European leaders must realise that Trump might win

Morning View

Morning View

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Slowly but surely, some European leaders who were intemperate enough to make negative comments about Donald Trump have retreated.

To the surprise of commentators on both sides of the Atlantic, the billionaire tycoon will be the Republican presidential nominee in the November election.

When it began to look like Mr Trump would prevail in that nominating process, defeating much more experienced Republican politicians, the conventional wisdom was that he would lose to Hillary Clinton in the overall contest.

But she has had her own struggle to win the Democratic nomination, against a surprisingly resilient Bernie Sanders (no avowed socialist has got so far in American politics since the rise of communism in early 20th century Europe made the term politically toxic in the emphatically capitalist US).

Now some polls show that Mr Trump is ahead of Mrs Clinton, although it still seems reasonable to say that he will struggle to win in November, such is his unpopularity with huge swathes of the American electorate. Mrs Clinton, however, also has significant negative ratings. She is the arch establishment candidate, and Mr Trump’s success to date has been on the back of an anti establishment wave of feeling.

All countries that want to maintain good relations with America, which should include all European countries, ought to be operating on the assumption that Mr Trump could win. His politics is to the taste of few people in Europe and his call for a ban on Muslims entering the US was foolish. But the subsequent calls by some British politicians for him to be banned from the UK were ridiculous. Mr Trump might at times demonstrate alarming judgement but he should certainly not be treated like a fanatical Islamic advocate of mass murder.

Mrs Clinton has been a friend of Northern Ireland. She and her husband departed from the old Democratic affinity with Irish nationalism to steer a more neutral course. She might win in November or might be overhauled by Mr Trump. Either way, NI, the UK and the EU will have to work with the leader of a superpower that has helped protect Europe.