Which country has suffered the most from all this disorder?
This is a particularly good time to answer the question, partly because the midterm elections come six years after Trump’s election shocked the world and partly because Britain has just suffered a heartbreaking change of prime minister.
At first glance, the answer seems obvious. Not only is Trump likely to declare he is running for president again next Tuesday, but many of the most prominent Republican candidates in today’s election are Trumpists in both style and substance. – celebrities and political neophytes who want to set the establishment on fire. The Washington Post calculates that 291 Republican candidates, more than half of the total, contested the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, with the majority favored to win.
Britain seems relatively stable in comparison. Rishi Sunak is a technocrat (and former banker) who believes in sound finance and balanced budgets. At this week’s COP 27 meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for example, he appears to have established a cordial relationship with fellow technocrat (and former banker), French President Emmanuel Macron.
Thanks in part to Trump’s intemperance, and in part to the growing strength and self-confidence of the radical left, the Democratic Party under Biden abandoned common ground, pursuing an expansionary economic policy despite rising inflation and misinterpreting civil rights protests as a signal of softness. criminality. In the UK, by contrast, Labor Party leader Keir Starmer has expelled his extremist predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, and is doing his best to choose moderate candidates for the next election. It focuses on winning back the white working class rather than tickling the erogenous zones of woke activists.
But look again and British policy is not so reassuring. The “Trump” wing of the Conservative Party is both bigger and more entrenched than Sunak’s rise would suggest. He lost badly to Liz Truss in the last leadership election despite the fact that his record as minister was far more impressive than his.
Truss adopted a wish list of policies that had been concocted at think tanks such as the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Taxpayers’ Alliance, and discussed at Conservative party parties. Conservative newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph first backed his campaign against Sunak, ridiculing his warnings about the consequences of his policies, then greeted his budget as if it were the economic equivalent of the second coming of Christ.
Sunak has included several people in his cabinet who have distinctly Trumpist sentiment. Suella Braverman, the interior minister, called the arrival of refugees on small boats an “invasion” and proclaimed that her dearest wish was to see the refugees transported to Rwanda. Kemi Badenoch is waging a war against revival. Key Tory ministers appear to have a Trump-esque contempt for ‘good practice’ and public service: Gavin Williamson, who was previously sacked as defense secretary for leaking, has now resigned as minister without wallet. other things, an accusation that he told an official to “cut his throat”.
That might sound like a small beer compared to Trump and the Trumpists. The presence of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Sharm el-Sheikh demonstrates that he is a very different figure from Trump. Johnson simply flirted with ignoring the 1922 Committee’s decision to overthrow him. Trump unleashed a vicious assault on Congress that included several people who ran for office in November.
But in two important ways, Brexit has done longer-term damage. The most obvious is economic. Trump’s combination of tax cuts and deregulation has been widely welcomed by businesses, whatever they think of his cultural policies. Brexit has been strongly opposed by Britain’s business establishment, and for good reason.
There seems to be no doubt that Brexit has caused significant damage despite difficulties in disentangling the effects of Covid and the war in Ukraine from the effects of leaving the European Union. Brexiteers have all but given up on claiming divorce is an economic boom and instead decided to say it was too soon to tell.
In June 2022, the Center for European Reform estimated that exiting the single market and customs union reduced UK trade in goods by around 15%. In the same month, the Resolution Foundation warned that workers can expect nearly £500 ($578.32) a year to deteriorate in real terms by 2030 thanks to the impact of Brexit on the productivity, with the worst effects felt by advanced manufacturing and the north of England. A recent report by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) claims that trade from the UK to the EU has fallen by 16% since 1 January 2021 and trade from the EU to the UK by 20%. Truss’ budget was driven by the desperate recognition that the only way to turn Brexit into a positive was to administer potentially deadly shock therapy.
It is of course possible that Britain will join the EU in the longer term. The proportion of Britons who think leaving the EU was a good thing is falling, and the next general election is shaping up to be Remainers Revenge: where the emerging anti-Brexit majority will avenge the unrest that has been unleashed since 2016. But join The EU – if it gets Britain back – will take time. And the messy business from the start has done long-term damage while distracting the nation’s collective attention from directly addressing productivity issues.
The second long-term consequence concerns the future of the United Kingdom. In September 2014, it looked like that question might have been answered for a generation when Scots voted 55% to 45% to stay in the country. Brexit reopened the issue by first dragging Scotland out of the EU against its will and then creating unrest in Westminster as a predominantly English party, the Conservatives, split over what meant Brexit.
In the Scottish elections in May 2021, the Scottish Nationalists won 64 seats to the Conservatives’ 31, the party’s fourth consecutive victory. Its leader, Nicola Sturgeon, says he is more determined than ever to organize another referendum.
In Northern Ireland, where the majority of people also voted to stay in the EU, Brexit paralyzed politics for six years and reignited difficult questions over the Irish border. Pro-unification Sinn Fein is now the largest party on both sides of the border.
It takes a lot to destroy the great wrecking ball that is Donald Trump. The United States may have a disturbing number of election denying Republicans, but Brexiters still have the advantage of breaking up a country.
More from Bloomberg Opinion:
Rishi Sunak is a new and old curator: Adrian Wooldridge
Do the Conservatives intend to appear ungovernable? : Martin Ivens
Jan. 6 panel proves again Trump must be held accountable: Timothy L. O’Brien
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Adrian Wooldridge is a global economics columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. A former writer at The Economist, he is the author, most recently, of “The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World”.
More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion