On Tuesday, President Trump addressed the political situation of his current host, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, when asked if Theresa May should remain in power. (Whitehouse.gov)
“I get along with her very well. I have a very good relationship. That’s certainly up to the people, not up to me.”
That was a diplomatic tone. It is helpful for multiple reasons: it is boorish to undermine one’s host, and that boorishness reflects poorly both on a leader and their people; it is also foolish to antagonize someone with whom you are negotiating. The second reason is why, the American people have been told, President Trump has praised murderous dictators like Kim Jong Un and Rodrigo Duterte. (Politico) (Reuters)
Trump’s diplomatic tone evaporated shortly after being greeted and publicly praised by Theresa May on Thursday. Rather than grant the elected leader of one of America’s longest allies the same level of appreciation that dictators receive, the President instead worked to damage May politically.
From the Telegraph:
Donald Trump has warned Theresa May that a soft Brexit will “kill” the chance of a trade deal with the US, in comments that hugely undermine her attempts to win support for her Chequers deal.
On the first day of the US President’s four-day visit to the UK, he suggested Mrs May was not delivering the Brexit the British people voted for and said she had not listened to his advice on how to negotiate.
“I would have done it much differently,” he said.
The quotes are pulled from Trump’s interview with the tabloid paper The Sun, owned, as is the staunchly pro-Trump Fox News, by Rupert Murdoch.
“I have a lot of respect for Boris. He obviously likes me, and says very good things about me. I was very saddened to see he was leaving government and I hope he goes back in at some point. I think he is a great representative for your country.
“I am not pitting one against the other. I am just saying I think he would be a great prime minister. I think he’s got what it takes.”
While he is saying he is not choosing sides, every significant statement made and action taken since arriving in Britain has been disparaging toward May and praising of Johnson.
If the President did, in fact, instruct May on how to negotiate Brexit, she may have hesitated before taking Trump’s advice after seeing the results of his summit with Kim Jong Un, where no concrete disarmament timetable or procedures were established but the US agreed to stop all future military training exercises with South Korea. Or she may have hesitated after seeing Trump declare that he had made NATO stronger by negotiating concessions from allied leaders, even as the leaders denied any such concessions and all documentation supports their positions.
His threat regarding the UK-US trade deal is a significant one. A key incentive for the UK Brexit vote was that the loss of some trade with the EU could be offset by greater trade with Canada and the US. The tariffs enacted by Trump were a factor limiting May’s options in enacting a hard Brexit, as it risks rendering the UK reliant on the US at a time when the US is attempting to exert direct fiscal control over its trading partners. By threatening the trade relationship, Trump is giving the UK the options of becoming a weakened semi-member of the EU, under its controls but lacking voting privileges; or becoming a subservient client state of the United States. In so doing the President suggests abandoning the long-standing position of the United States in promoting freedom throughout the world, instead embracing the notion of dominance over our allies.