The renewed strength and respect of the Special Relationship can do good for both our countries in times of political unease
On the 20th of January 2009, I was 13 years old and watching the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States with my mother. It was of course the historic ceremony that saw Barack Obama become America’s first Black Commander in Chief. My American mother’s fervent optimism had rubbed off on me as she talked about how this President was going to be the start of something new and significant.
Well, it has now been eight years, and all I can say is that was a bitter disappointment. Now, I could go down many different avenues to attack the last President, but that is not what this article is about. This is about the special relationship and its much-needed revitalisation.
That’s right ladies and gentleman, the special relationship is back on — and not a moment too soon. For years, I have agonised as I watched Obama treat the UK either with contempt, or looked down on us as something to be patronised. No matter what you might think about Trump, he is a welcome change from the last administration’s treatment of Britain.
Trump, whose own mother was a Scottish immigrant to the USA, is not only a bit of an Anglophile, but also an opportunist. Within only a few minutes of himself and Theresa May being on camera, he proudly shoehorned in his mother’s Scottish origins. He then proceeded to reaffirm his belief in a Britain after Brexit, and has also made a great song and dance about the return of the bust of Churchill to the Oval Office.
These seem to be the actions of a man who holds Britain in high regard. He clearly has a fondness for our country, as displayed by his passion for golfing in Scotland. Now, by this point, those of you reading will be thinking that all this talk of Trump must have me down as a follower of his red hat-wearing flock. You would be wrong. We must not let our image of this man as a Wotsit coloured, protectionist with the vocabulary and speech patterns of a drowsy 10 year old get in the way of something that is of paramount importance: this man now commands the world’s biggest armed forces, its the biggest economy, and will be acting as an important symbolic and material ‘leader of the free world’.
Theresa May has been criticised for her trip to America for ‘looking desperate’. But did anyone actually take the chance to look at what had come of it? We realised something after their famous hand holding on the way to the press conference: this relationship is now, once again, a two way street. Gone are the days of Blair/Bush and Cameron/Obama, when the UK was talked at instead of talked with.
You may think me an optimist, but the evidence is compelling. Mrs May has got Trump to firmly state his commitment to NATO, after having previously questioned its purpose in a modern world. She managed to get the ball rolling on a trade deal with America, a deal which — with the largest economic power in the world — could make or break a successful Brexit. Subtly, and if only briefly, she seems to have made a gentleman of the President. For that fleeting moment during the press conference Trump was witty, calm, and cordial. Here was Trump-the-statesman, Trump-the-diplomat — and what a refreshing break it was.
Most importantly of all, however, herself and the Foreign Secretary seem to have extracted a much-needed reprieve for British nationals regarding Mr Trump’s temporary ban on immigration from seven Muslim majority countries. This applies to holders of dual citizenship, such as Iraqi-born Nadhim Zahawi MP, who has said that whilst this ban is in place that he will be unable to visit his sons studying at Princeton. The nation’s sporting hero, Sir Mo Farah, will also benefit from Mrs May’s negotiating — although he does not hold dual British/Somali citizenship. I would like to see the likes of Germany and France try to get such a reprieve.
They will not, and neither will any other major European nation, because, ultimately, Trump favours us. We must make this work to our advantage. Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Amber Rudd, and Philip Hammond must win preferential treatment and mutual friendship from the US. After this latest controversy surrounding the travel ban, many of you will falsely be saying we should be denying Mr Trump his state visit to the UK later this year. Why do this? Will this sort of empty virtue signalling make you feel better?
I am afraid we do not have a choice in the matter. We need America on our side. It is our largest single trading partner. We have hundreds of billions invested in each other’s economies and the reality of Brexit means that we will need the US more than ever. Whilst you should feel free to protest peacefully while he is here, you must also see that the strengthening of our old alliance can only be positive. Together, we have defeated the two greatest evils of the twentieth century: Nazism and Communism. Once again, Britain and America can stand shoulder to shoulder, and, with our able Prime Minister, steer the US away from its recent unsavoury tack.