Theresa May waited to receive a phone call from the victorious Donald Trump. (He rang ten other national leaders first.) She watched as the President-elect suggested via Twitter that Nigel Farage should be Britain’s Ambassador to America.
But she is off to the United States this week as the first leader from abroad to visit the new President. Perhaps the explanation lies in his enthusiasm for Brexit. Maybe it flows from a sentimental attachment to Britain, particularly Scotland. Or maybe it can be found in the fascination of the former Apprentice front-man with “optics”. He admires Ronald Reagan – and today’s briefing suggests that he has already cast the Prime Minister as Margaret Thatcher in the docu-drama of his life and times.
It could even be that he has spotted the overlap between his thinking and hers. She wants a Global Britain; he America First. But their different responses to globalisation stem from a similar analysis of how it isn’t delivering for many people in the western world. Whatever the explanation is, May will want both to keep a certain distance from Trump (who isn’t popular here) but simultanously to get up close. She needs his support over Brexit, a trade deal, and commitment to NATO.
As we wrote yesterday, Trump and May aren’t Reagan and Thatcher. They are very different people. There is scope for the meeting not to succeed, since the two have significant policy differences and are strikingly unalike.
The President also wants to visit Britain this year. We look forward to him travelling north of the border to meet Nicola Sturgeon. The Sunday Telegraph reports that he “wants to tee off with the Queen at Balmoral”.