President Trump’s visit to the UK demonstrates the importance the US places on its relationship with the UK, and it is right in turn that we should welcome the President of our closest ally to this country.
This visit is key – to our shared interests, to our trading relationship and to global security. It reflects the enduring nature of the friendship between our two countries and provides us with a prime opportunity to focus on what the transatlantic relationship means in the 21st century.
It is often said that the best friends are the old ones. Our partnership with the US has been forged over the last century and more. It is based on shared values, a common language, and a mutual belief in democracy. The US and the UK also share an almost innate ability to think globally, crucial in these increasingly tumultuous times.
The UK’s future outside the EU gives us the opportunity to demonstrate in a more tangible way that the UK is open, outward looking and confident on the global stage. At this crucial juncture for the UK, it is my belief that it is critical to nurture and invest in our relationships with our international partners. We need to reach out to the US and collaborate, just as we have done already in taking action to degrade Assad’s chemical weapons capability, and in a united response to the Salisbury poisoning.
Commentators enjoy highlighting areas of disagreement between President Trump and the UK. But they fail to acknowledge areas of profound cooperation – of which there are many – which all lead to this visit by President Trump being more than worthwhile – pivotal even. It is worth noting also that while pundits in the UK spend time debating whether it remains true that there is a special relationship between our two countries and what the implications are, in the US it is a given. In a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, Democrats and Republicans alike ranked Great Britain as the top foreign policy partner for the US.
As Chatham House has recently concluded, just as Brexit has been a conduit for legitimate grievances in the UK over our borders and over sovereignty, the election of President Trump has been a conduit for long standing concerns of Americans – over protectionist EU tariffs, over Western allies not stepping up to pay their fair share into the defence pot. Brexit makes us well placed to understand these concerns – and their legitimacy – and the potential dangers in ignoring them, just as failing to follow through on Brexit would rightly undermine trust in our own elected representatives.
It is my contention that the issues that bring our two countries together carry much more weight than those that divide us. The US is our single largest trading partner accounting for a fifth of all exports, worth £100 billion a year. It is also our second largest import market. The solidarity shown by our US partners in the wake of the Salisbury incident and a hostile Russia shows the value of our Special Relationship in today’s money. The US’s support for NATO as the key Western Alliance and its desire to bolster the NATO’s clout is a further demonstration of our mutual geopolitical interest. In the face of increasing instability in the Middle East region, our work with the United States will continue to be of vital importance.
As the UK leaves the European Union, and forges a new position on the world stage, we would do well to nurture our relationship with our old friend – a relationship that far predates the European Union and one in which it is often easier to find common ground.