Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Trump Finds Support in Britain's Brexit Capital

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Trump Finds Support in Britain's Brexit Capital

Article excerpt

The anger and resentment that helped elect President Trump in the United States finds a mirror image in the heart of small-town Britain.

When Mick Harold woke up on November 9, 2016 to the news that Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States, he punched the air in silent celebration.

"I had a good wager on Trump, a couple of hundred pounds at 8-to-1 odds," says the 55-year-old politician from Stoke -on-Trent. His city is nicknamed Britain's "Brexit capital," as nearly 70 percent of residents who participated in the June 2016 European Union (EU) referendum voted for Britain to leave the bloc. "It's hard to stand out from a crowd when they're all baying at you. It takes bottle to knock the establishment. Trump and Farage have it, and people responded."

Harold, who chairs the anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP) in Stoke Central, credits long-time party leader Nigel Farage with helping Donald Trump press his case to the American people. In the days just after U.S. election, while much of the world was still absorbing the shock, Trump rewarded Farage for his loyalty. Invited to Trump Tower, the UKIP founder was the first foreign politician to meet the president-elect. The former commodities trader could hardly contain himself, gleefully tweeting a photo of the occasion: both men, puffed up and beaming, are standing shoulder-to-shoulder before a set of gilded doors. Later, Farage, barnstorming before the Conservative Political Action Conference, would claim Trump's victory and Brexit as "the beginning of a great global revolution."

Like Trump, Farage, who spearheaded the campaign to take Britain out of the EU, has championed his own home-grown populist revolt. He has called on voters to buck "global corporatism," uncontrolled immigration, and the neoliberal ruling elite. And while the blustering right -winger is hardly a popular politician in Britain--he has lost seven elections to become a member of Parliament--like Trump, he has successfully tapped into portion of the voting public that feels a growing sense of alienation from the political class.

Most Britons do not like Donald Trump. Poll numbers are clear: 70 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion of the new president, with 56 percent holding a very unfavorable view, according to YouGov polling data. As in the United States, anger over Trump's election quickly spilled into the streets. On the first day of his presidency, in the cold mist of a January morning in London, banners were unfurled from bridges across the capital. "Build Bridges, Not Walls," read one draped from the city's landmark Tower Bridge. Another banner outside Parliament declared "Migrants welcome here." The message was evident: Trump's threats about immigration had no support in Britain.

Nearly two million people have signed a petition to stop the new president from making a state visit.

That weekend, in solidarity with the Women's March in the United States, some 100,000 anti-Trump protestors thronged London's streets. Since then, nearly two million people have signed a petition to stop the new president from making a state visit to the United Kingdom. Prime Minster Theresa May's government, which is eagerly seeking a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States, is adamant that President Trump will come to England. Indeed, plans are afoot for the visit to take place in October, when Parliament is not in session--thereby avoiding the spectacle of an address before protesting MPs. Anti-Trump activists in Britain also have plans of their own. In a statement, the UK-wide Stop Trump Coalition promised: "The opposition to this state visit, and to Trump's policies, is growing every day. Whether he comes in spring or autumn, or to London, Birmingham or Scotland, we will meet him in huge numbers to say that the politics of hate and prejudice are not welcome here."

But Britain, like the United States, is a deeply divided nation. …

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