Why Donald Trump backs a hard Brexit

It's in the US' interest for us to break all ties with the EU. But to stand up to bullies like Trump, we need real negotiating clout.

Emmanuel Macron is 31 years younger than Donald Trump – but the events of the last week could leave little doubt as to which of the two heads of state is the statesman, and which the petulant child.

Last week Trump cancelled his visit to open the new US embassy in London with his usual lack of class and respect for the truth. This week the French chief of state came to Sandhurst not to strop or grandstand, but to talk security and co-operation on defence.

Trump has insulted everyone from the Prime Minister to Duchess of Cambridge, while he has a special animus for Sadiq Khan, the Muslim mayor of London.

But Britain can take it: if the price of keeping Trump out of here is that he occasionally aims abuse in our direction on Twitter it would always be worth paying.

The reality is, though, Trump need never spend a second on the soil of the United Kingdom for his politics to be able to undermine our politics and values.

For a start, he will always have Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage as outriders: this duo were quick to take Trump’s side over the embassy and, in Johnson’s case, heap abuse on Sadiq Khan for articulating London’s heartfelt distaste for the misogynist, racist, bully in the White House.

But the fundamental reason we are heading for a spot under Trump’s thumb is the enthusiasm the US President shares with the British government for a hard Brexit.

Trump despises the European Union because, as the most powerful unity of developed nations on Earth, it has real clout in economic and foreign policy debates.

The weaker the EU becomes – and Trump is right to think Britain’s leaving the EU will leave both sides of that bargain less strong – the closer we get to Trump’s dream of a new world order, with him and his regressive vision at the centre of everything. For Trump “America First” is more than a slogan, it’s a game plan for the future.

A weakened Britain outside the EU will be a bridgehead for Trump’s nationalist economic aggression: shorn of the collective strength we gain from our EU membership, we become much easier pickings for a US president keen to sign trade deals in which smaller countries trade their rights as sovereigns for crumbs from the American table.

And we should not kid ourselves that we can stop the contagion from spreading to all aspects of our relations with our European allies, including on defence and security issues. Trump is no more likely to look favourably on alliances between European defence manufacturers than he is willing to accept our current bans on chicken washed in bleach or beef from hormone-boosted cattle in any trade deal he might sign.

And it doesn’t matter how many times Theresa May holds Donald Trump’s hands or Boris Johnson kisses his bottom – there will be no trade deal on services with the US.

None of this is inevitable. Macron’s attitude and the seriousness with which he takes the relationship with Britain shows that, while Brexit has strained European friendships, they remain fundamentally strong and any damage there has been could be easily repaired.

We could keep our environmental and consumer protection standards strong and to keep the whims of Washington’s Agent Orange out of our daily lives by saying no to a hard Brexit and locking ourselves behind the protecting walls of Europe’s Single Market and Customs Union.

Only that will make us strong enough to stand up to the Bully with the Big Hair.

Alison McGovern is the Labour MP for Wirral South and is a leading supporter of Open Britain.

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