• 21 Jul - 27 Jul, 2018
  • Shahed Sadullah
  • London Eye

It is perhaps never the right time to invite US President Donald Trump to visit your country – whichever country ‘your country’ may be – and Prime Minister Theresa May found that out the hard way. As the US President landed in the UK he was met by a volley of demonstrations up and down the country, all against him and some even abusive. He was kept away from all that and if he at all saw any of it, it would only be on television – if only to dismiss it as ‘fake news’!

The entire security operation is said to have cost millions of pounds and critics of Trump, of which variety there are a plenty, have pointed out that there are a thousand causes where that money would have been much better spent.

Soon after landing in the UK, the President confirmed that he was a man better kept at arm’s length. In a blistering interview to the Murdoch owned tabloid The Sun, he took the British Prime Minister and her Brexit white paper spelling out this country’s future relationship with the European Union apart. He said that with the trade relations that Theresa May was working towards, no trade deal with the US would be possible and lamented the fact that the British Prime Minister had not taken his advice on how to proceed with Brexit. He came down heavily on the side of Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary who recently resigned because he disagreed with the Brexit plan that had been thrashed out over a weekend meeting of the Cabinet held at the Prime Minister’s country retreat in Buckinghamshire. Mr Johnson had agreed to it there, but after the Brexit secretary David Davis resigned, he decided to go as well. It was difficult to find anyone who would shed a tear at Mr Johnson’s departure, yet President Trump endorsed him and said that that he would make a great Prime Minister. Indeed, if Mr Trump had been reading out from a brief prepared by Nigel Farage, the former head of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), who, along with Boris Johnson spearheaded the Brexit campaign, he would not have sounded very different.

That shocking interview, conducted the day before he went to meet Prime Minister Theresa May, followed by tea with the Queen, would have made for a very frosty, even embarrassing meeting. Not a bit of it. The Donald changed the tack completely and declared that the relationship between the US and the UK was the highest level of special, with body language to go with it, suggesting that if it were not for Mrs May, he didn’t know where he would be. The two came to news conference holding hands and left holding hands and if Mrs May looked at all like say the President of Croatia, Kolinda Graber-Kitarovic, who is often mistaken for a model, one would be tempted to read rather more into it. As an aside, it may be mentioned that soon after England’s defeat to Croatia in the World Cup semi-final, the social media network exploded with pictures of Mrs May and Ms Kitarovic side by side, asking the cheeky question, ‘Which one would you choose’?

For Mr Trump, it was all very simple. He denied the interview with The Sun, dismissing it as ‘fake news’ leaving the paper gasping with their recording of the interview, every line of which reported was, of course, true. But none of it mattered, He said there was no reason why the US and the UK could not have a free trade deal and that was music to Mrs May’s ears. And then he went off to his golf course in Scotland where there were more people demonstrating against him. 77 per cent of people here in the UK do not think very highly of Mr Trump so it is not surprising that there have been so many demonstrations against him.

But Mr Trump’s view of Brexit and what he did or did not say are entirely irrelevant at this point of the Brexit process. The plan hammered out by the British government is not worth very much if the EU does not sign up to it, and there are clear elements of ‘cherry picking’ in it, something the EU has always said it is averse to and which will never be allowed. But then in politics, ‘never’ does not always mean ‘never’. The outline plan does provide for an open border between Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, so the Irish will probably push for it to be accepted. How the EU balances the two forces remains to be seen, but it can be said at the moment that the chances of a Brexit without any deal with the EU cannot be ruled out. That would be catastrophic, but with the view prevailing in many quarters that the catastrophe will be dealt with if and when it comes, everything is happily proceeding to the cliff edge. The only catastrophe that has taken place is England’s exit from the World Cup about which there has been much lament but no argument, even Brexiters realising that two is more than one. •