WHAT a difference an election result makes.

It had seemed for a while as if the lamentable populist politics which had grown like weeds on both sides of the Atlantic were here to stay for a long time in both the US and UK. Whipping up sentiment, broad-brush and often insular, protectionist stuff, with the facts and detail far removed from the bluster or completely absent. In the UK, we have had and continue to have the dismal xenophobia from sections of the Brexit brigade and its deplorable consequences.

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Donald Trump, it has taken a little while to get towards accepting the reality that Joe Biden will be the next US president.

Mr Trump might not like the election result but financial markets are now looking quite relaxed and confident about the prospect of a stable Biden presidency. In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average this week surged through the 30,000-point mark for the first time in its 124-year history.

We thankfully seem a long way from those days when Mr Trump and Mr Johnson were noisily ruling the roost, and unable to do any wrong in the eyes of a large portion of their respective electorates. At times during that period, it was difficult to see any meaningful differences in their style and messages.

One big thing which united them, of course, was Brexit. As the Conservative Brexiters scrabbled to deliver something, anything, after wildly unrealistic promises of big new trade deals made to the electorate in the run-up to the 2016 referendum, the US was their go-to place.

Of course, this was always so much window-dressing.

Yes, the UK has a big trading relationship with the US. However, the European Union is as a whole a far bigger destination for exports. The EU accounted for 43 per cent of UK goods and services exports in 2019, and the US 21%.

It is important to keep in mind in this context that the Conservative Government’s own estimates of the benefits of a free trade deal with the US, if it is able to secure one, pale into utter insignificance relative to the damage to the UK economy of leaving the European single market, deal or no deal.

The Government forecasts a US trade deal could boost UK gross domestic product by around 0.07% or 0.16% on a 15-year time horizon under two different scenarios.

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If the UK were to conclude an average free trade agreement with the EU, forecasts drawn up by the Theresa May government in 2018 have it that the country’s GDP would in 15 years’ time be 6.7% lower than if it had stayed in the EU, on the scenario of zero net inflow of European Economic Area workers. Clamping down on immigration from the EU is, of course, one of this Tory Government’s big things.

Even with no change to migration arrangements, GDP would, if an average free trade deal were agreed, be 4.9% lower in 15 years’ time than if the UK had stayed in the EU.

And GDP in 15 years’ time in a no-deal scenario would be 7.7% and 9.3% lower, respectively, than if the UK had stayed in the EU, on the no change to migration arrangements and zero net inflow of EEA workers scenarios.

Now Mr Trump has lost the presidential election, and the dismal populist style in the US that has chimed entirely with what we have seen on this side of the Atlantic in recent years, and especially since summer 2019, will be replaced by the substance of Mr Biden and the team he is building.

Mr Johnson is of course firmly ensconced in Downing Street for now, and a big Tory majority indicates clearly we are much closer to the start than the end of this particular Conservative administration, whoever leads it. There is certainly no sign of an end to unappetising populist politics here. However, Mr Johnson looks now to be somewhat less popular with the electorate than he was when the Brexit supporters swept him to power last December. Of course, even at the height of his powers in the run-up to the election, Mr Johnson was not at all popular with large swathes of the electorate, as the Tories’ very poor showing last December in Scotland exemplifies.

The Prime Minister’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has not gone down well with the electorate.

There has of course been criticism in Scotland about First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the pandemic.

Some of this has come from businesses, and it is important the Scottish Government listens to honest feedback in formulating policy while obviously continuing to prioritise public health and save lives as it has done so far.

But some of the criticism has been political. And this carping seems to have been fuelled by people who appear irritated by understandable general discontent among the Scottish electorate with a Tory administration at Westminster which remains focused on its ideological Brexit and has been shown to be hugely lacking in its handling of the pandemic. Of course, this discontent has fuelled the independence debate, something which seems to have made the political carping louder and at times somewhat desperate given the lack of substance behind much of the criticism of policy-making.

It is crucial to look at the handling of the crisis objectively, not through a political or constitutional lens.

A poll for BBC Scotland by Ipsos MORI published last week signals people north of the Border believe the Scottish Government is handling the pandemic much better than the Johnson administration. This maybe signals the more noisy politically motivated carping is wide of the mark?

Only 25% of the 1,037 Scottish adults questioned said they think the UK Government has handled the pandemic well, while 55% believe it has done badly on this front. Around 72% of those questioned think the Scottish Government has done well and just 15% believe it has handled the situation badly.

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When it comes to the perception of the performances of the First Minister and Prime Minister, the gap is even greater.

Of the survey respondents, 74% believe Ms Sturgeon has handled the pandemic well. Only 19% think Mr Johnson has handled the crisis well.

Returning to the UK-US relationship, one thing which has surely changed on this front is the attitude on the other side of the Atlantic towards Brexit.

The tone from the Democrats is a breath of fresh air after having had to put up with years of the Tories’ hostile attitude towards the EU as they have continued their protracted negotiations on the post-Brexit relationship.

Back in September, Mr Biden took to Twitter to declare: “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit. Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”

His intervention came after the Conservative Government’s controversial internal market bill cleared its first hurdle in the House of Commons, in spite of concerns over a breach of international law in the context of the withdrawal agreement signed by the UK and EU in January. There has been much controversy over this internal market bill since, with the Government suffering defeats in the House of Lords.

The US president-elect has underlined his point on Brexit and Ireland again this week, opposing firmly a “guarded border”. And the UK Government should listen for many reasons. From an economic perspective, the UK’s relationship with the next US president has great importance beyond the question of whether or not there is a free trade agreement, and the Tories should realise this.

Mr Biden said: “We want to make sure – we worked too hard to get Ireland worked out, and I talk with the British prime minister, I’ve talked with the Taoiseach, I’ve talked with others, and talked with the French. The idea of having the border north and south once again being closed…is just not right. We [have] just got to keep the border open.”

There is little more than one month to go to the end of the transition period which has protected the UK from the actual effects of its technical Brexit on January 31, by keeping the country in the single market.

The alarm bells are ringing. The Guardian reported this week that a confidential Cabinet Office briefing seen by the newspaper had flagged an increased likelihood of “systemic economic crisis” as the UK completes its exit from the EU in the middle of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

It truly beggars belief that the Conservative Government is continuing with its hard Brexit folly even amid the pandemic, having refused to so much as extend the transition period.

Businesses are, for very good reason, increasingly worried, frustrated and angry about the situation.

A chief executive who had presided over such a shambles would have been long gone by now.

In terms of the extent of the Brexit fiasco, the man set to be Mr Biden’s Secretary of State offered a vivid description last year.

Antony Blinken said of Brexit on the Pod Save The World podcast in March 2019: “This is not just the dog that caught the car, this is the dog that caught the car and then the car goes into reverse and runs over the dog. And it’s a total, total mess.”

He added: “The generational aspect of this is really striking too. You have so many young Brits who feel like they have had the rug pulled out from under them in being pulled out of the European Union…and their own futures, their ability to travel, their ability to study, their ability to work on the Continent has been made much, much more difficult and they feel like their elders have done something to them that they will regret.”

Mr Blinken puts it well.

The Prime Minister and his fellow Brexiters should reflect on these comments. They no doubt will not. Cabinet members have had plenty of opportunity to think again about their Brexit folly and detangle the UK from it. Every opportunity to change direction has been rejected.

However, with the economic outlook so grim for all of us and particularly for young people who have seen their life chances reduced cruelly by the coronavirus pandemic, the European separatists controlling this Conservative administration really should think hard about the wind of change across the Atlantic.

And they should listen to Mr Blinken’s most apposite description of Brexit and his analysis of its effects.