Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1302, (30 June - 13 July 2016)
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1302, (30 June - 13 July 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Trump supports Brexit

Last week’s decision by the United Kingdom to leave the EU has given a boost to the populist campaign of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, writes Khaled Dawoud

Al-Ahram Weekly

It might have been a coincidence that US Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump arrived in Scotland on the same day that British voters shocked the world by deciding to leave the European Union late last week.

The visit by the controversial billionaire who is a novice in politics was scheduled weeks in advance and was mainly aimed to promote his own Turnberry golf courses in Ayrshire in Scotland.

Yet Trump immediately considered the result of the British referendum as a victory of his own, calling the British decision to leave the EU “a great thing”. Unlike US President Barack Obama, who campaigned openly for the Remain campaign, Trump saw the Leave, or Brexit, slogans as mirroring his own ideas on opposing immigration and called for independent decision-making away from world bodies, and less government.

“I felt it was going to happen,” Trump said at a press conference at one of his golf courses on Friday. “There are great similarities between what happened here and my campaign. People want to take their country back.” He added that he supported the breakup of the EU.

“The people of the United Kingdom have exercised the sacred right of all free peoples,” he said. “They have declared their independence from the European Union and have voted to reassert control over their own politics, borders and economy.”

Referring to the upcoming US presidential elections, Trump said, “Come November the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence. Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration and foreign policies that put our citizens first.

“They will have the chance to reject today’s rule by the global elite and to embrace real change that delivers a government of, by, and for the people.”

Playing on the same concerns that likely tipped the balance in favour of the Brexit campaign last week, Trump said, “People are angry, all over the world, people — they’re angry. They’re angry over borders, they’re angry over people coming into the country and taking over, nobody even knows who they are. They’re angry about many, many things.”

He added that he expected this anger to spread, presumably meaning to the next US presidential elections. “There’s plenty of other places. This [Britain] will not be the last.”

The Republican Party candidate, who will face a tough battle against his Democratic Party opponent Hillary Clinton, did not bother to note that he was standing on territory that voted in favour of staying within the EU.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has stated that the decision to leave the EU makes it “highly likely” that she will call for another referendum to allow the Scots to decide whether they want to stay in the United Kingdom.

When reporters asked about the possibly disastrous consequences of the decision to exit the EU for the British economy, Trump replied that the sharp drop in the British pound was good news for his own business in Britain.

“Look, if the pound goes down, they’re going to do more business,” he said. “When the pound goes down, more people coming to Turnberry, frankly.” His remarks drew a sharp rebuke from British columnists and his own rival, Clinton.

Clinton’s campaign immediately announced that it would begin airing an ad this week rebuking Trump for his comments about the “positive” consequences of the British referendum for the economy.

“Every president is tested by world events, but Donald Trump thinks about how he can profit from them,” the narrator says.

Noting the volatile reactions on US and British markets to the decision and comparing that to Trump’s remarks on the British pound, the narrator of the ad says, “In a volatile world, the last thing we need is a volatile president.”

Trump responded with a tweet saying “Crooked Hillary Clinton, who called Brexit 100% wrong (along with Obama), is now spending Wall Street money on an ad on my correct call. Clinton is trying to wash away her bad judgement call on Brexit with big dollar ads. Disgraceful!”

While in Scotland, Trump did not seek meetings with British government officials or decision-makers to get a better understanding of the possible consequences of the British decision to leave the EU.

While leaders of the Leave campaign, including former London mayor Boris Johnson and the leader of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, might have welcomed celebrating their victory with the US presidential candidate, this would not have been the case for British Prime Minister David Cameron, or the newly elected Muslim mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

Both Cameron and Khan have sharply rebuked Trump for his racist statements on Muslims that called for banning them from entering the United States following a series of terrorist attacks in Europe and the US.

Cameron described such calls as “divisive, stupid and wrong”. He said in December that if Trump decided to visit the UK “I think he would unite us all against him.”

Khan described Trump’s remarks on Muslims as “ignorant” and said his views on Islam and immigration represented “the politics of fear at its worst”. He added that Trump’s remarks played “straight into the extremists’ hands and make both our countries less safe.”

Trump’s earlier comments on Islam provoked an outcry in the UK, and more than 500,000 British citizens signed a petition asking parliament to ban him from entering the country.

Despite the boost for Trump on the day the British referendum result came out, observers did not necessarily see a domino effect leading to a similar victory by his campaign.

The US elections are still four months away, and Trump’s campaign is facing divisions and serious financial difficulties. American voters are also far more diverse than those in Britain. African-American and Hispanic voters play a key role in US elections, and they are both against Trump’s election as US president.

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