Kim Darroch is Britain’s ambassador to the United States.
2016 has been a seismic year for both American and British politics. Donald Trump has captured the presidency in a historic and impressive win like no other in history. And in the United Kingdom, the British people voted decisively to leave the European Union in what was a clear instruction from the British people to take back control from Brussels.
As British ambassador to the United States, I have traveled from coast to coast and heard from people across the political spectrum. I observed the heated debates in America and Britain. And I appreciate that people feel both sincerely and strongly about the issues discussed in both campaigns.
There will, of course, be disappointment felt by those for whom the results did not go the way they hoped. That is the nature of our democratic systems. But Brexit and the election of President-elect Trump captured the mood and will of the electorate. Now is the time move forward together and embrace the opportunities ahead.
These votes were on fundamentally different issues — the Brexit vote was about sovereignty and control of our national laws, while Americans selected their next president. But in both countries, governments need to acknowledge, understand and address the concerns of voters.
While Britain has always thrived on being an open trading nation, the benefits of globalization have not reached as many as they should. People on modest incomes are seeing their jobs outsourced or overtaken by technology and their wages undercut. They see their communities changing around them but don’t remember agreeing to that change. And they see the emergence of a new global elite who sometimes seem to play by a different set of rules and whose lives are far removed from their everyday existence.
People on both sides of the Atlantic are asking for direction and leadership. Both countries will approach their individual challenges in their own ways. However, there is much that the United States and Britain should, and will, tackle together, as they have for 200 years.
In their phone calls so far, Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May have made clear that the special relationship between Britain and the United States is stronger than ever. They will work together closely, building on the legacy of previous leaders such as President Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Some steps we will take within our own countries. In Britain, our domestic policy will reflect the wishes of those seeking a fairer economy. We will develop a new industrial strategy to ensure that working people in all parts of the United Kingdom benefit from the opportunities that trade brings. This strategy will support our strengths: our world-class universities, our clusters of dynamic businesses, our brilliant tech-sector start-ups, our world-leading creative industries. This is about creating the conditions where winners can emerge and flourish, to benefit all parts of the country and all sectors of our society.
Some steps Britain and the United States will take together. Trade, for example, is an issue that no country can address alone. When we leave the European Union, Britain will use the strength and size of our economy to forge new and dynamic trading relationships, with old allies and new partners, including the United States, our biggest trading partner.
The United States and Britain will continue to work ever more closely to provide security to each other. As partners who share intelligence and technology, we do more together than any other two countries in the world. Our mutually supportive cooperation enables us to operate together, and in wider alliances, around the world in the interests of global security.
Britain will continue to play a central role in global security, with the second-largest defense budget in NATO, after the United States. Last year, British forces deployed on more than 300 missions in over 80 countries, including to Afghanistan and the border of Eastern Europe. We know that America’s engagement with the world sets the standard for security and prosperity. So from our shared commitment to NATO to our leading roles in the fight against the Islamic State, we remain America’s closest partner on defense.
Together, we will continue to promote those values that underpin our enduring and special relationship — values such as freedom, democracy, enterprise and the spirit of innovation. And we will champion our deep-rooted ties in history, education and creative industries.
As we look ahead, it’s worth recalling the words quoted by both Reagan and Thatcher: “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.” For decades, our partnership has been the cornerstone of the world order. So we, as an alliance, will continue to be strong. We will continue to fight for the security of our nations and economies that benefit everyone.
2016 was the year that voters in both countries spoke loudly and clearly. 2017 will be the year we show we were listening.