Magazine article The Spectator

Why Trump Could Be the Friend Britain Needs

Magazine article The Spectator

Why Trump Could Be the Friend Britain Needs

Article excerpt

Donald Trump has pledged to reward Britain for leaving the EU, and the signs are promising

Freddy Gray, Paul Wood and Kate Andrews discuss Trump's arrival at the White House:

As president, Barack Obama was too cool for the special relationship. The romantic bond between the United States and Great Britain, which always makes Churchill fans go all soggy-eyed, left him cold. Obama was more interested in globalism, 'pivoting' to Asia and the European Union. Donald J. Trump is a very different creature. The new US President seems to cherish Great Britain, whereas the EU annoys him. Brexit is beautiful, he believes -- and the EU is falling apart.

Trump may or may not know the name of the British Prime Minister but, as he told Michael Gove this week, he is determined to strike a free trade agreement with Britain 'very quickly'. Trump deals in deals, and he wants to deal with us. As for Angela Merkel and the EU, they can either fall in with Trump's new world order -- or fall out with the world's greatest superpower.

His attitude to Europe is nothing short of revolutionary. With a few words in Trump Tower, he seems to have torn up decades of US State Department policy. He doesn't see much of a future in the whole EU project, effectively predicting its demise. 'People want their own identity,' he says, 'so if you ask me, others, I believe others will leave.' He believes in nation states, and he does not see the EU as representative of the continent. In fact, he says, it is 'basically a vehicle for Germany'.

It's hard to overstate the effect of these words on the EU, and its ambitions to be seen by Washington -- and the world -- as an economic and diplomatic counterweight to the United States. The whole project has always been nurtured with American backing: ever since the Marshall Plan, US policy has been to consolidate Europe's strength and to promote what went on to become the European Union. America used trade and Nato to make the continent a bulwark against the East. That often meant sacrificing America's short-term economic gains in the interests of security and world peace.

Trump has no time for that. He believes that the world has changed, and he wants better deals for America now. He warns Germany that if it thinks it can build BMWs in Mexico and sell them cheaply to Americans, they can think again.

He reckons that Europeans, like Americans, are suffering because multilateral trade alliances are corrupt, outmoded -- and unfair to America. Everybody has a Mercedes-Benz in Fifth Avenue, he says, 'but how many Chevrolets do you see in Germany?' Most disturbing of all for European security analysts, he promises to be as receptive to Vladimir Putin as he is to Angela Merkel: 'I start off trusting both -- but let's see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all.'

This upends the American tradition of seeing Russia as a threat and Germany as an ally against the threat. Trump's critics see Putin as a Machiavellian kleptocrat who somehow has Trump in his pocket. To Trump, the real racket is the EU -- which is why he thinks Britain was 'so smart in getting out'.

Trump's choice for commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, has made sceptical noises about Britain's divorce from the EU -- at least, he did before he was nominated to the new cabinet. But the rest of Team Trump seems to be champing at the Brexit bit. When Boris Johnson went to New York earlier this month, he met two of Trump's most trusted advisers: his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his chief strategist Steve Bannon. Kushner, who seems to be the most influential figure in the Trump court, was keen to stress how quickly an agreement could be reached. He liked the idea of cracking on as soon as possible, and suggested it should only take days to sort out the principles.

Kushner, a 36-year-old real-estate entrepreneur from New York, shares his father-in-law's love of deals. But it's fair to say that he probably doesn't have deep feelings about the future of Britain and Europe. …

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