Boris Johnson who sees himself as a latter-day Winston Churchill has successfully secured the parliamentary majority needed to ‘get BREXIT done’. In his speeches, he focuses on his “Churchill instincts” and waxes nostalgically for Britain’s glorious past.
It was Churchill who came up with the term ‘special relationship’ in 1946. It was used to describe the bonds that London and Washington enjoyed at the time. Now that the UK is leaving the EU with some bad feelings in place in Brussels, Johnson will be keen to capitalise on access to Washington.
There is no doubt that Trump has a soft spot for the bumbling prime minister who is determined to take Britain in another direction away from the European super-state. Theresa May was too prim and proper for Trump’s liking and her cautious approach to business was the diametrical opposite to the way Trump does business.
With Trump adopting an ‘America First’ way of doing business, can Johnson set the special relationship on fire again? From the way I’ve seen Trump behaving since becoming president the only special relationship he has is with himself. I cannot see the two leaders establishing a relationship such as the one Thatcher developed with Reagan.
Trump has proven time and again that personal relationships or historic alliances count for little in US policy terms. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan who flattered Trump and the ‘love in’ with President Emmanuel Macron of France soon waned proving dealing with Trump is a one-way street.
Hopefully, we will not see a return to the relationship Tony Blair had with George W Bush often described as neo-poodleism. This term resulted from the blind loyalty Blair provided Bush during the Iraq War. Blair did establish a special rapport which did secure a strong relationship but at considerable cost to Blair.
Trump has made no secret of the fact that he can see attractive opportunities for corporate America to sell US farm products to UK consumers and the US drug companies exploiting the British health service. I am certain that if supermarket shelves fill up with chlorinated chicken and the beloved National Health Service was raped by US big pharma there would be outrage on the streets of Britain.
Since becoming Prime Minister in July 2019, the American-born Johnson has seen his actions negatively impacting the UK relationship with Europe. A recent poll by the German state broadcaster ARD shows that only 37 per cent of Germans consider the UK a trustworthy partner. A full 67pc of Germans expect the relationship to deteriorate further under Johnson.
Johnson’s negotiating stance on Brexit has essentially burned the UK’s final bridges with Europe. His attempt to blackmail the EU with the threat of a no-deal exit has deeply soured relationships.
Without the Europeans to fall back on, Johnson will bring little to the negotiating table with the US. Lawrence Summers, the former US treasury secretary, told the BBC, “Britain has no leverage, Britain is desperate ... it needs an agreement very soon. When you have a desperate partner, that’s when you strike the hardest bargain.”
Already, 67pc of the British public have a negative opinion of Trump and I guess this does not indicate we are ready for a new ‘special relationship’.