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Friday, April 12, 2024

Britain has been foolish to scorn Donald Trump. We must now extend the hand of friendship

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Nigel Farage speaks at a Donald Trump rally in Jackson, Mississippi, August 24
Nigel Farage speaks at a Donald Trump rally in Mississippi CREDIT: JONATHAN BACHMAN/GETTY IMAGES/AFP

This is the year of the political revolution. First we had Brexit, which was the first brick that was knocked out of the establishment wall. Then in the US we had, in political terms, a remarkably similar event.

On the eve of vote, the polling industry and much of the media all said that a Hillary win had a likelihood of more than 90 per cent. In this country, Trump was utterly discounted and friendless. Indeed, I think I was the only political figure that offered any help or support at all. 

I said a month ago that I thought he would win and that once again the polling industry would prove itself to be bankrupt. Though the contest was tight, Trump has withstood a huge level of abuse. Some of it he has brought upon himself with comments that perhaps it would have been wiser to think about before making. But he has shown the ability to apologise when he’s got things wrong. That is an increasingly rare phenomenon among contemporary politicians. 

What I liked about the Trump campaign was its direction of travel. As became clear when I met him, Trump believes in the nation state. He is unashamedly patriotic and believes that America should make its own laws and control its own borders. Immigration was a central part of his campaign as he highlighted the associated risks in the modern world that Islamic State pose if controls and vetting are not sufficiently strict. 

If all of this rings a familiar bell it is because I campaigned on the same issues in the run up to our referendum. Of course not everything is the same and Brexiteers have taken an optimistic global outlook on trade as opposed to Trump’s wishing to scrap trade deals with a number of countries. 

So what happens now?  Unlike our system, he has got ten weeks in which to sort out his team before he takes the helm. It is vital that like the much maligned, at least initially, Ronald Reagan, that he makes the right appointments. 

Ronald Reagan was as dumb as a stump… I could not believe he had even been a poor governor of California in a bad year, let alone that such a smart country would put up with such an obvious phony and loon. Christopher Hitchens

For the wider world I simply do not subscribe to the view put around by the so-called liberal establishment that the world is a more dangerous place with Trump. I think they are all looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Despite the Democrat label, it is Hillary Clinton who has been the neo-con, supporting and encouraging military intervention in the Middle East at every given opportunity. 

The Donald Trump I know simply will not do this. On the question of Putin, the popular hate figure among nearly all Western politicians, Trump will not support the constant attempts at provocation and has said that he wants to meet him and talk to him. I think this is entirely sensible and that as Winston Churchill said: “jaw jaw is better than war war”.

Of Britain’s relationship there is going to be a slightly difficult start. Nobody in the British government has reached out to his campaign, believing as with our referendum that he could not possibly win. The traditional relationship between the British Conservative party and the Republicans has completely broken down. 

Indeed, most Conservative politicians said they could not support him at all and quite a few said they would have voted for Hillary. It is important and it is vital that our country and our government makes amends. 

At least we have an advantageous starting point. Trump likes the UK, talks about his mother’s Scottish birth, owns golf courses here and is entirely comfortable with our culture. More importantly still, he supported Brexit and he says post-Brexit Britain will be at the front of the queue when it comes to trade relationships. What a pleasant change this will make from Obama and Clinton who have looked down and sneered at us. 

Donald Trump on a visit to Scotland
Donald Trump on a visit to Scotland CREDIT: -/GETTY

Once we have started to build this new relationship, there is one vital area of foreign policy that the UK is uniquely placed to make a positive contribution towards. In the campaign, Trump expressed some quite strong reservations about Nato: that its members were frankly not pulling their financial weight and questioning the modern purpose of Nato. 

It is important that we work as the bridge between Nato members and Trump, explaining to our friends that it is only reasonable that they pay their fair share. And we have to warn the European Union that it’s ambitious if perhaps unrealistic ambition of a European Army and a separate military structure is hardly an inducement for continued American support. In turn, we must say to Trump that we have done these things and that the West continues to need America’s support just in case the unexpected happens. 

Front pages of Russian newspapers on Thursday November 10 on Donald Trump's election victory
Front pages of Russian newspapers on Thursday on Donald Trump’s election victory CREDIT: ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AP PHOTO

This week’s result, indeed this whole year, has seen monumental political change. I could not be happier or more optimistic about the future. Don’t think that the democratic revolution of ordinary people is over. There are plenty more shocks to come. And 2017 may surprise us as much as 2016.

The age of supra-national government, of nation states giving away their sovereignty and control of their borders is over. Thank goodness. 

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