What will Leave voters make of Donald Trump Jr's astonishingly hypocritical remarks about Brexit?
Many of those who voted for Brexit were seemingly motivated by the notion that the UK had increasingly become some sort of vassal of the EU, a victim of endless meddling by “faceless” Europeans in Brussels who had a habit of sticking their nose into our business.
What then will Brexiteers make of the latest interference by an unelected representative of a foreign state in Britain’s internal affairs?
According to Donald Trump Jr, writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, the Brexit deadlock shows that “democracy in the UK is all but dead” – a contention that is as facile as it is provocative. He claims without any evidence that things would have been different had Theresa May listened to his father and suggests that shadowy elites (perhaps even including the prime minister) are colluding to deny the will of the people.
Trump’s narrative mirrors precisely that of the conspiracy theories that his father – and hard Brexiteers – have used to win popular support: that a global establishment is working against the interests of the common people and will do whatever it takes to cling to power.
He even argues that so-called attempts to subvert the outcome of the Brexit referendum mirror attempts by “deep-state operatives” in the US to remove Donald Trump Sr from the White House, claiming that “we mistakenly believed there would be a peaceful and respectful transition of power” after the 2016 presidential election.
Despite the divisions left by the election result, the transition of power was peaceful, the odd protest aside, and a damn sight more respectful than his father’s campaign for high office, which was about as courteous as a Roy Chubby Brown stand-up routine. To argue to the contrary is utterly disingenuous. But then, that is a Trump hallmark, as is a penchant for sowing division.
But putting the hypocrisy and the insidiousness aside, what should we make of the fact that the son of the US president is making this sudden intervention?
Trump Jr was a senior member of his father’s campaign team for the 2016 election. Indeed, he has come under scrutiny for his participation in the infamous meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer, at which it was anticipated that damaging information about Hillary Clinton would be shared. That meeting has been a key focus of the ongoing Mueller inquiry, with Trump Jr denying any wrongdoing.
Since his father’s victory, Trump Jr has not taken on an official, political role, concentrating instead on looking after the family business interests. Yet it is clear that he remains closely involved with Trump Sr’s political plans and his article in the Telegraph has to be seen as an intervention by the US administration, not a disinterested private individual. With the US national security adviser, John Bolton, popping up on Sky News yesterday, there is a co-ordinated approach at play.
For Trump Jr, there is perhaps bigger prize at stake. He has hinted previously that he could run for president himself in 2024 and his op-ed is as much a commitment to the furtherance of his dad’s “America First” programme as it is a foreign grenade in the middle of Britain’s internal affairs.
Of course, he might face competition from within the Trump clan, let alone the rest of the Republican Party. Ivanka, unlike her brother, is officially a White House adviser, and is widely said to wield considerable influence over her father’s decisions. Then there is Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband, who also has a formal role and is attempting to bring peace to the Middle East.
Any of the three might think they can follow in the footsteps of the billionaire but non-elite current president, who evidently regards familial success as an extension of his own.
If we aren’t careful, the false battle of wills between an apparently homogenous “the people” and an opposing but similarly congruent “establishment elite” shall be made real to fulfil the will only of the Trump family and their associated hangers-on.
Now that would truly be subversion.