Article / 21 June 2016 at 10:00 GMT

Saxo on Brexit: Trump needs a UK exit

Managing editor, / Saxo Bank
  • Donald Trump flies into the UK on June 24, the day of the referendum result
  • Trump's position is that he is in favour of a Brexit
  • Brexit could feed into the anti-establishment narrative and boost his chances
  • Hilary Clinton the absolute personification of an establishment figure
  • A victory for Trump could create a problem for UK/US relations
  • Keep it on our Brexit pages throughout the runup to the June 23 vote
 Trump is in town for one reason and one reason only — it's the golf and
the fact that the visit is on June 24 is surely a coincidence. Photo: iStock

By Martin O'Rourke

Is it coincidence that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is flying into the UK on June 24? Most probably. He does after all own a golf resort at Turnberry in Scotland which will be officially reopened after a $200 million refurbishment.

But it no doubt must 
also appeal to the mischief-maker in Trump's character that he'll be in town on the day the UK either begins the process of exiting the European Union or continues as is. Ever the publicity seeker, Trump will almost certainly feed off the referendum oxygen to throw his two-pennies worth of invective into the June 23 fallout.

His position is already clear. While foreign policy may not necessarily be the maverick politiician's strong point (perhaps celebrity-seeking is the only thing that matters to Trump), he has nevertheless come out and said "I think they should leave", in interview with US pundit Michael Wolff.

The fact that Wolff had to explain to Trump what the term Brexit meant may be instructive as to Trump's overall grasp of foreign policy. When he has entered the fray, he has managed to offend half the global population (the other half is still in the 'undecided' camp), and having stated his position on Brexit, he certainly won't pass up the opportunity to give his considered view.

This is after all, as I highlighted in 'The day i met Donald Trump...' piece in December 2015, the same fellow who flew into Moscow on some spurious plan in the winter of 1997/98 to renovate some dilapidated hotels in the Russian capital, before upping and leaving in a proverbial puff of smoke with nary a penny spent on the doomed escapade.

It is also the man who entered the mad world of World Wrestling Entertainment in 2007 for some lowest common-denominator entertainment that you could say directly appealed to the constituency that backs his campaign now.

Needless to say, both his flying visit to Moscow and his appearance on WWE came at a time when Trump's star appeared to be on the wane and the sojourn to the prestigous Turnberry course — a regular stage for the British Open Golf championship no less — does suggest he's moving in better circles.


And i'll do it my way. Photo: iStock

But Trump, whether he realises it or not, quite possibly has a vested interest in a Brexit outcome for his own presidential bid.

The anti-elite narrative that seems to be turning a normally acquiescent public into an angry, rebellious mob more than ready to deliver the establishment a good kicking has fuelled the rise of the far-right in Europe in response to the immigration crisis, has helped propel no-nonsense hardliner Rodrigo Duderte to the presidency in the Philippines, seen an Irish government enjoying a GDP growth of 7.8% turfed out in February by an angry electorate and threatens to divide Europe's core and periphery irreparably as anger over the austerity measures emanating from the centre continue to cause severe stress through the Eurozone.

This weekend's stunning victory by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement candidate Virginia Rassi to become mayor of Rome and deliver a bloody nose to prime minister Matteo Renzi in the process was just the latest manifestation of the rebel wave.

And so it is too with Britain. Forced into a campaign of negativity and disinformation (a criticism that can be levelled at both sides of the Brexit debate), UK prime minister David Cameron has turned to precisely that same establishment to try and effect a victory path for the 'Leave' campaign for a prize that has at various times in the campaign looked like it could slip away.

It may not be exactly cork-popping time in the 'Leave' headquarters every time a John Major, Michael Heseltine, or even a Barack Obama is wheeled out for the cameras, but it must certainly give Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and their cohorts something to smile about. Add a smug-looking Cameron or worse, chancellor George Osborne alongside such figures only reaffirms the conviction that this is the 'haves' aiming to bolster the status quo and keep the masses in their place.

Little wonder then that a disaffected public sees it as preachy, condescending and is subsequently inclined to go the other way whatever the consequences that may entail.

That of course is exactly the kind of bitterness and anger that Trump hopes to and has fed off throughout his presidential campaign. Frequently relying on the trading of lowest-common denominator insults, Trump out-bullied his republican rivals in a masterclass of playground tactics that would have left your average Russian football fan applauding its audacity.

It's fertile ground of course. The get-out-of-jail-free card seemingly earned by the banks after the global financial crisis of 2008 was the genesis of the ill-feeling and the subsequent pain inflicted on the more vulnerable members of society throughout the globe helped crystallise the toxic sentiment.

With perhaps some justification, the popular mantra lays the blame for everything at the door of the elites from job-flight to Asia, to the migration crisis, to zero-contract hours and the slashing of welfare benefits for the poor.
 The "have-nots" have fallen further behind since the global financial crisis while the perception is that the establishment have got off scot free from a crisis they helped engineer. Photo: iStock

The all-but-confirmed selection of Hilary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for the presidency then could perhaps not have played better into the hands of Trump and the anti-elite narrative.

When it comes to establishment figures, Clinton as the former first Lady of the White House is right up there and the email scandal that engulfed her tenure as US secretary of state 2009-13 once again feeds a perception that the elites can "get away" with it.

It will come as no surprise that Clinton's principal rival Bernie Sanders has been heavily backed in what would now look like a hypothetical contest with Trump for the presidency and has consistently topped the 50% mark since March leaving Trump trailing at sub-40% levels. But, when Trump's chances are compared to Clinton, the odds suddenly shift to a 45-40% race in favour of Clinton offering Trump a 15% window of 'Don't knows' or 'Undecideds' that could swing the November 8 vote in his favour.

One-in-10 Democrats have meanwhile indicated that they would not back Clinton which suggests at best a refusal to take part in the vote or abstentions or at worst, a defection to the Trump side. That is exactly what Trump must hope to exploit in the presidential race and look to turn the anti-Clinton sentiment that clearly exists into votes for his cause.

But if he wins — and that remains a massive 'if' regardless of all the conjecture here — what then for Trump's future relationship with the UK? (And we'll assume here that the botched assassination attempt on Trump's life by a UK citizen at the weekend does not feed into the narrative). While that may well depend heavily on the outcome of Thursday's vote, it is difficult to foresee anything particularly good.

He is already at loggerheads with Cameron, who has condemned Trump's call for a ban on Muslims as "divisive, stupid and wrong". Of course, what Cameron thinks could soon be irrelevant if he is out on his ear by the end of the week. A damaging referendum result which would conceivably include a narrow remain victory will surely open up the door for ex-London mayor Boris Johnson.

But Johnson too has crossed swords with Trump after the latter said "radicalised" London had "no-go areas" leading Johnson to also oppose his call for a Muslim ban, a call that Trump opportunistically repeated in the wake of the Orlando-nightclub carnage of June 11.

Both have been at pains to stress they won't be meeting Trump when he hitches up on Friday.

Trump of course won't care. His very case is based on anti-establishment and a serious shakeup of the not-quite-so-pivotal relationship with Washington that London likes to think it has will fit nicely with his disruptor platform and give any future Tory leader much to ponder.

There is of course a delicious irony here. You might feel that the rancour that has split the UK Conservative Party over the issue of Europe these past few months would have spent any hope of a reconciliation once the dust settles.

But they do still have common ground and it's summed up in two simple words. Donald Trump.

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I bet you'd rather deal with me London! Photo: iStock

Martin O'Rourke is managing editor at Saxo Bank
21 June
Adam Courtenay Adam Courtenay
This is certainly a wide-ranging piece. From Bojo to Rome, Hilary to Brexit. A really interesting view on the 'rebel wave' going on around the world.
21 June
Michael O'Rourke Michael O'Rourke
Vigilante TRUMP preaches the HATE of INTOLERANCE. He wants to Protect America from AMERICANS by having his supporters RALLY AROUND THE FLAG with their AR-15's and semi-automatics . Not one Military or Police Leader will support TRUMP's on any of his military or security positions. If 4-f TRUMP would have served in the MILITARY instead of paying off a doctor to get a MEDICAL WAIVER in order to be taken out of the DRAFT LOTTERY, he would have a DEEPER respect for WEAPONS that kill thousands our fellow Americans every year. NOT ONE AMERICAN who is trained to shoot at night would support TRUMP's fantasy that an UNTRAINED CIVILIAN could shoot a "TERRORIST" in the head in a bar without collateral damage. In the movies it is possible. In the real world, Innocent AMERICANS will be killed or injured. The vast majority of Americans want a leader who believes in Hope, Tolerance and respect of our fellow Allies.
In 2017, Trump will be President of one of his Golf Courses, if the members allow it.
21 June
Martin O'Rourke Martin O'Rourke
Michael, are we related?
21 June
Michael O'Neill Michael O'Neill
Great article Martin. I also read your Trump in Moscow piece. It sounds like you had a pretty interesting time in Moscow in the 90"s
21 June
fxtime fxtime
Trump and his inability to grasp international economics and fiscal economics is akin to Farage here in the UK imho....they have the political ineptness that beggars belief yet still they remain as a figure head. I wonder if I am the only one that looks at the prowess of both narcissistic politicians and wonder at how they even reached the station they clearly currently hold with ease.
22 June
Martin O'Rourke Martin O'Rourke
Hi Michael, I had a great time in Moscow and, given the developments of the time, was not the worst place to cut the teeth journalistically.
24 June
Martin O'Rourke Martin O'Rourke
"Brexit a great thing", Donald Trump tells reporters from the Turnberry golf course.


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