Trump says he likes things ‘nice and complicated’ – well, in that case, he couldn’t be coming to Britain at a better time. Theresa May’s newly hatched soft Brexit plan, announced on Friday, has triggered two major resignations from her cabinet and another political crisis in Britain. David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, went late last night. Then Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary followed early this afternoon. Westminster is now alive with whispers of an imminent leadership coup; the Tory party looks hopelessly divided, the political system unable to cope. We may even have another general election, the third in four years.
Enter Trump, stage right. He must be licking his lips. The Donald is like a moon to the Brexit tide – there’s some eerie connection, some spooky gravitational pull, between his presidency and British politics. The last time he came to the UK, it was the day after the Brexit vote, and Britain’s political class began committing hari-kari. This time, he’s coming on Thursday, and the British government has started hacking at itself a little early. It’s having a full-on breakdown four days before his arrival.
May and Trump will be going to the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11 and 12 before he comes back to Britain with her on Thursday night. Trump has already thrown down the gauntlet, chiefly to Germany, but tweeting about NATO this morning
That was entirely to be expected. One of the biggest myths about Donald Trump is that he’s unpredictable; everybody could see his challenge to NATO ahead of the summit coming, certainly since the sour notes of the G7 summit a few weeks ago. Everybody knows Trump is unhappy about the Alliance, and thinks – as Obama did – that America’s allies should pay more for their joint security. He’ll be pressing May to support him in shaking up the foundations of western security.
It’s hard not feel sorry for the Prime Minister. She will be completely preoccupied dealing with the vipers in her own party waiting for her back home. He’ll be moving on to Scotland to play golf before he goes on for his big pow-wow with Putin.
Trump seems to have about as much time for May as he does for Angela Merkel – that is to say, not very much. But he knows leverage when he sees it, and he’ll have masses over May this week. If he says the right things for her, he could save her. If he disses her negotiating skills, says Britain deserves better than her weak leadership, and berates her for missing out on his beautiful trade deal, he could help drown her.
Perhaps he’ll be asking his friend and ally Nigel Farage, the Brexit champion, for advice. Whatever happens, it’s fair to say that Brexit Britain is putty in his little hands.