The policy outlooks of both Presidential candidates mean that regardless of the outcome of today’s vote, the special relationship between the US and UK is set for testing times ahead, says Rory Broomfield.
Does the UK still have a special relationship with the US? Maybe. But whoever is elected US President will pose real challenges for the UK and its relationship with the US over the next four years.
“Billary” or “the Donald” – America chooses its next President today. Whatever you think of them as personalities, their policy outlooks are worrying for anything that might resemble a special relationship between the US and the UK.
Let’s take Clinton. I think it’s obvious: she opposed Brexit and a trade deal between the UK and the US, her establishment / statist focus means she favours dealing with the EU and she had her officials all but say the UK should remain in the EU when she was Secretary of State. With the UK leaving the EU (hopefully soon), the US should be right up there on Liam Fox’s “deal list”. But it’s almost certain that Clinton will wish to prioritise the EU, over the UK, much to Germany’s joy and the UK’s annoyance.
For Trump, there are also challenges. Rod Liddle thinks that he will be better for Britain. I’m unsure. He’s supposedly a big fan of Brexit (or so I’m told) and wants to make America Great Again. Though, by tearing up NAFTA and putting the mutual defence clause in NATO at risk, he puts the UK on the backfoot.
The UK wants to leave the EU and chart a free trade future. This is the start of a great opportunity that the UK has to make deals which reach double the value of the EU’s agreements. However, Trump’s desire to “tear up NAFTA” might very well herald a new protectionist trend between the US and other nations – even its friendliest allies like Canada and, in time, the UK.
If this is transferred onto the world stage – affecting in a protectionist way trade between other states – capitalism is in trouble.
If a Trump presidency heralds this then in the first instance the post-NAFTA arrangements will be, to coin a phrase, “front of the queue” while the UK will have to wait its turn.
Further, let’s face it: China, Mexico and Russia will also be higher on the list of priorities than the UK. Trump has made no secret of his “love” – or supposed deal making prowess – with China, he wants to “build a wall” on the border with Mexico and, given his policies concerning NATO, Russia will be a ongoing, growing and possibly even immediate priority.
But the second, and arguably the most worrying aspect of his policy agenda from the UK’s perspective, is Trump’s desire to undermine NATO.
NATO is the cornerstone of Western defence relations. It has helped to ensure peace in Europe since its creation. If the US doesn’t respect it then it will go the way of the League of Nations – and the consequences for Europe – especially Eastern Europe – could be dire. It would make the UK’s role in Europe more difficult; it would make the UK’s negotiations with the EU even more problematic.
With all of that though, we need to remember that the UK’s relationship with the US is strong – and that Brexit can make the relationship stronger (if done correctly).
I’m no supporter of either Trump or Clinton but we should remember that our two nations have common ground in so many areas that can be built on. Whether it be finance, defence, diplomatic links or the law, whoever becomes US President I hope our Prime Minister, Theresa May, keeps the door widely open for her administration, and subsequent ones, to build on what we have with the US.