Donald Trump was gushing about one European leader in his Times interview this week. But it was the wrong one. The President-elect told me that he was delighted that he’d been congratulated on his election by the ‘very fine gentleman’ who was the ‘head of the European Union’. ‘Mr Juncker?’ I ventured. ‘Ah, yes,’ he replied. Inaccurately as it turns out. For the European president who’d rung to congratulate the American president-elect was not the European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, but the European Council president Donald Tusk. Many of my colleagues will, I’m sure, regard Mr Trump’s error as proof of the folly of electing an unschooled barbarian to the White House. I think it says rather more about the problem of having five different, unelected presidents of the EU.
The Donald’s confident prediction that other countries would now follow Britain out of the EU has been roundly rejected by the continent’s commentating classes as pure mischief-making. But Europe’s south seceding now would make much more sense, and be infinitely more morally justifiable, than America’s South leaving the Union in 1861. The euro is responsible for levels of youth unemployment in Greece, Spain and Portugal worse than anything we’ve seen since the 1930s. The only growth those economic policies have fostered is support for Trotskyists and Nazis. I don’t know about leaving the EU, but if those countries had never joined the euro their economies would be more competitive, their societies more equal and their politics less toxic. That’s what Trump would appear to prefer. But it’s what Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband instinctively oppose. And they wonder why working-class voters desert the liberal left.
Even more curious to me is how my left-wing friends respond to economic overtures from the US.