Dana H. Allin, Benjamin Rhode
The Brexiteers think that Trump shares the same goals and dreams as them—but he doesn’t.
President Donald Trump is toxically unpopular throughout Europe, but nowhere does he pose a greater political problem than in the United Kingdom, where he has arrived today for a long-delayed official visit. Prime Minister Theresa May is facing defections from her government and a potential leadership challenge from radical Brexiteers angry at her decision to seek a somewhat softer form of Brexit. The last thing she needs right now is a visible embrace from the man whom most British voters find unpalatable. Moreover, it is likely that Mr. Trump will use his visit to reinforce a central delusion driving the UK’s separation from the European Union and underpinning the radical Brexiteers’ resistance to Mrs. May’s moderation.
This is the delusion of a “Global Britain” straining to be unshackled from its European Union chains. At the heart of this delusion is a claim that is preposterous on its face—that economic integration with the world’s largest trading bloc, one adjacent to Britain’s borders, will be replaced by more natural cooperation with the “Anglosphere” made up of the former Empire, and the Americans. Mrs. May’s government has promoted Global Britain for the past two years, but her attempt last week to maintain some alignment with EU regulations after Brexit suggests she has acknowledged that Britain’s economic interests lie more with its neighbors than in illusory trade agreements. Her radical opponents within her party consider this a betrayal.