Yes, we will be at the ‘front of the queue’ for a new post-Brexit deal with the US – but only so they can exploit our weaknesses

Brexit’s cheerleaders are going to have trouble spinning news that Mr Trump’s trade chief Wilbur Ross has a different kind of special relationship in mind 

Tom Peck
Monday 26 December 2016 12:28
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Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross is part of Team Trump as trade chief
Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross is part of Team Trump as trade chief

If only in the interest of free trade and mutual cooperation, the Germans might sell us a word for it. Laughing at our own misfortune, that is. Mydenfreude perhaps? There’ll be a lot of it about in 2017.

For the sane half of the country – London, Scotland, virtually anyone with a degree – 2017 will be about balancing conflicting emotions, pouring in the parts in proper measure for the preservation of sanity. Arguably it will be preferable to focus on those tangy, bittersweet notes of I-told-you-so pleasure than the rounded, robust horrors to come. Mydenfreude.

Even as the sane among us get on with trying to do what Brexit cheerleader Daniel Hannan has advised us to do, to see the “rectangle of light”, “hear the gurgling of a small brook”, and “stride out into the sunlight”, trying all the while not to soil ourselves laughing as we do so. It is never long before the light crashes into the horizon like an equatorial sunset and all is dark again.

A “free trade deal with Korea” (the EU’s already got one), this with Australia , that with India, until George Osborne blithely tells Andrew Marr walking away from the single market will be the “single biggest act of protectionism in British history”, and he’s very obviously right.

Ah, but Britain will be at the “front of the queue” for a trade deal says a new member of Team Trump. All right, that sounds hopeful. I mean, not that hopeful, because for the first time in living memory, the US has a rampant protectionist on his way into the White House, but, there’s still hope there.

And then comes this morning’s news. Trump’s trade chief Wilbur Ross, has been telling the world of the “God-given opportunity” to steal Britain’s cake and eat it. Ross, a billionaire, naturally, and “distressed debt” specialist, who we must assume is still finding his feet in a Washington swamp freshly drained of people exactly like him, thinks it inevitable there will be “relocations”, that businesses will be leaving the UK, that financial services firms will be wasting no time in striding out into the Frankfurt sunlight. Mydenfreude.

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This chap Ross made his billions in distressed debt, an area of financial activity never put more honestly or succinctly than by its best known practitioner in popular culture, Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. “No,” he tells an incredulous Julia Roberts – no he doesn’t make anything, and no he doesn’t build anything. “You and I are very similar people, Vivian. We both screw people for money.”

It will be this chap, too, whose job it is to negotiate any trade deal between the US and the UK. It will be him waiting with a smile at the saloon bar door with a handshake, waiting for little old Britain, who still can’t believe its luck at having been spotted at the back and sent to the front of the queue. This chap, who doesn’t make anything, doesn’t build anything, but knows only the scent of weakness and how to exploit it. When it all becomes clear that Britain has thrown itself to the loan sharks, might as well hang on to the mydenfreude.

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