Jacob Rees-Mogg once said that “President Trump will be our greatest ally after Brexit.” Donald Trump has even referred to himself as “Mr Brexit” and it’s the same wave of supposedly “anti-establishment” populism that drove both the Brexit and Trump votes. Trump has also regularly expressed enthusiasm for a UK-US trade deal. President-elect Biden has been threatening to deny us one.
This is largely why many of those who still support Brexit believe Donald Trump would have been better for Britain than Joe Biden. But no truly patriotic Brit should be disappointed that Biden has won the election. After all, aren’t Brexiteers supposed to love the UK more than us treacherous Remainers?
Forget the personalities. Just look at what these two men have said about a UK-US trade deal. Trump has been clear that any trade deal he does will involve making the healthcare system of the other country pay more for medicine, so that American pharmaceutical companies pay less. So on the one hand, you’ve got a president that will use America’s negotiating weight as the most powerful economy on earth to raise drug prices for the NHS.
On the other hand, you have Biden, who has said he’ll only give us a trade deal if the Good Friday Agreement remains intact and there is no hard border, unsurprising given his strong Irish roots. We can achieve that by staying aligned with EU rules, so there is no need to check goods at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Allow me to translate.
Trump: I’ll give you a deal if you increase the price of NHS medicine after it has just been hit by a pandemic.
Biden: Make sure you have frictionless trade with your main trade partner and don’t start another civil war in your backyard.
That’s literally it. That’s the choice. Trump is offering disease and death. Biden is offering peace and prosperity. And yet a recent YouGov poll shows Brexit voters tend more towards thinking a Trump deal would be better for the UK.
I knew that, as we got closer to the reality of Brexit, many would let their denial drive them to increasingly extreme views, but come on. Those are the facts we know about Trump and Biden’s views on Brexit and somehow we’re disappointed we can’t get more death!
Brexit Britain and Trump’s America may share an ideology, but that ideology means they don’t play well with others, including... each other. Trump was elected on an “America First” ideology, which he restated at his inauguration. He promised that in any trade negotiation, America’s interests would always come out on top. His administration later accused countries with socialised healthcare of “freeloading” because they pay less for drugs than America does. So why is anyone surprised that he wanted to put the profits of American pharmaceutical companies first, ahead of the NHS?
Not to mention the fact a Biden presidency will make the EU feel more comfortable about giving the UK a deal because the fear has been that a UK-US trade deal would flood the UK with cheap, less-regulated food products, which would need to be checked at the border with Ireland. The Internal Market Bill has the potential to open the door to that by letting unchecked goods enter Northern Ireland. Having a part-Irish president, who is unwilling to risk that, certainly helps to allay that fear.
Even the analysis of Boris Johnson’s government shows that a Brexit on the terms Johnson is asking for would cost 6.7 per cent of the UK’s GDP, whereas a US trade deal would boost our economy by 0.16 per cent over 15 years. Biden knows that if the UK stays closer to EU rules, then Brexit will be less damaging to the UK: there won’t need to be checks at the border, and we’ll maintain the peace agreement. Arguably Biden is looking out for this country more than Johnson is.
And yet, because Biden dared to question Brexit, whereas Trump and Farage are best mates, a significant part of the UK would rather side with a man whose stated goal is to weaken our NHS, over one who would ensure we don’t damage trade with the place we get a third of our food from during a pandemic or compromise our national security.
Are we really there? Is that how fundamentalist Brexit has become? Did American voters just save us from our own extremism?
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies