The Trump-May Axis
Matthew JAMISON | 01.02.2017 | WORLD / Americas, Europe

The Trump-May Axis

The next chapter in the Anglo-American «Special Relationship» has been ushered in. In this chapter Britain will become even more junior to the United States in the partnership and as would appear from the British Prime Ministers weak and pathetic refusal to forcefully and strongly condemn and denounce the atrocious, unconstitutional and immoral US Presidential executive order suspending the United States refugee programme for a period of time, banning Syrian refugees indefinitely and travellers from seven Muslim majority nations. The Trump-May axis will be very much one of joining the British Government to the hip of a deranged and nationalistic American President and the wilder extremes of his Republican Party. This diplomatic alliance and cultural love affair all began officially with FDR and Churchill and hence forth American Presidents such as Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush have hued closely to British Prime Ministers such as Harold Macmillan, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. It is said that the Anglo-American «Special Relationship» marks Britain out as America's «closest ally» and number one European partner. The British profess to enjoy high regard and influence in Washington DC and within various Republican and Democrat administrations. For the British the alliance is predicated upon unrivalled access to and influence upon the Earth's Superpower and ultimate leader of the Western Atlantic community, for the Americans, a reliable and stalwart ally in Europe and a global partner on intelligence, defence and diplomacy. 

American Presidents have tended to treat British Prime Ministers as almost de facto members of their own Cabinets, in the mould of a Secretary of State exclusively rooted in British and European affairs. When the Anglo-American «special relationship» is at its most intense and closest is when a strong personal chemistry and warmth exists between the lead protagonists in the Oval Office and No. 10 Downing Street. FDR and Churchill both admired each other as fellow patrician visionary leaders; Kennedy looked upon Macmillan as a distinguished elder statesman and father figure while Mrs Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were positively in love with each other and sizzled with mutual regard and personal chemistry. The alliance of the United States and United Kingdom has been built up upon foundations of trade, investment, business, intelligence cooperation, security cooperation and also a nostalgic historical fascination with each countries culture and national characteristics. 

The relatively new British Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has become the first foreign leader to meet with Republican President Donald Trump at the White House and has unwisely aligned herself far too closely to President Trump, his policies and administration, boxing herself in on the World Stage as a Trump apologist and puppet. Mr. Trump is a effusive Anglophile with a Scottish mother and a warmth towards the British Monarchy. Mrs. May is the leader of the Conservative Party which like the Republicans in the United States is the party of the free market and limited Government as well as nationalism Given the unique nature of President Trump and the campaign that he ran to get elected as well as his overall style and leadership it was somewhat surprising to see Mrs. may embrace so closely President Trump instead of maintaining a somewhat more business like approach. This is one of the unfortunate side-effects of Brexit. If the UK had voted to stay in the EU it would have been in a stronger position to keep somewhat of a distance from the Trump administration. By voting to Leave the UK is now ever more at the need for American benevolence and good will to give it a boost in world affairs and global markets. So the Trump administration very much holds nearly all the cards now when it comes to US-UK relations as demonstrated by the overly enthusiastic embrace of Mrs. May.

What was more unusual about the warmth of the meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister May was the fact that May had addressed a gathering of the Republican Party the day before in Philadelphia at the treat conference of the Congressional Republican Leadership from the House and Senate. A highly political event and partisan in its intermingling of diplomacy and international relations with domestic party politics. May seems intent on aligning herself in political philosophical terms with the conservative Republican Party and the election platform and victory of Donald Trump. The setting in particular goes above and beyond what is required from a diplomatic foreign policy trip such as a summit between the UK Prime Minister and US President. It is true that Mrs Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were small government, individualist liberty campaigners and thus ideological soul mates on a political intellectual level. But Reagan's Republican Party and Reagan's conservatism was not and is not the conservatism of Donald Trump and the Republican party of 2017 not 1980. The right wing of conservatism in America has drifted further and further right largely taking much of the conservative movement with it under George W Bush and now into unknown but charged territory of Trump and the hard right Tea party wing.

Mrs. May explicitly aligned herself politically and ideologically with Trump and his conservative Republican Party, praising his victory, and stating the «principles» of his agenda and the Republican Party's agenda were ones she also shared and intended to inject into her own Government's policy work. Mrs. May is once again on risky political territory. It is unknown how the Trump administration will perform, with its historically low approval ratings for a new Presidency, and the volatility of the President's nascent foreign policy. Given time the Trump administration could sink domestically while causing to many ruptures internationally for the British Prime Minister to sustain politically. Unlike learning the lessons of the Blair-Bush period when Britain became far too eager and supplicant to support American positions for the psychology of being lavishly treated as American's number one ally and having to defend ever more aggressive and unilaterally nationalistic actions by the Bush administration to an outside world, it would seem from Mrs. May's trip that she is intent on attempting to revive some form of the Thatcher-Reagan dynamic with herself cast as the grown up governess of sense and discipline keeping in line the more rumbustious and reckless American President Donald Trump. But by pulling so close into Trump's diplomatic orbit Mrs. may like Tony Blair may find it hard to publicly break with the President and privately might be taken for granted.

This trip by Theresa May as her first with the new US President Trump has been politically miscalculated. Its potential to cause a backlash to Mrs. May's domestic political position and reinforce even deeper how reliant and dependent Britain is on America for relevance and position on the world stage is very real. Mrs. May has left herself little wiggle room to keep distance from President Trump and his America First agenda which she intends to replicate with her Hard Brexit Britain First agenda back in the UK. If President Trump is a disaster and cannot handle the international challenges in a wise and moderate way before him and causes serious problems globally, the Prime Minister, could find herself having to defend him and explain him or as in the case of her refusal to condemn the Trump refugee and immigration directive, be seen to turning the other cheek on serious concerns over Trump policies. while leaving no way to firmly distance herself from Trump much as Harold Wilson did with President Johnson regarding sending British soldiers to fight in the Vetnam War. The Trump-May axis could have the potential to reveal Britain truly as what the former French Socialist Prime Minister and Socialist Party Presidential candidate Manuel Valls said of Britain: «a vassal state» with regards to May's trip to America with Donald Trump.

Tags: UK  US  May  Trump