Ron DeSantis has good news for Brexiteers – but bad news for Tories
Ron DeSantis, the politician likely to challenge Donald Trump for Republican Party’s presidential nomination, said he is a “big supporter” of Brexit, likening it to the United States Declaration of Independence.
The Florida governor and rising star of the American Right gave his enthusiastic backing for Britain’s decision to leave the European Union as he released his memoir ahead of a potential White House run.
In an interview with The Times, he likened Brexit to the Declaration of Independence and drew a comparison with his country’s Founding Fathers’ fight to defend the “right of Englishmen”.
However, Mr DeSantis suggested that the Conservatives will be “punished” at the next election for not being “aggressive” enough in delivering on the referendum’s mandate and believed that led to “disappointment” among British voters.
He told The Times: “My impression, based on what we get here, is that the Conservative Party hasn’t been as aggressive at fulfilling that vision as they should have been and that maybe they’ll get punished in the next election as a result of that.”
George Mason, one of the Founding Fathers who helped shape the Declaration of Independence in 1776, argued: “We claim nothing but the liberty and privileges of Englishmen, in the same degree, as if we had still continued among our brethren in Great Britain.”
Mr DeSantis is widely expected to challenge Mr Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Polls show that he is the former president’s strongest competition, coming either first or second in a potential primary line-up.
Mr DeSantis is currently promoting his book, The Courage To Be Free, a traditional route for aspiring candidates hoping to boost their profile ahead of a campaign launch.
The memoir makes a teasing reference to a 2024 presidential run and topped Amazon’s Top 100 list after its release on Tuesday.
In it, the Florida governor said that his leadership could serve as a “blueprint for governance” nationwide as he railed against Leftist elites who control US institutions.
Mr DeSantis, who is fond of quoting Sir Winston Churchill, invoked the wartime leader in an epigraph: “Courage is rightly considered the foremost of virtues, for upon it, all others depend.”
He has been more ambivalent in his support for another wartime leader: Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky.
In his first major foreign policy intervention last week, Mr DeSantis criticised Joe Biden’s surprise visit to Kyiv and questioned the US’s unfettered spending on the conflict.
However, Mr DeSantis has also taken a hawkish stance on Vladimir Putin and Europe’s reliance on Russian energy, previously branding the Russian president “an authoritarian gas station attendant”.
It is a delicate balance aimed at both appeasing the Republican grassroots, whose support for funding the war is declining, and the more hawkish factions of the GOP.
Pushed on his position by The Times, Mr DeSantis said he was “sympathetic” to critiques of Mr Biden’s approach.
He said: “Is our policy just do whatever Zelensky wants? Or do we have a concrete idea of what we’re trying to achieve exactly?”
However, when asked how his approach would differ, Mr DeSantis replied: “I think I’ve said enough.”
Linking up for golf
He was more forthcoming on his enthusiasm for visiting the UK, and in particular a golfing trip to St Andrews with his wife Casey, a former TV news reporter.
“There’s really nothing like it anywhere in the world,” he said of the Scottish town and its golf course, describing it as “one of our all-time favourite trips”.
He told The Times: “When you’re there, you’re in the midst of the town and the thing about it is – Americans are shocked at this – it’s a public course.
“And they don’t play on Sundays. So on Sunday, they’re walking their dogs out there and they’re having picnics on the 18th fairway where they could play the Open Championship. It was really, really neat.”