His name is inescapable right now; Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States and leader of the ‘free world’. Whether you love him or hate him, it has been confirmed that Donald Trump will lead the United States for at least the next four years.
With the implementation of a new President comes new foreign policies and new ideologies that the UK must work alongside as the US’s greatest ally. One must therefore consider the potential impacts on the existing UK-US relations in light of not only Trump’s presidency, but also with regards to Britain’s latest leader, Theresa May, and the recent Brexit outcome.
It is extremely difficult to accurately pinpoint Trump's ideological views due to his lack of political experience: the new American President often contradicts himself when he refers to his values and future plans as leader, something that you will see consistently as this article unravels. One thing that is very clear about Donald Trump, however, is his stance on immigration. Trump’s elaborate proposal for a ‘wall’ to be built on the United States/Mexican border indicates that the new American leader has adopted a strict isolationist approach, something that has not been seen in the US since the 1930s. This is further heightened by Mr Trump’s declaration of putting ‘America First’, emphasising that this isolationist regime will surely be manifested.
‘Britain’s been a great ally. They’ve been such a great ally they’ve gone into things they shouldn’t have gone into, for example going into Iraq. With me, they’ll always be treated fantastically.’
This statement infers that, although Trump does have isolationist views, he still may take into consideration one of its strongest allies – the United Kingdom - regarding new legislation and trade deals. Perhaps it will be incredibly challenging for the United States to run and operate, maintaining the world's highest GDP in an isolated climate as the USA heavily relies on trade to establish their grand economy, which will refute with Trump's plan of seclusion.
TRADE & ECONOMY
Theresa May has controversially emphasised how the UK and US can ‘lead the world’. The British leader exalted how both Trump and herself are to ‘renew [the] nation just as we renew ours’, highlighting the obvious contrast of politics that America had undergone with a Trump presidency as well as the upcoming changes the Brexit decision will propose. May added ‘we have the opportunity, indeed the responsibility, to renew the special relationship for this new age. We have the opportunity to lead, together, again’. From this it can be inferred that Britain and the US may become closer than ever before. With the UK's departure from the EU and Trump adopting a isolation policy, the two countries will feel no responsibility to other bodies and may simply focus on their 'special relationship' and the growth of the UK and US.
After the recent EU departure, Prime Minister May has been probing the globe in hope of securing new trading deals that can ensure Britain keeps its dominance globally, financially and economically. On the other side of the ocean, Trump has fiercely opposed the TPP Agreement, harshly claiming that it wants to 'rape...our country’. The President stated:
'The TPP would be the death blow for American manufacturing. It would give up all of our economic leverage to an international commission that would put the interests of foreign countries above our own. It would further open our markets to aggressive currency cheaters.'
This quote shows Trump's harsh stance towards the TPP trade agreement and how he refuses to compromise or adapt. This further highlights his 'America First' ideology. His recent signing of an executive order to pull out of TPP may in fact benefit the UK: it could possibly encourage the UK and the US to build a more personal ‘special relationship’, in which they both can delegate and chose more concisely how they wish to operate their trade. A relationship with the US is extremely beneficial to the UK as the North American country currently obtains 14.5% of UK imports; making the US their biggest trading partner. Furthermore, Britain and the US have been allies for hundreds of years. The strong alliance not only occurs in trade, but foreign policy and military. This friendship is key to Britain's influence and dominance financially and globally.
Trump has previously been extremely critical of NATO. He established his disapproval of European member states who had not contributed ‘enough’ in his opinion towards the military alliance. The UK, however, is one of the few European countries to meet the requirement of 2% of their GDP paid to NATO annually. Nevertheless, in a recent press conference with Prime Minister May, the American claimed he was '100% behind NATO'. This shows, yet again, Trump’s consistent indecisiveness on key and important issues, which makes it difficult to predict exactly how future relations between the UK and USA will evolve. If Trump decides to eventually depart from the intergovernmental military alliance, what could happen to Great Britain’s and the United States ‘special relationship’?
MILITARY AND FOREIGN POLICY
Concerning their military and foreign policies, Britain and the United States have somewhat conflicting views that, at times, can also mirror one another. Trump has openly declared his fondness of Russia and President Putin. He has stated that the Russian President 'is doing a great job" and has pledged to "get along very well with" him. Whereas, on the other hand, Britain has had a progressively opposing perception of Russia in recent years. This is due to the British government's opposition of Russia’s seizure of the Crimea and the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over rebel territory, both of which resulted in sanctions placed on Russia. Nevertheless, May has proclaimed to 'improve' the stained relationship between Russia and the UK, which can possibly imply a ‘triple entente’ alliance between the three countries.
In furtherance, Donald Trump has been exceedingly conflicting in his plans towards the Middle East. He has vowed to bring troops home but has also vouched he is not against hitting the so called Islamic State with a nuclear weapon. The UK has infamously engaged in the wars that the United States have commanded such as the long lasting 'war on terror' in the middle east, which possibly implies that Theresa May will support and stand by whatever Trump’s actions may be.
When May was questioned about the mass controversy surrounding the recent abhorrent ‘Muslim Ban’ imposed by Trump’s administration, the Prime Minister simply stated ‘the United States is responsible for the United States’ policy on refugees.’ However, after much condemnation, May released a statement that she ‘did not agree’ with the ban and would make ‘representations’ if Britons are affected. This may show she is not willing to totally oppose Trump’s approach to immigration, perhaps in respect of their extremely fresh relationship or possibly due to her own politics: Theresa May herself has received huge backlash concerning her refusal to accept more Syrian refugees in to the country. During her time as Home Secretary, it was blatant to see her unenthusiastic approach to refugees and immigration. In 2015, the UK received only 38,878 asylum applications compared to Germany’s 431,000 and Sweden’s 163,000. However, even with this minute number, only 45% of applications were accepted with May at the helm. May’s government has planned to take only 20,000 refugees over the next 4 years, something for which she has received mass criticism. The PM declared ‘We have always taken the view that we can help more Syrian refugees by putting aid into the region.” It can be indicated that the two share similar encompassing views concerning refugees and immigration. Although, the British leader appears to not be as harsh, extreme and erratic as Trump.
In conclusion, it is fair to say even after analysing and dissecting countless speeches of Trump and May it is extremely difficult to predict and pinpoint how UK and US relations will proceed over the next four years. The two global powerhouses have kept a close bond throughout wars, controversies, terrorism/turmoil, conflicting views and new leaders time and time again. Both Trump and May value the 'special relationship', the UK and US obtain, which gives reassurance that the relationship will only get stronger. Nevertheless, Trump's recent postponed trip to the UK, due to Parliament backlash projects a very different tone. Speaker Bercow said he would veto any attempt to invite Trump to address Parliament. The Speaker has a detrimental role in British Parliament, having the highest authority of the House of Commons, which emphasises the impact of this statement. We can only wait and see what is to come, but one thing is indefinite, with Trump's idiosyncratic personality and leadership, the next 4 years will be nothing like seen before.