20:48 GMT13 April 2021
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    US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are making their first state visit to the UK, from 3 to 5 June. On the eve of his arrival, Trump suggested he “may” meet Conservative MP Boris Johnson and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage during his visit - both of whom he described as “friends” and “good guys”.

    Sputnik has discussed the future of US-UK relations with Dr. Ben Williams, a tutor in politics and political theory at the University of Salford.

    Sputnik: Donald Trump said that Britain’s next prime minister should “walk away” from trying to clinch a Brexit deal with the EU if Brussels fails to yield to the UK’s demands. How can this influence the Brexit process?

    Ben Williams: Well, basically Donald Trump’s coming to the UK today and obviously has had some public views about Brexit and he has said in his interview if he was negotiating Brexit he would go for no deal if an agreement can’t be reached.

    And that actually caused a lot of controversy in the UK because there is probably a lot of political consensuses that believe that a no deal would be very disruptive for the UK economy.

    So he’s weighed into this row and most mainstream politicians don’t agree with what he said. And there have been some people that have suggested he should actually just stay out of the debates and not get involved. But he has got involved. He has said this and it is generating quite a lot of controversy as a result.

    Sputnik: In your view, what goals is the US try to achieve?

    Ben Williams: Well, I think obviously the Americans and the Brits have this longstanding special relationship which has gone on for a long time, for most the 20th century. We have been long-time allies, the two countries. And obviously during a presidential term, the president of the US that usually visits Britain, it is not normally this controversial and it usually reasonably calm and peaceful when the American president comes to the UK.

    The problem on this occasion is, as has been publicized, Donald Trump has during the course of the last few years made a number of controversial remarks about a whole range of people and groups, offensive comments about women, minority groups, ethnic minorities. And he has also been involved in a long rolling feud with the Mayor of London on social media, Sadiq Khan. And, generally speaking, this whole range of issues has come together […] this visit.

    So on one level while this visit is normal to happen, on another level it is very controversial because of the nature of Trump, and the things he has said for a few years which you could argue have not been conducive to go diplomatic relations between Britain and the USA.

    Sputnik: What can we expect from possible meetings between Donald Trump and Nigel Farage?

    Ben Williams: Well, Trump and Farage are friends. They have met on a number of occasions. And when Trump was running for the presidency in 2016, Farage spoke at a number of his rallies, at a number of his meetings. And Trump has also spoke up in favor of Farage in recent years.

    He said I think he is a good politician, he is a successful politician, and obviously, he was very prominent in delivering Brexit.

    And it would appear that Trump supports Brexit, he supports Farage and he seems to rate Farage and has called publically for Farage to be included in the Brexit negotiations, the only concern that people have is that Farage is not an MP.

    He is not a member of parliament and he doesn’t have a great significantly political role in this country. He is an MEP but it is not as important. And so again, people are slightly antagonized in British politics that maybe Trump is again being seen to interfere in domestic matters of the UK, which generally speaking American presidents don’t do.

    Sputnik: If Donald Trump meets with Boris Johnson what can we expect from their meeting?

    Ben Williams: Boris Johnson again is someone who Trump has spoken of favorably. Obviously, Boris Johnson is running to be the leader of the Conservative Party and he hopes to succeed Theresa May.

    Trump seems to think that Boris Johnson would be a good Conservative leader. I think he had some dealings with him when Johnson was Foreign Secretary. So they have had kind of a previous political relationship.

    And you know again, Trump has indicated he would like Johnson to become PM but that is not in his gift. He doesn’t have the authority or the power to offer that role.

    And there have been some comments in the British media about whether being endorsed by Trump is a good or a bad thing because Trump is such a divisive figure.

    Having the endorsement of him will put off possibly more people that he will appeal to. So I am not sure whether Johnson would necessarily welcome Trump’s endorsement but it would appear that Trump is pushing for Johnson to become UK PM and if that happens the two would have a particularly close and regular relationship.

    Sputnik: Theresa May has reportedly told Nigel Farage not to meet with the US president. In your view, why is that?

    Ben Williams: Well, because as I have said before Nigel [Farage doesn’t have] a significant political position, he is a MEP which is relatively minor.

    Also, Nigel Farage has been a significant irritant to the Conservative Party, the governing Conservative Party. He has caused them a lot of problems and he has been prominent in campaigning for Brexit which a lot of the Conservative Party actually didn’t support initially.

    Since the Brexit vote in 2016, Nigel Farage has been a major critic of Theresa May’s government in how they have handled the Brexit negotiations. And I think really they don’t like his role, they think he is getting involved where he shouldn’t.

    He has been a cause of problems for them over a whole range of issues. And I think Theresa May’s last week as Prime Minister which really this is now where we are at. She just doesn’t want someone who has caused so many problems over the last three years, taking on a high-profile role and interfering with what is a high-profile diplomatic visit of the American president.

    Sputnik: How can such rhetoric from the current British PM impact US-UK relations?

    Ben Williams: Well, I think the US-UK relationship has had ups and downs over the years and it is quite often not as strong as some people have claimed.

    But it is often strengthened when personalities get on. So, for example, if you look in the history books during the 1980s, Thatcher and Reagan, they famously got on quite well and that often recalled as a positive period. And Blair and Clinton in the ‘90s got on quite well and that is recalled as a positive period and a special relationship. And where there are two leaders you don’t get on, you have problems. Then it has problems with special relations. Now I think Theresa May has had a few problems with President Trump. It has been quite a tense relationship at times when he has got involved and interfered in UK politics.

    So, on that basis, Theresa May and Trump have not had the best relationship. Now, if Boris Johnson became the leader of the Conservatives and interim Prime Minister, you could assume that their relationship might improve because he and Trump seem to get on and seem to have things in common.

    The most extreme problem which has been commented on the British press this week is if Jeremy Corbyn is elected, who is the leader of the opposition. And he is a vocal critic of Trump; he has spoken out against him. And he is going to be taking part in sort of a protest against Trump. And it could be a major problem in practical terms if we had an American president dealing with a UK prime minister at some point in the future who has actually been very vocal, very prominent in protesting and criticizing that president.

    Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Ben Williams and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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