit.

He is openly hostile towards the EU and, having backed the Brexit vote, warned that his presidency would offer "Brexit plus, plus, plus."

His antipathy to the trade deals with the Pacific countries and the EU also means that TTIP is now as dead as a dodo, while Britain would be ‘at the front of the queue’ to negotiate a trade deal with the US.

Suddenly the UK has more leverage in international trade talks and, perhaps, a slightly stronger hand to play in negotiations that will follow the triggering of Article 50 next March.

It is striking to compare the glum post-election reactions of Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande with that of Boris Johnson, Theresa May’s foreign minister and jester-in-chief, who on Thursday called on "fellow Europeans to snap out of this doom and gloom and whinge-a-rama."

Lord Marland, David Cameron’s former trade envoy, thinks that a UK-US economic partnership would be an easy win for both May and Trump.

“Both countries will be looking for quick-fix partners post these events and I have no doubt that Trump, whose mother was born in Scotland ... will be looking very favourably on economic relationships with the UK,” he said on Friday.

Uncertainty is certain

There is an argument that Theresa May and her Brexit ministers are getting over excited about making friends with the new boy. But Trump’s victory vindicates their own campaign strategy.

Barack Obama was no more interested in Britain than he was in the rest of Europe.

It is no surprise to hear fellow Brexit campaigner Iain Duncan Smith enthusing about the prospect of rebuilding the so-called ‘special relationship’ which has been "in the freezer now for about eight years".

If Trump’s election potentially alters the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU, it also poses a wider and more existential problem for the European Union.

The EU is, despite the intentions of Monnet and others, an elite construct, and the politics of elites is under serious attack.

In the meantime, the next target for the anti-politics insurgency must be France.

Only the very brave could now bet against Marine Le Pen becoming president next May.

Benjamin Fox, a former reporter for EUobserver, is a consultant with Sovereign Strategy, a London-based PR firm, and a freelance writer

UK to remain in Europol for now

The British government has announced it will opt in to the EU police agency's new regulation after May 2017

The young didn’t choose Trump or Brexit

Young people have been sold down the river by this year's political events, but it's not too late for Europe to safeguard the future for the world's youth.

Britain can't pick and choose Brexit deal, MEPs say

Leaders of the European Parliament said they won't accept any deal that hurts the free flow of people within the EU single market after their first meeting with British Brexit minister, David Davis.

Agenda

Obama visits EU This Week

The US election, wide-ranging security concerns, and the EU budget dominate the agenda this week.

EU's eastern partnership needs revival

A week before a summit with EU eastern neighbours, Sweden and Poland's foreign ministers propose "a way ahead" for the relationship that is more focused on people's needs.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  3. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  4. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  5. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  6. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  7. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  8. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  9. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  11. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  12. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'

Latest News

  1. 1.3 million European citizens in call for glyphosate ban
  2. EU 'cannot afford' lengthy German deadlock
  3. David Miliband: EU should take over 500,000 refugees
  4. EU bans 'geo-blocking' - but not (yet) for audiovisual
  5. EU monitoring of Libyan coastguard done by Libyans
  6. Greek opposition leader promises end to 'surreal' era
  7. Refugee case could topple Slovenia government
  8. Leak: EU states weaken post-Dieselgate testing

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  3. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  4. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  6. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Step Up Water Management Cooperation
  8. CECEMachinery Industry Calls for Joint EU Approach to Develop Digital Construction Sector
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMale Business Leaders Gather in Copenhagen to Advance Gender Equality
  10. EnelNo ETS Deal Means It Can Still Be Strengthened
  11. EU2017EEEstonia Anticipates More Digital Cooperation With Sweden
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina Launches Campaign to Protect IPR of Foreign Companies