The political and economic fallout from the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union last week will take months and years to be fully understood, but presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has already decided that the Brexit currently rattling world financial markets is good news for him. And not just because a severely weakened British pound will bring more foreign golfers to his resort in Scotland.
Trump’s campaign announced on Monday that the candidate would deliver a speech on trade policy, titled “Declaring American Economic Independence,” at a Pennsylvania aluminum recycling plant on Tuesday afternoon.
While not exactly a rapid reaction, the move to capitalize on what Trump believes is a positive development for him by associating it with his policy positions could be a sign of a slowly maturing campaign.
Trump has been accused by frustrated Republicans of largely wasting the first month of his presumptive nominee status with score settling and damaging personal attacks while ignoring opportunities to go after his likely Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, on her vulnerabilities.
For example, Trump failed to seize on a harsh inspector general’s report on Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state, and even helped push it out of the news with his attacks on the Mexican heritage of a federal judge hearing a lawsuit against his now-defunct Trump University.
Many Republican leaders were also infuriated with his response to the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando two weeks ago. Rather than take the opportunity to be presidential, he seized on the murderer’s pledge of allegiance to the terror group ISIS and gave a speech demonizing the U.S. Muslim population.
Trump has latched onto the Brexit vote as an indicator that his nationalist and anti-immigrant policy positions are not just powerful, but that they have been somehow vindicated. In the aftermath of the vote, after a controversial press conference in which he suggested the economic turmoil unleashed by Brexit might benefit his golf courses, the campaign released a more measured statement saying, in part:
“Come November, the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence. Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration and foreign policies that put our citizens first. They will have the chance to reject today’s rule by the global elite, and to embrace real change that delivers a government of, by and for the people.”
The language about declaring independence, clearly echoed in the title of his speech Tuesday, will likely be a major theme for Trump going forward. But it won’t be without its challenges.
If the markets continue their negative reaction to the Brexit vote, and British leaders who argued in favor of leaving the EU continue to waffle about taking the affirmative steps necessary to make it happen, Trump could find his support for Brexit leading to questions he doesn’t want to answer.