Hard Times for the Special Relationship

Teresa May’s Mistake

Gideon Rachman writes The Financial Times:- “Donald Trump is a disaster for Brexit – Britain cannot look to the US for support after its divorce from the EU“.

The election of Mr Trump has transformed Brexit from a risky decision into a straightforward disaster. For the past 40 years, Britain has had two central pillars to its foreign policy: membership of the EU and a “special relationship” with the US.  The decision to exit the EU leaves Britain much more dependent on the US, just at a time when America has elected an unstable president opposed to most of the central propositions on which UK foreign policy is based.

The Times has this from Lord Ricketts, the former Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office: “Trump visit will hurt the Queen, May is told – ‘Rushed’ invitation drags Palace into row“.

Theresa May has put the Queen in a “very difficult position” and should downgrade Donald Trump’s invitation from a state visit to spare her further controversy, the former head of the Foreign Office says“.

The Guardian has this: “Theresa May stands firm on Donald Trump state visit as thousands protest – Prime minister says ‘UK takes a different approach’ but defends invitation despite growing outrage over US travel ban“.

As the Guardian points out, the Speaker of the House of Commons allowed a 3 hour emergency debate on the Trump Executive Order:  “That debate culminated in the Commons unanimously passing an emergency motion from former Labour leader Ed Miliband that condemned “Trump’s discriminatory, divisive & counterproductive ban”.

At the time of writing, the Petition to Parliament against the Trump State Visit has had 1,626,210 signatures with 11,196 added in the last hour.

The Guardian has this op-ed by a former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw: “Theresa May was right to see Donald Trump. But she has to condemn him too – As foreign secretary I dealt with the Bush administration – and this is far worse. The prime minister must show some things matter more than a post-Brexit trade deal“.


The Guardian also reports on the many mass demonstrations against the Trump policy: “‘Time to take a stand’: thousands across UK protest at Trump policy – US president’s travel ban provokes demonstrations in cities including Edinburgh, Cardiff and London“.

There have to be serious doubts whether massive nationwide street demonstrations against a visit would go down well with the public in the UK, in the USA or elsewhere. All of this seems to add up to the following:

At present a Trump visit to the UK might provoke serious public disorder.  Although the invitation has been delivered, no dates have been agreed.  It might be wise to delay things.

Across the Pond

The New Yorker has this: “A welcome setback for Donald Trump“.

Saving America from the most unhinged and least qualified figure ever to occupy the Oval Office may well require a long and bitter fight. But a couple of early markers have been put down. The new President is not beyond the law. And many Americans will not stand by quietly as he traduces their country’s values, threatens its democracy, and destroys its reputation around the world“.

The New Republic has this: “The Case for Pessimism – What will America look like after four years of Donald Trump? The emerging picture is ugly.

More interestingly, Gallup puts Trump’s approval rating at -7 and Quinnipac at -8.  Those are pretty dreadful scores for a President newly arrived in the Oval Office.  It appears that 57% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track and only 32% think their country is on the right track (See Real Clear Politics Poll Averages).

The Special Relationship

BuzzFeed’s Political Editor writes:  “Theresa May Won Trump Over, But The Special Relationship Is Now High-Risk – The prime minister succeeded in her mission to build a relationship with the new president – but already the potential political costs are becoming clear.

The “special relationship” between the English speaking peoples is of value.  It has its uses.  But sometimes there are difficulties.  I have recollections of a rather funny debate in the UN on, I think, something to do with Vietnam.

There were interventions from the USA and Russia and then from the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  As I recall, Her Majesty’s Government in right of Canada opposed the US position, Her Majesty’s Government in right of the United Kingdom took a neutral position, Her Majesty’s Government in right of Australia supported the US position, then the New Zealand spokesman asked for an adjournment “to ascertain what Her Majesty really thought“.

It was certainly not wrong for Mrs May to visit the USA to make contact with the new administration to further what she, rightly or wrongly, thinks are in the best interests of the UK.

But for so long as the US Administration is headed by Donald Trump, it seems likely that any relationship (special or ordinary) may be very difficult.  We do not seem to be speaking the same language.



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