JUST over a year ago Barack Obama decided that the European Union needed his help. His advisers devised a strategy to bolster America’s European allies, incorporating transatlantic visits, political theatre and pep talks. Mr Obama talked of the dangers of Brexit in London and invited Matteo Renzi, Italy’s ill-starred prime minister, to Washington to back his constitutional referendum. Last April Mr Obama’s visit to Hanover, ostensibly to encourage a floundering transatlantic trade pact, occasioned a stirring defence of European unity, the memory of which still turns beleaguered Brussels bureaucrats misty-eyed.
Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed that each of these gambits failed. Britons ignored Mr Obama’s warning that a post-EU Britain would be at the “back of the queue” for any new trade deals; Italians spurned Mr Renzi’s constitutional changes (and forced him from office); and Donald Trump’s victory, in the words of the EU’s trade commissioner, put multilateral trade talks into the “freezer”. All of these outcomes revealed voters’ discontent with their political masters, a mood that found its fullest expression in the election of Mr Trump.
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