Will Boris break-up the Special Relationship?
Matt Snape argues that Boris Johnson is no friend of the Trump administration and with his history of throwing shade at our closest ally, could be the Prime Minister, who puts the Special Relationship on the rocks.
Boris Johnson could be the biggest hinderance to a US President keen on enhancing the US-UK alliance. The former London Mayor failed to hide his feelings about Donald Trump during the Republican primaries. Boris said the Republican candidate portrayed ‘a quite stupefying ignorance that makes him, frankly, unfit to be President of the United States.’ Yet during his tenure as Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Boris attempted to construct a relationship with the Trump administration. But then he also refused to meet with the President during his State visit this year and included Trump in his ‘little list of deplorables’ in a speech given in New Delhi, just three months ago! There is no consistent approach towards Trump here.
Renice Priebus was Trump’s first chief of staff. He was a central figure in uniting the Republican Party behind the President after he had secured the Republican nomination. He was also chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) during the 2016 General Election. His mobilisation of the party faithful helped secure Trump’s victory that year, which is why he was promoted to chief of staff. Priebus’s first stint as the RNC chair was during Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
The former RNC chair was ideologically closer to Romney than Trump. Romney is no friend of the Trump administration, which possibly explains why Boris thought he had a sympathetic ear in the White House. But the former London Mayor attacked Romney during the 2012 Presidential Election, which Trump’s former chief of staff would not have appreciated prior to his 2017 resignation. This shows Boris has a long history of alienating the Republican establishment.
And then there is Steve Bannon. His relationship with President Trump was forged during the former’s time as a special adviser to the latter. The Observer, recently, reported that the former Trump ally advised Boris days after his resignation as Foreign Secretary. Initially, Bannon had little contact with Boris. The Trump campaign strategist was linked to Farage and the Leave.EU movement through Breitbart. The Vote Leave campaign was separate from Leave.EU. But when both Bannon and Boris held senior government positions, it was in their interests to form a necessary relationship. He was only in contact with the former London Mayor because he flew over to Europe on Sean Hannity’s jet following the President to London. Bannon is certainly no ‘puppet master’ who is pulling the strings in the Trump White House from his perch outside, as portrayed in Michael Wolff’s book follow-up to Fire and Fury, Siege; nor is capable of “bringing down the British government” from a hotel room in Browns in Mayfair. His call to Boris was merely a courtesy call. It was a coincidence that the former foreign secretary resigned the same time Trump visited the UK following the announcement of the Chequers Agreement.
Therefore, the influence former Trump allies like Bannon has over Boris has been overexaggerated, and the former foreign secretary’s relationship with both the Republican establishment, and Trump administration, is rocky. This does not place a potential Johnson administration in a unique position to take advantage of the opportunities a Trump presidency can offer the UK. Whilst he may appear to be trying to forge a connection with the President publicly, behind closed doors he has no intention of doing so. This proves Boris’s contradictory nature could jeopardise his potential premiership.
Matt Snape is a freelance journalist whose stories have been featured in numerous national, local and specialist publications
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