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Being anti-Trump and anti-Brexit is not the same thing. But there’s a huge overlap between being the people who are outraged by the new US president and those who voted to stay in the EU.

Theresa May’s rushed and mistaken decision to invite Donald Trump to Britain on a state visit is a golden opportunity to reenergise the pro-European movement. Before and during his trip, there’ll be mass protests. Those campaigning against a destructive hard Brexit will be able to tap into that energy.

In a Venn diagram, there would be a big intersection between anti-Trump and anti-Brexit supporters, as well as their values. The same goes for pro-Trump and pro-Brexit supporters, and their values.

This is not to say that all Brexiters are keen on Trump. Far from it. But many of the most high profile anti-Europeans – such as Nigel Farage and Michael Gove, both of whom have made sycophantic trips to visit the president – are his cheerleaders. 

What’s more, the realities of Brexit are pressurising Britain to suck up to Trump. Now that we are planning to quit the world’s largest market and putting at risk ties with 27 other like-minded European countries, we feel alone and weak.

Hence, Boris Johnson saying he was “looking forward” to working with the president just after he was elected, whereas he had said Trump was “unfit” for office when he was Mayor of London. Hence, too, May’s decision to invite the president to Britain on a state visit. 

The BBC’s Nick Robinson tweeted yesterday: “Why won’t PM cancel Trump state visit? Suspect was deal – you give us first White House visit & post-Brexit trade deal & we give you Queen”

Given that the president is pushing through policies that confront our interests and values, May’s hurried embrace is unwise. But she can’t scrap the invitation without destroying their new “special” relationship.

So despite a huge petition opposed to the visit, Trump is almost certainly coming to Britain. And, when he comes, he will be dogged by huge angry demonstrations. The ones last night across the country and the women’s march in London the day after his inauguration are just the foretaste.

The pro-European movement is currently depressed and unfashionable. Parliament is on the verge of voting through legislation authorising May to trigger Article 50. By contrast, the anti-Trump movement is vibrant and fashionable. 

But both movements agree about what sort of Britain we want (a fair and open society and honest politics) and what sort of country we don’t want (a xenophobic and sexist one). If we can build a broad popular movement articulating these values, we will also find we have a stronger base from which to fight a destructive Brexit.

by Hugo Dixon | 31.01.2017


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