Between Brexit, a tumultuous presidential election, and a new era for both countries, things are changing drastically for the UK and the US. After a decades-long strong relationship, the question now stands if the countries will stay by each other’s side while they embark on these new journeys.
Although Donald Trump and Theresa May were seen holding hands on her first official trip to the new White House, it may take more convincing to get their citizens on board as a new wave of US-UK ties begins.
First and foremost in the minds of most UK residents is Brexit and how it will all play out. Although President Obama wasn’t supportive of the initiative, Trump was been a long-time supporter and didn’t waste any time praising it when May came to Washington as his first official head of state visitor.
Trump said Brexit will be a “wonderful thing” for the UK. The UK’s move away from the EU opens doors to potentially expand the US-UK relationship, particularly when it comes to trade.
As the UK prepares to potentially lose trading allies in the EU, it is turning to other countries as potential trading partners. Among those is the US, which is already a power player on the global trading scene. The potential trade deal between the US and the UK would be put into place quickly and would involve reducing or dismantling tariffs and relaxing work restrictions for citizens of the two countries.
With the UK soon free from the EU’s trading regulations and Trump vowing to streamline and simplify tariffs and trade agreements for the US, both countries are in a unique position to trade without many bureaucratic barriers.
However, the potential new trade deal isn’t finalized, and there are a lot of issues that could arise. There’s the fact that the US is much further away geographically than many of the other countries the UK has been trading with for decades.
The US is currently the UK’s biggest individual country trading partner, but the next four countries on the list are all in the EU. Some experts are wondering how effective a new trade deal with be with the US when the UK already has trading relationships with EU member nations that are much easier and quicker to send goods to.
There’s also the issue of if people and businesses actually want to increase trade. Much of Trump’s rhetoric has centered around providing more American jobs, which begs the question of if a trading deal would actually benefit UK businesses and employees.
Trade might not be a priority for UK companies, either. A recent survey found that 54% of small business owners, which make up 99% of UK businesses, would not even consider exporting. Although some of those companies have likely been trading with EU member nations, they are not likely to immediately start shipping things overseas to the US as soon as Brexit is finalized.
May and Trump were incredibly complimentary of each other during the visit, with May praising the two countries’ longstanding relationship and “the strength and importance of the special relationship that exists between our two countries, a relationship based on the bonds of history, of family, kinship and common interests.” During the press conference and meeting, both Trump and May were smiling and joking with each other, which could be the sign of a strong international friendship.
However, some people are starting to wonder if those common interests are shifting and if the US and UK should still be as close of allies and friends as they once were. Among the general public, questions seem to linger of if the two countries and their leaders are compatible and share the same ideals.
After Trump’s controversial travel ban during his first week in office, thousands of protestors took to the streets in cities around the UK. Aside from protesting Trump, many seemed angry at the weak response from May to the ban. Additionally, more than 1.6 million people have signed an online petition asking for Trump’s visit to the UK to not be considered a state visit.
Much of how the US and UK will work together is still unknown, largely because Trump has yet to take a stance of many big issues. He stayed relatively vague on things during the campaign, and the trend has continued during his short time in office. When asked about lifting US sanctions against Russia, torture, abortion, and banning Muslims by the BBC during the press conference with May, Trump dodged the topics. How Trump responds to many big issues could determine how involved the US and UK are on a variety of topics.
Many voters and pundits seem concerned that May was so friendly with Trump and fear she could take the country in a Trump-esque direction, especially with the uncertainty of Brexit looming. Just like Trump could have an effect on May, so too could May affect Trump, especially when it comes to showing him the ropes of international relations. Her influence has perhaps already been seen in Trump changing his opinion on NATO, pledging support for the organization during his meeting with May after previously calling it obsolete.
The US-UK relationship is steeped in history and has a track record of respect and success. With change on the horizon, the relationship could potentially move in either direction, which could have a great effect on each country and on the world.
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