Meltdown May braces for unwelcome Trump
Donald Trump visit to the UK today could bring fresh instability to Prime Minister Theresa May as she recovers from the resignation of two key Brexiteers from her cabinet.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit “bulldog” David Davis resigned at her so-called Chequers strategy of maintaining trade links with the EU.
Johnson might meet Trump during his visit despite him no longer holding a cabinet role. Trump told the media: “Boris Johnson is a friend of mine. He’s been very nice to me, very supportive. I like Boris Johnson, and maybe we will get a chance to talk to him when we get over there.”
If Trump appears to back Johnson it could challenge May’s already feeble grip on power.
“Trump might put pressure on the British cabinet to reconsider May’s Chequers declaration,” said Rem Korteweg of the thinktank Clingendael. “This could complicate things for May.”
The Chequers agreement looks to seize the worst of all possible worlds by maintaining a close relationship with the EU, following European food safety regulations and product standards, while losing any input into how the rules are formulated.
To sign a trade deal with Trump, which is something both May and the tycoon turned politician have spoken about, London may have to bring its regulations into alignment with Washington.
Trump’s staff have made it clear that it will insist the UK adopts many US regulations as a condition for any free-trade agreement, even though this would necessarily limit Britain’s ability to negotiate a trade deal with the remaining 27 EU members. Some demands, like access to the National Health Service (NHS) for US firms, would be especially controversial.
Imports of American chlorinated chicken and the privatisation of the NHS appear to be Brexit “dividends” on offer to the British people.
“Non-tariff barriers, like different regulations and standards, are among the main impediments to US-UK trade,” Korteweg added.
Trump has ignored UK advice on key issues, such as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Britain desperately tried to save. He has interfered in British politics, retweeting racist material from the far-right group Britain First. He criticised the May government and the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, for being too soft on terrorism and has praised populist Nigel Farage. Trump also tried to impose tariffs on Bombardier, an aerospace conglomerate that employs thousands in Northern Ireland, only to have it struck down by the US courts.
Donald Trump is loathed by the UK’s anti-Brexit lobby. Picture credit: Eurasia Times