UK Prime Minister Theresa May was having as good a two weeks as she could have reasonably hoped for.
First, she negotiated a Brexit deal with the EU which many had not believed could be struck. The intricacies of an orchestrated Brexit were accepted as being too complex to address directly, and instead a framework addressing key points of dissent were produced.
Then she faced an expected revolt from within both her own party and affiliated groups of Parliament. Despite the prediction of a rapid vote of no confidence, however, the initial rush toward the required 48 letters from Tory party members slowed. Yesterday the 27th letter was tendered, after 26 had been submitted between August 13 and August 19.
The Democratic Unionist Party, which is firmly against the Brexit deal, has not pulled themselves from the coalition with the Tories, although they continue to threaten to do so.
On Sunday, the EU leadership officially accepted the deal proposed by May, despite misgivings from some of the members.
All told, May has been steadily reaching milestone after milestone toward a negotiated Brexit, even as she continues to face long odds of her proposal passing Parliament. Many Pro-Brexit groups want a hard break with the EU and don’t want to have continued ties despite the economic advantages it brings. Many Anti-Brexit groups want the vote nullified after there was demonstrated meddling from external groups… most notably, Russian influence. Both sides want to avoid a deal, with the expectation that they can get everything they want. May has been, in the tradition of her new friend Angela Merkel, slowly and steadily sailing a thin course between both sets of breakers.
Enter President Donald Trump.
According to the President, the Brexit deal, as it stands, may preclude trade with the United States.
According to the Brexit deal as announced, there are no such restrictions on trade with the United States.
President Trump’s comments provide active and direct support for a flagging nationalist contingent of the UK pro-Brexit politicians. He is lying about what is in the deal and implying that if it passes trade may be further damaged between the United States and the United Kingdom.
The promise of a superior UK/US trade agreement was one of the key selling points of Brexit. Suggesting abandonment of all trade is designed to induce fear among the people who were energized by the notion of preferential trade rules.
What is unknown is Trump’s reasoning for doing this. He may be attempting to support associates within the UK nationalist movements. He may be taking revenge on May for her exposure of his inane “sue the EU” strategy. He may still be cold toward her for rejecting his proposal to let Putin back into the G-8. He may just be envious that she was able to negotiate a tricky deal in favor of her country and without abandoning basic precepts of her party, while his own trade negotiation efforts have yielded almost nothing.
In any case, May’s week got worse yesterday. Whether that hinders her continued unexpected success is yet to be seen.