Trump win worsens Brexit pain.

Trump win worsens Brexit pain.

The Aftermath of “BREXIT-plus-plus-plus”: A Glimpse into Britain’s Future with Trump


The unexpected victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election had many Americans waking up with a feeling similar to that which Remainers in Britain experienced on the morning of June 24th. There was bafflement at the failure of polls to predict the result, shock at the electorate’s defiance of expert opinion, and concern for liberal values. Trump himself relishes the comparison, identifying with the architects of Britain’s departure from the European Union as privileged demagogues adept at exploiting the public’s fears and instincts.

However, the parallels between Trump and Brexit do not necessarily benefit Britain. While Trump may admire the country’s decision, his unpredictability and unfamiliarity make him a challenging partner, especially compared to Hillary Clinton, an instinctive Anglophile. The future of the “special relationship” between the US and UK, so revered in London, appears uncertain. Nigel Farage, a Brexiteering rabble-rouser, and Alex Salmond, a former first minister of Scotland, are the British politicians most experienced in dealing with the incoming Trump administration. The fact that they have the most familiarity with Trump speaks volumes about the future of the relationship.

Britain’s leaders also display a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the incoming president. Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister, contrasts sharply in temperament from her counterpart. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, once stated, “The only reason I wouldn’t visit some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.” British MPs even debated banning Trump from the country, labeling him a “buffoon,” a “demagogue,” and a “joke.”

Despite the reservations towards Trump, the risks posed by his presidency, such as protectionism, geopolitical turmoil, and American isolationism, weigh heavily on British interests. This concern is compounded by Brexit, which removes many of the shock absorbers that could have helped Britain navigate the next few years.

Trade stands as a significant risk for the UK. Trump’s protectionist stance and fondness for a tariff war with China could have infectious effects. If Britain leaves the EU’s customs union, it may find itself negotiating new trade terms when global economies are closing their doors. Moreover, the British economy was already fragile before Trump’s victory, with a weakened pound, mounting business uncertainty, and signs of slowing investment. A Trump presidency’s economic shock could exacerbate these trends, hampering the UK’s trade negotiation position.

Security is another area of concern. Brexit supporters argued that NATO made European defense cooperation unnecessary, and leaving the EU would not diminish Britain’s influence as a military power. However, this did not account for Trump’s equivocal stance on NATO. Trump’s “America first” doctrine implies that countries under America’s security umbrella must make their own arrangements. Therefore, Britain may find itself caught between a less effective, more divided NATO on one side and a rapid push towards EU defense integration on the other.

A common thread unifying these risks is that Brexit is a seismic shock to Britain’s role in the world. It severs old links and necessitates forging new ones. Supporters of Brexit acknowledge that this transition brings painful costs. Above all, it demands goodwill and flexibility from all sides. Unfortunately, if Trump’s victory signifies a meaner, more fractious, and volatile global order, it only increases the costs and reduces the space for compromise essential for a smooth Brexit.

To mitigate the damage of a Trump presidency on a post-Brexit Britain, Theresa May must display ambition and perspective. Her approach should have two sides. Firstly, she should build a new, closer alliance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, extending beyond Brexit to cover wider issues such as the world economy, security, and international relations with major powers like Russia and China. European capitals argue that Brexit has consumed Britain’s attention, and May cannot allow this to continue. Working with Merkel as a bloc capable of countering Trump’s worst traits will be crucial.

Secondly, May should leverage Britain’s influence in America to attempt to moderate the new president. It involves steering him away from detrimental policies and appealing to his vanity when he is on the right track. However, May must navigate the challenging waters of Brexit while handling Trump’s presidency for the sake of Britain and the world.

In conclusion, the triumph of Trump and the ongoing Brexit process create a complex landscape for Britain. The uncertainties and risks associated with both developments closely intertwine, requiring careful navigation and decisive action. While the “special relationship” may face challenges ahead, May’s ability to forge new alliances and influence Trump’s decisions will be vital in shaping Britain’s future.