As Goes Brexit, So Goes Trump
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
As goes Brexit, so goes Trump. That’s our instinct after the meltdown in Britain, where the government of Prime Minister Theresa May has just been found in contempt of the Mother of Parliaments. It is a breathtaking rebuke, on the eve of the vote in which the same Parliament will decide whether to bow to the declaration of the people, in referendum, that they want independence from Europe.
There is obviously no direct link between the fate of Brexit and the fate of President Trump. Our sense, though, is that they both draw on the same populist discontent that has been brewing for much of a generation. In this sense we took the stunning upset in the Brexit vote in 2016 to be an augury of what would happen four months later in America, where, in another populist upset, Mr. Trump prevailed. A defeat of Brexit could auger ill.
Both decisions, for one thing, have been met with campaigns of resistance. In America, it has been a refusal by the Democrats and the Deep State to accept the result of the election, that is, the Trump presidency. In Britain, it has been an effort to undermine the clean break with Europe for which Britons voted. This has come in Prime Minister May’s negotiations on Brexit terms with the European Union.
It was an incredible blunder for the Conservative majority in Parliament in 2016 to elevate to premier a figure who, in Mrs. May, had campaigned against Brexit in the first place. How could she have been expected to carry out the referendum decision? Sure enough, she started dickering with the very source of Britain’s misery, which was the EU bureaucracy itself.
That was a sign that she couldn’t be trusted. In our opinion, that is why, when she called the snap election a year and a half ago, the voters returned a hung Parliament. And that lack of trust is why the Parliament was so determined to inspect the legal advice Mrs. May and her camarilla have been getting. A vote of contempt strikes us as a quark short of a vote of no confidence.
In any event, the betting is that Mrs. May’s Brexit deal is going to fail in Parliament. As we write, the Ladbroke’s parlor reckons the December 11 vote in the Commons is an odds on bet of one to eight that the deal will not be approved (the odds against approval are nine to two). The question will then be whether Britain retreats from Brexit or quits the European Union without a deal or — or tries something else.
The latter is recommended by the most eloquent of the Brexit tribunes, Boris Johnson. He just put up on Facebook a devastating reprise of Mrs. May’s performance. Instead of a hard Brexit, though, he proposes to go back to Brussels to demand the deal Britain’s voters asked for in the 2016 referendum. Our reaction is that it would be a good course were Mr. Johnson heading the government.
Which brings us back to Mr. Trump. We’ve written ourselves blue in the face suggesting he get involved in encouraging the British to take the plunge. This would involve actively working on the kind of bilateral trade deal they’re going to want and need — a free trade template. Some of this work has been underway, but not with the kind of Wollman Rink verve of which Mr. Trump is capable.
The worst thing for Mr. Trump would be that, after a populist referendum, the independence Britain declared in 2016 is watered down to nearly naught or even reversed. Britons, Mr. Johnson just wrote, “voted for freedom, they voted for independence and for a better Britain and for a country where politicians actually listen to what they have to say and if we try to cheat them now they will not forgive us.” Something similar could be said of America.