How A Donald Trump Win Would Affect Britain

PHOTO: Matt Baron/REX Shutterstock.
The US and the UK have long enjoyed a so-called "special relationship". It's kind of like very old, very loyal friends. Like the ones you grew up with and don't have a bad word to say about. However – shock, horror – the US president recently accused the PM of 'free riding' over defence and causing a 's***show' in Libya. If our cosy set up can come under strain even with Obama and Cameron in the top jobs, then what the hell would happen if Donald Trump were to become the US president? Now Trump has won the Republican nomination, having today reached enough delegates. Some say he's even got what it takes to win the top prize; he's conspicuously tall (often a feature of US presidents) and conspicuously ridiculous (remember George W. Bush?) But what would happen in the UK if the billionaire was to be made president on November 8th?
According to one expert, John Bew, professor of War Studies at Kings College London, the old alliance between Britain and America is underpinned by a cooperative approach – one that sought to roll back Soviet influence and, later, contain the threat of radical Islam. Bew says this still exists, but is changing fast. Britain might not be the power player it once was. "There's talk about Americans getting tired of people freeloading on US security and so the relationship with the UK is going to look slightly different no matter who is in the White House," he says. "At a guess, I'd say he could deal more with Russia – Putin is a man he admires."

when it comes to Trump's foreign policy, we're all in the dark

Clive Webb, Professor Of Modern American History at the University of Sussex, agrees. He says the special relationship exists for a number of reasons, not least the sharing of surveillance information, but it's not what it used to be. "I have no doubt that a Trump presidency would affect relations not only with Britain but also the rest of the world. He would be a protective and isolationist president who would be more interested in the domestic concerns of the United States than in sustaining his country's international role." Others, however, disagree. Joshua Simon, assistant professor of political science at Columbia University, says it's hard to see a Trump presidency breaking the bond. To the contrary, in fact. "I would expect a President Trump to deepen the special relationship by helping to dismantle the UK's connection to Europe. The US has, of course, been a consistently strong advocate of European integration and a strong opponent of Brexit. I don't think President Trump would be either; he would find a very natural set of allies amongst anti-immigrant, populist euro-skeptic parties."
One thing most seem to agree on, however, is that when it comes to Trump's foreign policy, we're all in the dark. Trump is unpredictable and has a tendency to say things, take them back, and then say the opposite. "He's rather inconsistent on foreign policy. He's not coherent and he hasn't created a fully formed world view," says Bew. "He has actually spoken quite warmly of the UK so if you put any stock in that it might tell you something. He has investments in Scotland. That's one thing." Webb agrees. "A Trump presidency is a great unknown. We can be much surer of a continuity of US foreign policy should Hillary Clinton be elected president, which at this moment in time still appears to be the more likely outcome. Trump has never held political office and has no experience of international affairs. What we can be sure of is that he will place the United States first." Simon agrees, pointing out that it's hard to make predictions when Trump repeatedly refers to the great "deals" he would secure from foreign leaders and the fact that he wouldn't get pushed around, rather than saying anything more concrete. "He has been extraordinarily inconsistent in his political views over time, even within the short time that he has been running for the Republican nomination. His comments on foreign policy are particularly vague, and usually entirely personalistic."

A Trump presidency is a great unknown

But does any of this matter? Ultimately, there are deeper forces at work in any government. There's inertia and many politicians leave office unable to fulfil their promises. So could he take the White House? He faces a serious challenge in terms of winning over millions of voters who he has alienated through his extreme rhetoric, most obviously the US's Latino population, who are increasingly important to the outcome of elections there. But, like UKIP have done in Britain, he does offer up a scapegoat for economic problems faced by the US' white working class population, and that's immigration. And those that ridicule him can end up appearing snobbish, as he purports to represent the ordinary American. This, says Ian Scott, senior lecturer in American Studies at Manchester University, has allowed him to say virtually what he likes as a result. "There will be profound shock if he wins," explains Scott. "Leaders of all stripes will wonder how to deal with him, he'll no doubt alienate a fair few early on - including Britain. You can probably expect a degree of 'radio silence' from there on in. He won't want to communicate too much with many on the outside of America, even with allies as supposedly close as Britain. In short, it will be uncharted territory." Ultimately, it's hard to predict what a Trump presidency would look like. Hard because, by talking about a Trump presidency, we're already in the realm of the extremely unlikely, and also because Trump has given us very little to go on in terms of policy positions and approaches about how he would actually behave in office. We may get sick of politicians being all the same (Obama has been lambasted for not implementing enough change) but is this alternative any better?

More from Politics

R29 Original Series