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By Morak Babajide-Alabi
Your guess is as good as mine on what Theresa May, the United Kingdom Prime Minister will be thinking now. On her mind will be Donald Trump, the United States of America’s President. She would be wondering if the Trump interview with the UK Daily Sun is actually a fake as claimed.
Then the confusion will set in when she thinks of the fact that Trump “locked” her eye-ball to eye-ball and denied. She would ask herself over and over if having Trump on a visit to the UK was a good idea in the first instance. It is a question she only could answer.
Anyways, the US President would still have visited at a point during her premiership. May’s main projected gains from Trump’s visit were trade and economic, analysts wonder if she could have achieved political points as well.
Last week was not a particularly good one for the Prime Minister. This was the week she lost two of her senior ministers as a result of the soft-BREXIT agreement at the Chequers. BREXIT chief, David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson walked out on her, leaving scathing remarks about her plans.
The same week her leadership got challenged by fellow Tory members and opposition party members, the country had to host Trump. As anticipated, the visit did not go down well with a majority of the citizens. With the smiles and handshakes between Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary and Trump at the airport, it was no secret that Trump was not “welcomed”.
The British citizens put aside courtesy of welcoming strangers; instead, they folded their hands and turned their backs on Trump. Just like they did to George Bush in 2003. Not minding the smiles by government officials, the people on the streets from London to Sheffield and to Glasgow frowned at the visit. They poured out onto the streets in large numbers and in loud voices to denounce Trump. The number of placards, effigies and balloons on the streets reflected their anger.
The visit was efficiently choreographed so that Trump would not run into any of the protests. There was, yet, a security lapse when a Greenpeace paragliding protester flew over Trump’s Turnberry resort in Scotland. The President is not a stranger to protests, as his administration has seen more protests than any other in the modern history of his country. There have been protests on his immigration, gun control and many other policies.
Despite Trump’s late coming on Thursday night, May, accompanied by her husband, Phillip was all smiles to welcome them to the grounds of Blenheim Palace, the home of Winston Churchill. Although there were no disproportionate displays of affections, this did not suggest May was not excited to have the Trumps for a black-tie dinner with business leaders in attendance. May went all out to impress Trump, with the belief that her country and the US do have a special relationship.
She said: “Time and again, the common threads that hold us together – our shared history, our shared values, our shared language and culture – conspire to inspire mutual respect, and to make the United States and the United Kingdom, not just the closest of allies, but the dearest of friends.”
This is how much May thinks of the “special” relationship with the United States. At the start of Trump’s Presidency, May thought she had a special place in the heart of the US President. The opposition party and political analysts have accused May of fixating on a relationship that was ditched by Trump ages ago. They called her out for over-romancing Trump and falling over herself to invite him to the UK.
Left to May, she would have wished for a State Visit for Trump, but the decision was taken out of her hands. No thanks to respect for public opinion. This visit had the tendency to be contentious as the initial opposition that greeted the “idea” was monumental.
Understandably, May’s rating of the relationship was not borne out of anything. She was one of the first foreign heads of states to visit the White House after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. What she failed to realise on time was that Trump is notorious for shifting ground as fast as quicksand.
Put yourself in May shoes. When Trump held her hand in January 2017 and said “Great days lie ahead for our two peoples and our two countries. On behalf of our nation, I thank you for joining us here today as a really great honour”, she thought she could count on his words. Events after May’s visit have shown that Trump has no value for any relationship, as long as he has his way. That is as far as special relationships go.
If the Prime Minister was in doubt of the level of relationship between her and Trump, his visit this weekend gave her the opportunity of reassessment. Trump’s interview with the Daily Sun on Friday was critical of May’s handling of BREXIT. This is against the backdrop of the release of the blueprint of BREXIT resolution agreed at last week’s meeting of government ministers at the Chequers.
May is still reeling from the pain of the resignation that followed the adoption of a softer BREXIT, while Trump decided to kick her in the butt with the interview in the newspaper. He said: “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal. If they do that, then their trade deal with the US will probably not be made.” This was, in other words, saying the plans were “rubbish”.
May needs no telling that Trump is no friend, but a foe. His double speak this weekend is classic Trump. In the joint press conference with May, he claimed he has the utmost respect for her. As usual, she blamed the Sun Newspaper for reporting “fake news”. “This incredible woman right here is doing a fantastic job, a great job,” Trump said. “Unfortunately, there was a story that was done which was generally fine, but it didn’t put in what I said about the prime minister and I said a tremendous thing. It’s called fake news.”
Has May thought too highly of Trump’s friendship? Did she consider the history of this man’s unpredictability before thinking he would make a good ally? What position has this left May, among his party members and the people of Britain? We need no soothsayer to tell us the opposition parties and the Conservative rebels will descend on her.
Trump’s visit has no doubt left May a little damaged. Rather than help the woman who was buckling at the knees, struggling with the BREXIT deals, Trump decided to add more to her woes. Trump, for this visit, has shown he is a selfish and careless leader who will throw anyone under the bus.
The Prime Minister fights on this week as she faces the reality of defending her BREXIT plans. One thing is clear though, Boris Johnson seems to enjoy “a special relationship” with Trump than May does. Although the British citizens will disagree with Trump that Johnson will make a better Prime Minister.
As written for the Diaspora Matters column of the Sunday Vanguard – July 15, 2018