Ahead of Donald Trump’s first working visit to the UK, Theresa May said in a statement that “There is no stronger alliance than that of our special relationship with the US”. Yet the Trump era has made many in Britain, and not just those on the Left, wonder whether it is now time for a conscious uncoupling.
Away from the soaring rhetoric about a shared language and values, the UK and US’s close ties really stem of course from their military and intelligence links. What May calls “our longest and deepest defence and security relationship” is cemented daily through the two countries’ joint working of their armed forces and intelligence agencies.
We have a common pool of Trident nuclear missiles and nuclear reactors for warships and submarines. Britain is the second largest operator of America’s new F35 fast jet programme, locking us into a system that is designed for the next 40 years. Our troops and airmen work closely round the clock in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, as do our spies, cyber warfare specialists and special forces.
Yet on a broader political and cultural level, the “special relationship” also relies on a personal chemistry between the occupants of the White House and Downing Street, as well as sensitivities about the fact that the US is clearly the dominant partner. Churchill and Roosevelt forged friendship in the Second World War, Macmillan and Kennedy overcame political differences, Thatcher and Reagan literally danced together on a trip to Washington.
I remember being among the press pack at Camp David in 2001 when George W Bush revealed to a stunned press corps that he and Tony Blair used the same Colgate toothpaste. Blair quipped: “They are going to wonder how you know that, George.” That was before the Twin Towers attack, and everything that followed, but many Britons still cringe at Blair’s approach. The perils of getting too up close and personal with a President were summed up by a now infamous memo written ahead of the Iraq war, in which Blair said ‘I will be with you, whatever’.
Blair’s diplomatic love letter reflects what many in the UK see as an embarrassing neediness that isn’t always reciprocated. And from Paris to Beijing, Trump has done more than any other President in recent times to make clear he has a wandering eye when it comes to global partners.
Sir Peter Ricketts, Britain’s former National Security Adviser, tells me: “I’ve personally always been rather uncomfortable with this notion of a special relationship, because I think it’s much more special in our eyes than the American eyes. When [French President, Emmannuel] Macron was visiting, he talked about a ‘special relationship’ between the US and France. This is not monogamous on the American side, so it doesn’t need to be on the British side.”
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Source : https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/can-the-special-relationship-survive-trump-the-view-from-both-sides-of-the-atlantic_uk_5b46d5c6e4b0bc69a783c4e5