Every day I seem to read the same article on Brexit. It’s a progress report on negotiations that say the same thing every time. Some British official is quoted as saying they are hopeful and optimistic, and probably in need of a thesaurus to describe just how hopefully optimistic they are that a deal will be reached soon. That kind of rhetoric seemed okay over a year and a half ago, but Britain is less than two weeks away from leaving a vociferous debate with still no firm plan.
For background, a no-deal Brexit will mean Britain will face customs, immigration, and trade barriers that will create backlogs of needed goods ranging from food to car parts. But every time I read one of these articles —it’s been literally every day for almost two years— I can’t help but think of how President Trump would have handled things.
There are some differences in the way the two governments run, but Trump excels in his gut instincts and big ideas. He has been criticized for rhetoric that undermines our allies in Asia and Europe. Yet in both instances the supposedly spurned allies have strengthened their commitments ranging from NATO members increasing defense spending, to South Korea paying more for U.S. soldiers stationed there. He has renegotiated NAFTA, pressured China with tariffs, and announced the withdrawal of troops from Syria.
I imagine Trump would have announced a rather brash position and in bold strokes declare what he would accept and not accept with both his congress and the nations with which he was negotiating. When those positions were disputed or even rejected he would start applying the screws. He has withdrawn funding from Palestinian groups, cut UN funding, has stuck with tariffs, and walked away from negotiations with Kim Jong-un, all of which has enhanced his leverage. I suspect he would have done similar in this case. When he saw no deal coming and the deadline for an exit was arriving, he would take executive action as much as he could (and perhaps more than he should). In the end the country would have concrete action and a deal in place, or at the very least they would have strong contingencies established.
Trump is often attacked for his brash style and tough-guy rhetoric. But the opposite of his style is seen in the endless dithering and useless talk in Brexit. With two weeks to go, Prime Minister Theresa May is still scurrying around Europe trying to curry favor and work out a day, being handed stunning defeats in Parliament, and offering pie-in-the-sky promises about optimism with no firm plans.