Trump Visits the UK Amid Domestic Confusion

  • Jun 04, 2019 BST
  • Team Kalkine
Trump Visits the UK Amid Domestic Confusion

On 3rd June 2019, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, began his state visit to the United Kingdom, and the same has been expected to be marred by domestic indecisiveness and political chaos. Since the three-day visit was announced by UK's "most important" ally, the Brexit process has been tossed into more turmoil, and now the British Prime Minister will now meet Mr Trump in effect as an interim prime minister as she had resigned the previous month. Moreover, in protest at the US president's policies, the leader of the opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, is slated to boycott Monday's state banquet. As Tory leadership contenders vie to succeed Theresa May as prime minister, which is fuelling political disarray in the UK, the state visit couldn't have taken place with more unfortunate timing.

On the first day of the state visit, the President, along with First Lady Melania Trump, went to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen, where they had a private lunch and welcome ceremony. On Monday, the British government confirmed that a formal bilateral one-to-one meeting would not be held between Mrs May and Mr Trump. This comes amid signs of conflict between the two leaders on a host of points, including trade, China and Brexit. Earlier that day, Trump reignited his political feud with Sadiq Khan, calling him a "stone cold loser" after Sadiq Khan had earlier said the UK should "not roll out the red carpet" for Mr Trump. Demonstrations in many cities have also been planned against Trump to protests his policies, especially his position on immigration.

Sir Christopher said that the political conditions at home would not prevent the visit being a success (at least for Mr Trump) as dining with royalty and the ceremony would matter more to him. Relations have rarely been as fraught as could be seen nowadays, and the state of the US-UK relationship in the age of Mr Trump and Brexit would be under the lens of many politicians and diplomats.

While the British are at the point of maximum political weakness and uncertainty, the US economy is strong, and it is following an aggressive approach to China on trade. Though the UK is planning to leave the EU, the country follows a policy which is more aligned with the European approach – going against Trump's wishes – on many global issues, which has caused some frostiness in the relationship. This includes not supporting Trump in his decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, continuing to support the Paris accord on climate change and giving continued support for the Iran nuclear deal.

However, the most significant source of tension is the difference between the US and UK over Huawei in particular, and the policy on China in general. The US suspects, without proof till now, that Beijing could be using Huawei's kit for fifth-generation mobile phone networks for spying and has been trying to persuade allies not to use the Chinese telecoms company's equipment and has even threatened to stop sharing security information. Though the intelligence relationship is the jewel in the crown of the US-UK relationship, Britain has given outline approval for Huawei to supply some equipment.

Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation said that Mr Trump would be looking ahead to the next prime minister and this trip for him is very much about the post-May era, as the future twists in the relationship are bound to be determined by whoever succeeds Mrs May as prime minister. If Boris Johnson, whom Trump tipped as an "excellent" future prime minister, succeeds Mrs May, commentators believe Mr Johnson could align the UK more closely to Mr Trump and the US, accompanying a hard Brexit approach to the EU. By contrast, if Mr Corbyn, whose anti-Americanism is unmatched by any modern UK party leader, becomes the PM, the UK-US relationship would come under severe strain, something even Mr Trump tacitly acknowledged.

Experts believe that if Brexit happens, the UK will be less valuable as the US has always seen Britain as a country that can have influence within the EU, and this element of its leverage has enjoyed an essential role in the transatlantic relationship until now. Moreover, many far bigger structural changes are taking place, and so the future of the relationship will not be just down to individuals.

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