There is a difference between Barack Obama’s intervention on trade, made during his pre-EU referendum visit to Britain, and Donald Trump’s. Obama was trying to help out David Cameron, and was thus intervening in a poll. Trump was giving a view of the consequences of the Government’s new Brexit policy on a UK-US trade deal. As far as we know, there is no claim that he is wrong.
That said, the way in which he did so was characteristically intemperate, ungracious to his host, inopportune, and against every rule of conventional diplomacy – which is an essential means of greasing the wheels of international relations. And whatever our criticisms of Sadiq Khan may be (and we have a very long list), it is unfair and wrong to suggest that the Mayor is somehow to blame for terror attacks in London by ISIS supporters.
So, then. The American President is busting up the international rule book: so what else is new? We are surprised that anyone else is surprised by Trump putting Theresa May in an impossible position. That’s how he rolls. If she does a Love Actually, she risks negative comeback from the leader of what is still the most powerful country in the world; our long-term most enduring ally; a vital trade and jobs partner, and a fellow member of the “five eyes” security network. If she doesn’t – which she won’t – she looks weak, and he looks strong.
That’s the only real consequence of this characteristic exhibition of Trumpery. British voters, on the whole, dislike the American President. But his brashness won’t somehow tilt them into backing the Prime Minister’s new Brexit White Paper. All Trump’s words will do is confirm what they’re picking up already: that May’s plan will send us to the back of the queue.