Obamacare and Brexit

Donald Trump’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, and Britain’s promise to exit the EU have much in common. Each was sold with a promise that change would be easy and nearly all citizens would benefit.

In neither case has the promise been kept. Nonetheless, writes FT columnist Gideon Rachman, repeal of Obamacare is simple compared to the complexity of Brexit.

During the US presidential election, Mr Trump energised conservative voters with his promise to scrap “Obamacare” — which he denounced as a total disaster. The Republican candidate was vague about what exactly would replace the Affordable Care Act, passed during the Obama administration. But he was quite certain that it would be “great”. For Trump enthusiasts this was enough. ….

The Brexit story is strikingly similar … — with “Brussels” serving the same purpose as “Obamacare” in America, as a symbol of waste and of government that was simultaneously remote and intrusive. During last year’s referendum campaign, the Brexiters gave the impression that … [t]he UK would announce its withdrawal, stop payments to the EU, regain full control over immigration, restore parliamentary sovereignty, negotiate free trade with the EU — and launch into a prosperous new future as “Global Britain”. Anybody who suggested that things could go badly wrong was dismissed as part of “Project Fear”. ….

But the sad fact is that Brexit makes repealing Obamacare look simple. The Trump administration is trying to unpick a piece of legislation that has been in place for just seven years — and that involves just one area of public policy. By contrast, the UK has been a member of the EU for almost half a century (since 1973), which means that European law is now enmeshed in every area of public life.

Gideon Rachman, “Obamacare, Brexit and the complexity problem“, Financial Times, 20 July 2017 (gated paywall).

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