Be A Voice: Trump’s 2019 visit to the UK is essential to British diplomacy

By Blog Writer Eleanor Longman-Rood

In the contemporary UK, it is hard to envision a political event beyond March 29th. But, much to our surprise, life will go on- a fact that we were reminded of with the announcement of President Trump’s second visit in December. This was a necessary jolt back to reality, as looking at our media coverage it is hard to imagine that there is a life after Brexit, or indeed that outside our borders global politics continues to unfold. Come December, the UK will host the new NATO summit in order to address the security challenges faced by NATO in a post-Brexit world. 

 While this may allow the UK to look to the future, it is important to err on the side of caution. Theresa May commented that this summit is a chance to “modernise”. However, looking back to 2017 when renegotiations began with NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) in order to “modernise it”, as Trump declared, North America was subject to some pretty drastic changes. The renamed deal, the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement), affected car manufacturers and Canadian dairy farmers and perhaps most significantly, it started to alter who controls the global trading system with Trump’s new restrictions on China.

 By this stage, May might be searching for a victory. Yet, modernising does not always cause beneficial changes to a system. With Trump seeking re-election in November 2020, the PM must be vigilant not to get swept up in a new plan for NATO that Trump proposes in order to seem bold in fear of being voted out of office, but that, in reality, does no favours for the UK.

 As we know from last Summer, a visit from Trump receives vast public attention- suggesting his next planned arrival will invoke a similar response. The Liberal Democrats have stated that shall be “front and centre to protest his visit”.  However, there is a fundamental flaw with this sentiment, and it is important not to get lost in the semantics here. As British citizens, we have every right to unite and protest his policies and his principles. What we should not be objecting to is his presence in the country.

 There is a very simple reason for this; President Trump is the democratically elected leader of a nation that the United Kingdom has a historic and unique relationship with. Since Reagan addressed Parliament in 1982, every President, for one purpose or another, has visited the UK. Many had previously done so before Reagan, such as Nixon, but the point remains that the choice to do so was always there. For the UK to remain respected in the international community, especially in the wake of Brexit, it is important we respect these visits.

This is not to say that this entry means there is widespread agreement with the Republican Party’s ideals. Protests and demonstrations can be effective so long as they are targeted correctly. Trump’s last visit did something rather remarkable in pre-Brexit Britain; it united the nation. This was especially true in cities like London, that hosted crowds of displeased Brits. However, this time around, be wary of what you are protesting. Make comment on policies and principles, not simply his presence in the country.

 Perhaps it’s time to reassess our position on the global hierarchy. Would refusing Trump a visit truly offend his ego that much? Is it not better to meet disagreement head on than pretend it doesn't exist at all? It appears to be a contemporary trend in politics that ignoring vastly disputed issues is seen as a viable option. This should not be the case. Refusing to welcome and hear a leader when we disagree with them is purely counterproductive. If anything, there is more chance of having any sort of influence with him present, rather than the alternative. The fact is that when elections of other nations do not fall in our favour, it is ineffective to challenge a diplomatic practice that has been in place for decades. We must be careful not to knock down the entire wall when it is only the latest brick that has a crack in it, as the same electoral system that brought Trump to power may well cause his downfall next November. When December arrives, Trump’s visit will likely spur lively debate and it is vital to remember that this is not something to hide from. The NATO summit presents a chance for May to give a message on how a post-Brexit Britain deals with international agreements, proving that it can remain committed to cooperation outside of the EU.

 Image: John Cameron @Unsplash