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Brexit, Trump, and going home

  • Published at 11:44 am July 16th, 2018
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Trump’s UK visit could not have come at a worse time REUTERS

What does Britain’s vehement reaction to Trump’s visit say about their mood?

When the US president was talking about his upcoming visit to the UK, he called it a “hot spot.” Well, that is putting it mildly. 

With Brexit seeing two ministers standing down, citing grave flaws in the plan which British PM reportedly shared with them at Chequers, what seems to be unfolding is a sad tale of internal strife.

Not that the resignations came out of nowhere. For quite some time, the disillusionment with the Brexit negotiations could be perceived though an all-out effort made to sugar-coat the truth with the clever touch of polemics.

Donald Trump’s visit to the UK comes at a very rocky time. On one hand, there’s the overall confusion about where Britain is heading in nine months, while on the other, there’s the resurgence of the Novichok threat. 

The World Cup could have diverted attention 

When the World Cup began with England securing two back-to-back wins, the general malaise over Brexit was swiftly put to the backseat. 

At one point, a place in the world’s biggest sporting jamboree did not seem impossible. 

Social and political aberrations were kicked into the long grass -- with an attitude that said “the team is heading for glory, fill the glass, be merry, and keep on hoping.”

Only one thing could have put the whole Brexit drama out of limelight -- a spot in the final and, perhaps, a win.

Unfortunately, that did not happen and even the consolation third spot was lost.

So, coming back to reality and the unending morass.

Why the US president decided to come to the UK at such a volatile period is a question which bothers a lot of keen observers of international events.

“This is a complete blunder; by coming he has only added to the problems, because Donald Trump does not evoke feelings of affection among the masses,” commented a student of international relations.

Social media is filled with photos of large protests on the streets of London and then there’s the baby Trump balloon with an enraged “go to hell, all of you” expression. Or, maybe it means “I don’t give a s**t.” 

Whatever the meaning of that unflattering look, the message is clear: I am in a lousy mood. 

Perhaps one is not wrong in assuming that if England had gone to the finals, the protests would never have been this big. 

And Trump possibly would have made a few endearing (strategic) statements wishing the football team the best outcome. 

But destiny had other plans.

Meeting Putin with Novichok in mind? 

As per reports, Donald Trump will be meeting Russian President Putin soon. Will there be some congratulations for holding a gala sporting event with success? Hardly. The talks will surely involve the curious case of the nerve agent which seems to be popping up in the UK. Since their “special relationship” is evoked from time to time, Britain may ask the US president to raise the issue on its behalf. 

Talking about the much vaunted special relationship, political experts have often stated that in following the rules of this special link, Britain had done more to harm her image globally. 

“For the sake of the relationship, interventions in other countries had to be endorsed, unleashing the mayhem which now has manifestations in so many radical elements throughout the world,” observed Taqir Hossain, a reporter for a national daily.  

The myth of infallibility, punctured

For those keenly observing the Brexit twists, the bitter polarization among politicians in the UK, the vehement protests on the streets of London, or even the desperate efforts made by the British PM to put up a dauntless face, a significant lesson is unfolding: Flaws afflict every democratic system -- no country is flawless and no government can claim to be beyond reproach.

One may ask: Why is it essential for us, citizens of a developing country, to understand this?  

The reason is simple -- for too long we were bludgeoned with the idea that any formula devised by the developed states is the last word in tackling social or political complexities, and that they simply cannot be faulty. 

This terrible misconception almost took the form of religion, indoctrinated in our minds, taking the shape of absolute truth. 

That concept now lies in tatters with gaping imperfections; if the developing nations can make mistakes and often find themselves in social plus political disarray, then the same can happen for those who claim to be the arbiters of perfection. The democratic system is evolving everywhere, through trial and error, and everyone’s learning.  

Maybe, from now on, journalists should stop asking visiting dignitaries for their endorsement on our local issues. If we have 10 problems, they have five, and that means no one can demand to be in a position to offer fool-proof solutions.

To end on a lighter note, I am certain, within a week, Dhaka street hawkers will be selling copies of the baby Trump balloon. 

You never know, it may also have a recorded line in it: “Free US visa, come and get it.”

Be that as it may, all the bitter words of the protesters will certainly be forgotten in Scotland with a bagpipe playing in the background, and a few glasses of peaty single malt. 

Laphroaig, I hope.

Towheed Feroze is News Editor at Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.