Don­ald Trump, the Brexit con­nec­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A sense of kin­ship has emerged be­tween Bri­tish eu­roscep­tics and Don­ald Trump sup­port­ers who are united in their ef­forts to un­seat-and shock-the es­tab­lish­ment, de­spite be­ing sep­a­rated by an ocean. The self-de­clared “big­gest fan of Trump in the UK” is a 46-year-old IT pro­fes­sional, who goes by the ini­tials CT. He also voted for Bri­tain to leave the Euro­pean Union in the coun­try’s June 23 ref­er­en­dum-”for in­de­pen­dence”, he tells AFP.

Pre­fer­ring to re­main anony­mous, CT is con­vinced the Repub­li­can will win. To show his sup­port he runs the @UK­forTrump Twit­ter ac­count, al­though it has only at­tracted sev­eral hun­dred fol­low­ers. Find­ing some­one who will openly iden­tify as a Trump sup­porter in the UK is no easy task. When Chan­nel 4 or­ga­nized a TV de­bate on the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, “they lit­er­ary flew some­one over” from the US to give the pro-Trump per­spec­tive, ac­cord­ing to Brian Klaas, one of the guests and a spe­cial­ist in US pol­i­tics at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics.

Bri­tain is also where some of the strong­est op­po­si­tion has been voiced to the Amer­i­can bil­lion­aire’s pol­icy pro­posal to ban Mus­lims from the US. For­eign min­is­ter Boris John­son, one of those who cham­pi­oned Brexit, said he would stay away from cer­tain New York neigh­bor­hoods to avoid the risk of bump­ing into Trump.

‘Farage’s magic’

Ad­mir­ers of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s ri­val are most likely found within the ranks of the anti-im­mi­grant UK In­de­pen­dence Party (UKIP), a key driv­ing force be­hind Brexit. In­vig­o­rated by the vote, UKIP’s co­founder and in­terim leader Nigel Farage has been spend­ing am­ple time in the US re­cently, warm­ing up the crowds at Trump ral­lies. “The par­al­lels are there,” Farage told Trump sup­port­ers as he re­called his UK ref­er­en­dum suc­cess.

He be­lieves Amer­i­can vot­ers are also fac­ing a his­toric op­por­tu­nity to “beat the poll­sters, the com­men­ta­tors and Wash­ing­ton”. It is of lit­tle im­por­tance that few in the US have heard of Farage. “Trump was drawn to the fact that Farage beat the odds and beat the es­tab­lish­ment. He wanted to sort of bring that magic, as it were, to his cam­paign,” he said.

From Rochdale to the Rust Belt

Al­though Trump and Farage are ad­dress­ing dif­fer­ent elec­torates, Klaas said they ap­peal to the same vot­ers: “white men with­out col­lege de­grees.” Those left be­hind by glob­al­iza­tion, whether they live in post-in­dus­trial ar­eas of north­ern Eng­land and Wales or in the Amer­i­can “Rust Belt”, are drawn to the pol­i­tics and polemic rhetoric of Farage and Trump.

“They are both tap­ping into this global mo­ment of fear, not just eco­nomic fear but also fear of ter­ror­ism and ex­trem­ism,” said Klaas. Jon Stan­ley, a com­men­ta­tor for the right-lean­ing think tank The Bow Group, agreed there are par­al­lels be­tween the two sup­porter groups. “There are ef­fec­tively three things: anti-glob­al­iza­tion, anti-un­con­trolled im­mi­gra­tion, and anti-es­tab­lish­ment,” he told AFP.

‘Trump will win’

Within UKIP, many are con­vinced Trump can re­peat the shock out­come of the Bri­tish ref­er­en­dum, when ex­perts and poll­sters were proven wrong, and beat Clin­ton to the pres­i­dency. “I do be­lieve that Don­ald Trump will win,” said David Coburn, an MEP rep­re­sent­ing UKIP. Speak­ing to Busi­ness In­sider UK, Coburn said his party has in many ways “helped start a rev­o­lu­tion in the United States”.

The Bri­tish party’s chief fi­nancier, mil­lion­aire Aaron Banks, likened Trump sup­port­ers to anti-EU vot­ers in the UK and said they were “much more mo­ti­vated” than their ri­vals. But not all UKIP mem­bers have been charmed by Trump, with two of the party’s MEPs openly crit­i­ciz­ing Farage for back­ing the bom­bas­tic bil­lion­aire. “Trump’s sex­ist and deroga­tory com­ments have un­equiv­o­cally proven he is to­tally un­fit to be pres­i­dent of the United States, and Nigel Farage should think very care­fully about de­fend­ing him,” said MEP Jane Collins.

UKIP mem­ber Pete Dur­nell, an un­suc­cess­ful can­di­date in last year’s elec­tion, also dis­tanced him­self from Farage’s US strat­egy. “Trump has made some re­ally stupid and very of­fen­sive com­ments about Mex­i­cans, Syr­i­ans, cer­tain women, war vet­er­ans,” he told AFP. While Trump crit­ics re­main vo­cal, his back­ers of­ten pre­fer to re­main dis­creet after be­ing vil­i­fied in the press and by the elite. That is un­til they head to the polls, en masse, aim­ing to prompt an­other po­lit­i­cal earth­quake. — AFP

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