The ‘Special Relationship’ is in Trouble

    Freddy Gray

    Politics, Europe

    President Donald Trump and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May wait at the start of the first working session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany

    And that’s bad news for London.

    President Barack Obama was no great Anglophile. As a young man, he had the misfortune of attending a British stag do—what you Americans call a bachelor party—so he’d seen us at our worst. The son of a Kenyan, Obama seemed anticolonialist and suspicious of limey arrogance. At the start of his presidency, he upset a lot of ‘Special Relationship’ enthusiasts when a Joseph Epstein bust of Winston Churchill was removed from the Oval Office. Quite how directly Obama was involved in that decision remains a moot point. But it was enough to hurt delicate British feelings.

    Towards the end of his presidency, Obama again irritated British patriots by interfering in our referendum on Europe: Britain, he said, would be at the ‘back of the queue’ for trade talks if we elected to ‘Brexit’—that is, leave the European Union.

    For all that, however, Obama always maintained highly cordial relations with the British government: he and our former Prime Minister David Cameron always got on. Obama joined the disastrous Libya intervention in large part because Cameron pressed him into it. He may have been reflexively anti-Limey: but his administration never let that show.

    Donald Trump seems the opposite. Within hours of Trump’s inauguration on January 20 last year, the Churchill bust, by now a symbol of the health of the ‘Special Relationship’, had reappeared in the Oval Office—apparently at the suggestion of Nigel Farage, the leading Brexiteer, who had campaigned for Trump in 2016. This prompted excitement among British jingoists: Trump was an Anglophile! His mother was Scottish and a monarchist! At his Turnberry golf course the day after Brexit, Trump had told us how ‘she loved the ceremonial and the beauty, coz nobody does that quite like the English.’ He’d also expressed great enthusiasm for Brexit, which he seemed to think a great historical turning point—like his election, a hammerblow against the globalist elites. He promised, contra Obama, that Brexit Britain would be ‘first in the queue.’ In Trump’s eyes, it seemed, the EU was a protection racket for German manufacturing. Britain was ‘so smart for getting out,’ he says. Trump promised a ‘beautiful’ U.S.-UK trade deal would be easily and almost instantly struck.

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