Trump’s High-Stakes UK Visit: Awkward Timing During “Brexit” Deadlock

Trump’s High-Stakes UK Visit: Awkward Timing During “Brexit” Deadlock

Trump’s High-Stakes UK Visit

Awkward Timing During "Brexit" Deadlock

The U.S. President Donald Trump was reported to start a visit to three countries in Europe, including Britain, France, and Ireland commencing on the 3rd of June. The first stop is the United Kingdom. Analysts perceive the visit to Britain will be the “key event” of Trump’s trip, given the on-going Brexit saga.

The three day trip is intended to strengthen the “special relationship” between the U.S. and U.K. A senior U.S. government official stated that Trump’s visit was tightly arranged. He will meet with Queen Elizabeth II and other royal members – attending a state dinner and then visit Westminster Abbey. After that, the president will hold a bilateral meeting with the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. On the last day of the visit, Trump will take part in the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings to be held in Portsmouth, the southern port city of England.

However, the visit just happened to fall upon the “awkward moment” of what dominates the U.K. political sphere – Brexit. On 24 May 2019, the Prime Minister Theresa May announced that her resignation as party leader would take effect on 7 June. This will be just two days after US President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and their adult children finish their U.K visit. Earlier in March, May committed to stepping down as Prime Minister which was related to her repeated attempts to achieve a Brexit deal. Moreover, the differences between the U.S. and the U.K. on the Iranian nuclear program and subsequent trade issues are still difficult to bridge. The critics have concluded that since British politics is in “chaos”, it will be difficult to achieve substantive results in the President’s visit.

The disagreement on the issue of Brexit

Last July, when President Trump first visited the U.K. he indicated that the way Theresa May treated the EU was too weak with regards to the issue of Brexit. The president warned that keeping the U.K. in the European single market would prevent the U.K. from maintaining closer trade relations with the U.S. Observers pointed out that post-Brexit, the U.K. will become more dependent on the U.S. in  trade and international affairs. In a recent interview, Trump even criticized Theresa May for allowing the EU “to have all the cards” in the negotiations.

Theresa May’s leave is a foregone conclusion but her successor has not yet been determined. Trump announced that during the U.K. visit he might find the time to meet with Conservative MP Boris Johnson and Brexit leader Nigel Farage. He said that these two are “my friends”, “I like them”, “they did a good job” and said they are “good people”. Boris Johnson is a hard Brexit supporter and is striving to become the leader of the Conservative party, replacing May as Prime Minister. 

The President also expressed his support for Nigel Farage, the leader of the newly-formed Brexit Party. He stated that Farage has “big power” in the U.K. and someone for whom he had a lot of respect. However, Downing Street has rejected the official meeting between these two sides. Although there are theories that they would have a quick cup of tea at the US ambassador’s residence in London, one minister denied this as it is “disappointing and rude”.

On the other hand, the Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn rebuked Trump’s previous “racism and disgusting message to women” remarks and refused to attend the state banquet. Liberal Democratic Party leader Sir Vince Cable has also refused to dine with Trump. Trump’s last visit to the U.K. in 2018 was also wrought full of controversy. At that time, the Muller investigation and the travel ban against Muslims caused a public outrage on Twitter. This year, Trump will still need to face massive protests, and the BBC reported that there will be a 4.9 metre (16 foot) high giant robot Trump tweeting on the toilet while shouting ‘I’m a very stable genius’.

The disagreement on the issue of Huawei

According to Reuters, China’s largest telecom company Huawei will be one of the main topics Trump and Theresa May will discuss in the meeting on the 4th of June. Trump will warn the U.K. that if it does not prevent Huawei from participating in the construction of 5G networks in line with Washington, the U.S.-U.K. security cooperation will be weakened, especially on the cooperation of information sharing.

Last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to restrict the use of technology and equipment from foreign telecommunications companies, after citing “national risk concern”. The U.S. also put Huawei on its blacklist of exports, banning it from purchasing US technology. However, the U.K. government is considering allowing Huawei to build part of UK’s 5G mobile network. The decision will not be finalised until a new prime minister is elected.

By Steven Gao

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