Trump may be Mr. Brexit. But his election could scramble Britain’s post-EU plans. – Washington Post
He was perhaps the biggest foreign cheerleader for Britain’s departure from the European Union before the country voted, and he celebrated on Scottish soil when it opted to get out.
He says he wants to do a trade deal with Britain, and he invited a British politician to be his first international visitor upon winning the White House.
In many ways, Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election would seem to be a boon for Britain as it prepares to file its divorce papers with the E.U.
Boris Johnson, Britain’s voluble foreign secretary, said as much, calling it “a moment of opportunity.”
But rather than grease Britain’s exit path, Trump’s elevation to the peak of U.S. power could make this country’s already tortuous road to Brexit even rougher.
Reactions such as Johnson’s, said Queen Mary University of London politics professor Tim Bale, are merely “a front” that masks a deep anxiety among British officials over whether Trump can be trusted.
“I think there’s an awful lot of nervousness in government and more generally, mostly down to the unpredictability of the guy,” Bale said.
That worry is being felt worldwide.
But in London, it is especially acute.
Since World War II, Britain has positioned itself as the bridge linking the United States to Europe, with sturdy ties on either side. But now both ends of that connection are looking creaky.
Britain’s June 23 decision to exit the E.U. has set the stage for years of complex — and potentially acrimonious — breakup negotiations in which most of the leverage lies with Europe. The continent’s leaders have taken a hard line in the months since the vote, insisting that Britain will not get the sweetheart deal it has sought.
Brexit advocates have played down any concerns over strained relations with Europe, insisting that Britain outside the E.U. has the chance to reassert itself in the wider world — particularly in the Anglosphere with countries such as Canada, Australia and, most important, the United States.
President Obama delivered a blow to that theory in the spring when he urged Britons to vote against an exit and said the country would need to go “to the back of the queue” in negotiating a free-trade deal with the United States. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton took a similar tack.
Trump has adopted a very different approach, insisting that Britain will be prioritized. Johnson noted Monday that Trump is “a dealmaker, and I think that could be a good thing for Britain.”
But Britain may not like the deal that Trump has to offer.