On Thursday, 12th July 2018, I took the train from my small hometown into London. I was only planning a nice paddle boat ride in a lake in Regent’s Park, to celebrate graduating from university. Instead, I was greeted with huge crowds, who had gathered to see Trump’s helicopter land in the park. Many of these people were simply reporters. But many more were protestors. They held signs like, “Children need cuddles, not cages,” or “Refugees Welcome, Trump go home.”
It’s no secret that the overwhelming majority of Brits disapprove of Trump. Whether you poll Leavers or Remainers, Labour-voters or Conservatives, Trump-hatred in Britain is more widespread than in even the most liberal of US states. Part of this is due to the unpopularity of Trump’s policies, such as the Muslim travel ban, the Mexico wall, or the Jerusalem embassy move. But I suspect what the British disapprove most of Trump is his character: his dishonesty, vanity and narcissism. Trump’s unsavoury personality is largely why his visit drew more ire than say, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, despite the former being the leader of a democracy, and the latter being an absolute monarch. Pro-Trump Britons are keen to point this out, viewing the protests as nothing more than liberal hypocrisy. They also view aversion to Trump as a manifestation of British snobbery against Trump’s cruder, more down to earth style.
However, Trump’s British defenders miss the point of the protests. They weren’t simply to protest Trump- realistically, the protests couldn’t change Trump’s mind on issues such as climate change or the Iran Deal. What they were about was protesting the British government’s treatment of Trump. And on that, the protestors were absolutely right. The British government is coddling Trump in the hope of a post-Brexit UK-US trade deal. But such efforts will be in vain for several reasons. We won’t be able to start negotiating trade deals independently of the EU until the end of the transition period. Until then, we will remain a de facto member of the EU Customs Union, where EU-negotiated free trade deals and the EU’s common external tariff will continue to apply. By the end of the transition period, Trump will be up for re-election. If he loses, the Democrats have said a trade deal with the EU will be prioritised before a deal with the UK. And even in the unlikely event Trump wins re-election, his protectionist instincts, sheer incompetence and unpredictability, and the UK’s commitment to maintaining EU standards in the Chequers agreement will prevent such a deal from being made. Long story short, a UK-US trade deal is a pipe dream.
More importantly, the prospect of such a trade deal isn’t worth appeasing Trump. As the protestors rightly noted, Trump behaves immorally routinely. He trusts the word of the Russian President above the advice of his own intelligence agencies, choosing to even give away Israeli intelligence to the Russian foreign minister and Russian Ambassador. He lavishes praise on brutal autocrats while sidelining America’s democratic friends in Canada, the EU and NATO. He needlessly separates migrant children from their parents. He treats women, minorities, and anyone who refuses to view him completely uncritically with the utmost disdain. Even if a trade deal with the US was possible, it wouldn’t be right to pursue it with Trump as president.
The backlash to the protests in London from parts of the British Right reveal a staggering hypocrisy. In general, the Right speaks of the need to preserve freedom of speech, and against the dangers of political correctness and over-sensitivity, and perhaps with some justification. Yet simply a few people protesting isn’t acceptable. If you disagree with the protests, or feel they are inappropriate, that’s fine- they probably won’t make much difference anyway. But the sheer outrage against the anti-Trump demonstrations shows how thin-skinned much of the Right is nowadays.
The overall point is that the British government needs to be told it is mistaken in its approach to Trump. That doesn’t mean everything all anti-Trump protestors believe is right. I certainly disagree with the more radical anti-Trumpers who were calling for an abolition of all profits, borders and armed forces. But in times like these, middle class liberals like myself should find common cause with the socialist left in protesting the Trump presidency, and post-Brexit Britain’s over-dependence on it. If subservience to Trump is what British sovereignty looks like, we can only hope the EU welcomes us back with open arms.