The Anglo-American Special Relationship is becoming the EXTRA Special Relationship–and not for the right reasons.
The Special Relationship is based on a shared historic, legal, cultural, and philosophical root buttressed by military and political alliances, a shared outlook of the world and intelligence services which are joined at the hip and just about every other part of the political anatomy.
The Extra Special Relationship is based on a shared pariah status, siege mentality and Britain and America’s common need for friends in an increasingly friendless world. The Brexit vote has isolated the UK from its former partners in continental Europe. Trump’s style plus his anti-Islamic, anti-EU, anti-free trade, anti-Nato, anti-Chinese and pro-Russian and pro-Israeli rhetoric has done the same.
On top of that, Prime Minister Theresa May needs a big trade deal to show that Brexit can work to Britain’s advantage. Trump is offering a massive bribe—the trade deal.
But can such a deal be negotiated quickly? Is it really in Britain’s interest? Is it in the interests of the wider world? Is it worth the price of cosying up to Trump? What impact would a Trump-May love affair have on British politics?
Yes, the deal can be negotiated quickly. It has effectively already been completed. It is called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership which has been hammered out between the Obama Administration and dumped by the Trump people. All that is required on the part of the British and American negotiators is to go through the documents and change EU to UK. That should take a lot less than the 90 days allotted by Ted Malloch, Trump’s ambassador designate to Brussels.
Trump wants a weakened EU. A united Europe is a commercial competitor to the United States. He supports Brexit and the alt-right anti-EU populist movements sweeping across the continent because businessman Trump knows he can get better deals negotiating with a motley collection of national governments than he can with the world’s largest trading bloc.
But this is not good for Britain. The May government wants out of the European Union but it does not want the European Union to fail. Britain has historically always been separate from but part of Europe. Instability on the European continent dragged it into two disastrous world wars in the twentieth century and scores of others in the centuries before that.
There are other key areas of disagreement. Britain is a leading advocate for global free trade. It is pro-NATO and like the rest of the alliance worried about Trump’s talk of obsolence and closer political and military relations with Russia. Commercial, political and military attacks on China are seen by Britain as dangerously counter productive and a pro-Israeli Islamophobic policy is viewed as yet another recruitment poster for Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Next there is the impact that a close Trump-May relationship would have on British domestic politics. Theresa May’s majority in the House of Commons is a slim 15 votes and Trump is disliked and distrusted on all sides of the House. Yes, America’s status as the world’s only super power means that government ministers have to work with the Trump Administration, but they should be wary of being seen to support Trump the man.
He is heartily disliked in Britain. 100,000 protesters took to the streets of London the day after his inauguration. But more telling was a survey conducted by ComRes of the wider British public. Sixty-six percent said that the world was in a “more dangerous place” as a result of the election of Donald Trump. Ten percent said it was safer. Fifty-eight percent thought Trump’s election set a dangerous precedent for American and world politics, and 15 percent thought it was “good to shake things up a bit.” And finally, 53 percent thought Trump was a “bad man” and 15 percent thought he was good.
British PM Harold Macmillan once famously said that Britain’s role was to play Greece to America’s Rome. The belief was that British wisdom would temper gung-ho shoot from the hip Americans. Tony Blair’s experience in Iraq underscored the dangers of that approach.
Tom Arms is editor of LookAheadnews.com—the free diary of the world’s major forthcoming news events.
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