Despite anger in London, Trump finds support in England’s pro-Brexit working-class towns
Yet in the north of England, particularly among those who supported Brexit — Britain’s departure from the European Union — opinions of Trump are far more nuanced, with many even offering strong support of the president.
“If he came here, I’d shake his hand, absolute brilliant businessman,” Dean Roberts, running a market stall in Barnsley, told Fox News. “He’s going to upset a lot of people, that’s what we want, he’s a true leader.”
In many towns that traditionally vote for the left-wing Labour Party, voters overwhelmingly embraced Brexit — an issue that had for years been pushed primarily by voices on the right.
Barnsley, in South Yorkshire, is one such working-class town which overwhelmingly votes Labour. But, in 2016, 68 percent of voters voted for Britain to leave the E.U. Perhaps, then, it was not surprising to find a number of residents here with positive views of the president — particularly his dislike for political correctness.
“Well done on being so strong and in a powerful role. You’ve upset some people, but you’ve also really got some of the community together and feel proud to be American,” she said, as they packed up the stall.
Amid the negativity surrounding Trump’s visit, polling suggests support for the trip. A YouGov poll released Thursday shows 50 percent of Brits support a working visit, with only 37 percent suggesting it should be scrapped. That being said, 77 percent of those surveyed said they have an unfavorable view of Trump.
As in the U.S., views toward the president vary by region.
In Oldham, a working-class town just north of Manchester, many residents were hesitant to talk about issues to do with Brexit or Trump, particularly in earshot of other people. This was similar elsewhere in the country, where some who spoke with Fox News would glance over their shoulder before making a positive remark about Trump, while others would lower their voices when talking about issues to do with immigration.
Duncan Stewart, smoking outside a Barnsley pub, said he wasn’t a fan of Trump and was particularly concerned about the tariffs that Trump was slapping on aluminum and steel.
“He wants everything, right, but he won’t give ‘owt back,” he said. “And I don’t agree with what he’s doing with Mexico, he wants to build that great big wall and make them pay for it.”
Stewart also had little time for Theresa May and her approach to Brexit: “She sits there with a little f—–g grin on her face, but f— all’s happening.”
Trump briefly waded into the Brexit debate Thursday during a press conference in Brussels, before departing for London, suggesting the plan is not in line with what Brits voted for.
“I would say Brexit is Brexit…the people voted to break it up,” Trump said. “So I would imagine … that’s what they’ll do but maybe they’re taking a bit of a different route. So I don’t know if that’s what they voted for.”
As for the planned London protests, he said residents in the U.K. “like me a lot and they agree with me on immigration. I think that’s why you had Brexit in the first place, because of immigration.”
In Burnley, bordering Lancashire and West Yorkshire and where voters backed Brexit with 66 percent of the vote, residents Fox News spoke to on Wednesday appeared more interested in England’s World Cup soccer game that evening against Croatia than goings on in London.
Market stall owner Simon Maxwell said he wasn’t particularly bothered about Trump’s visit either way.
“I think it’s just the character he is that he seems to attract all this attention, I think deep down he might have some good policies and know what he’s doing, but it doesn’t come across that way, does it?” he said. “So he’s treated as a bit of a joke.”
James Banister, proudly wearing a Burnley F.C. cap on a bench in town as he waited for his wife to finish shopping, said he was a lifelong Labour supporter who backed Brexit in 2016. He said Trump deserved to be greeted with respect, and pointed to Britain and America’s historic alliance as the reason why.
“We owe President Trump courtesy to come into our country in the memory of all the thousands of thousands of people who fought in the two world wars on our side,” he said.