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Britain's Brexiteers eye opportunity in Trump win

  • Published at 10:36 pm November 11th, 2016
Britain's Brexiteers eye opportunity in Trump win

Donald Trump's improbable election has buoyed eurosceptics in Britain, who hope London's "special relationship" with the world's top economy will result in lucrative post-Brexit trade.

US President Barack Obama warned that Britain would be at the "back of the queue" for trade deals if it left the bloc but Trump was pro-Brexit and will likely look more favourably on its trans-Atlantic partner, say Brexiteers.

The president-elect's attitude to Britain leaving the bloc was "more positive than the hostile approach" of Obama, noted prominent Conservative lawmaker and ardent eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Trump, whose mother was born in Britain, hailed the vote to leave the EU as "a fantastic thing" and pledged that Britain would "certainly not be at the back of the queue" under his presidency.

Fellow Conservative Bernard Jenkin told the City AM financial newspaper- "President Trump might not be to our taste but we must calculate our national interest.

"He will not put logs on the track in front of Brexit in the same way Clinton might have," said the influential eurosceptic.

Britain in best position

Seeking to capitalise on a Trump presidency, Prime Minister Theresa May wasted no time in emphasising strong trans-Atlantic ties as she bids to forge new trade links outside the EU. In her congratulatory message to Trump on Wednesday, she carefully avoided sensitive subjects - unlike German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande - to highlight the strong "trade, security and defence" ties between London and Washington.

And writing in the Spectator magazine, political commentator Douglas Murray said that in terms of trade, Britain was "in the best possible position" with Trump in the White House.

"Everything Trump has ever said suggests that he is exceptionally well-disposed towards the country where his mother was born. In recent times such an attitude could not be taken for granted," he wrote.

That could bode well for the so-called "special relationship" between Britain and the United States.

However, many analysts also warn that Trump's more positive attitude to Britain is outweighed by his diatribes against free trade and isolationist tendencies.

May 10th on call list

And there are early signs that Trump may not prioritise the US's traditional "special relationship." The president-elect spoke to nine other leaders, including from Ireland, Egypt and Australia, before telephoning May, much to the annoyance of British media.

Tom Raines, from the Chatham House international affairs think-tank, said that with his radical policies, Trump could end up hobbling the Brexit negotiations.

"I do not regard Trump as a useful ally for Britain as it leaves the EU. If she had been elected, Hillary Clinton would likely have been a strong advocate for a Brexit settlement," he told AFP.

"If Trump's foreign policy follows his campaign rhetoric, clashes are inevitable," he said.

"The best the UK can hope for is that EU leaders, worried about the direction of the US, feel now is not the time to distance themselves further from the United Kingdom," he added.

Tim Oliver, an expert on Europe-North America relations at the London School of Economics university, said Trump's election posed a dilemma for Britain's overall strategic outlook.

Though Britain's vote to leave the EU contained a desire to play an enhanced global role, that largely depends upon cooperation with the United States.

"In president Trump, the UK now finds itself stuck between a Trump rock and a Brexit hard place."