When Britain voted to leave the European Union, the government was at pains to insist this was not a vote to leave Europe. With Donald Trump in the White House, this distinction will be crucial: the UK will suddenly become a lot more important to the security of the continent.
The Donald has not bothered to court foreign leaders. Downing Street, which prides itself on its ability to befriend US presidential contenders, has no relationship with him; neither does anyone else in Europe. As a result, there is no certainty that America’s new commander-in-chief will feel bound by Nato’s Article 5 obligation to defend any member that comes under attack. If that assumption is shaken, then what?
In such times, the argument for Britain having its own nuclear deterrent is a lot easier to make and the importance of the UK’s defence capability should lead to a more mature discussion about Brexit. EU countries should respond by showing that they understand that Brexit was not a hostile act, more a recognition of divergent political paths.
Another consequence of Trump’s victory is that TTIP — the proposed free-trade deal between the US and the EU — is dead. Trump will be far more of a hate figure in Europe than even George W. Bush was, making whatever deal is negotiated pretty much unsellable to European voters. On the campaign trail, Trump himself has been unremittingly hostile to complex multinational trade deals. By contrast, a post-Brexit US-UK deal might be simple enough for the Trump administration to negotiate and Congress to ratify.
Trump’s election is a challenge to the security and unity of the West. But his enthusiasm for Brexit, in marked contrast to the Obama administration, does provide opportunity.
— James Forsyth