Let’s get real. There are issues on which Britain and America will disagree, such as how to deal with Iran. But both countries are members of the “five eyes”, and the closest possible security relationship will continue, despite the occasional blip from both sides. The two countries are, with the anomalous exception of Greece, NATO’s biggest contributors. They work intimately together at the United Nations and in other international institutions. The UK is the U.S’s seventh biggest trading partner with, the latter’s trade representative reports, “$127.0 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2018.” And the two countries are bound together by a web of historic and cultural ties.
No Conservative Government would seek to weaken this relationship, regardless of whether it were led by Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson. This applies regardless of Donald Trump’s tweets about and attitude to our Ambassador. Perhaps Johnson should have taken the same line as Hunt and insisted that Kim Darroch would see out his term. But nothing of import would have changed as a result. Darroch was already due to leave his post this winter. So he would have left. Trump will continue being Trump, in any event. And American and British Ministers, civil servants, members of the armed forces, security officials, MPs and Congress members will go about their business as usual.
The essence of the matter is that Darroch’s relationship with the White House, and thus his wider effectiveness, was finished from the moment those diplomatic cables were published. He is no way to blame and (from a broader point of view than that of journalism) the leak of his cables was abhorrent. Wearing our citizenship hat, we hope that the leaker is eviscerated – to use Johnson’s own word. But whether he is or not, life will go on, and a replacement will be appointed. That person will serve under the new Prime Minister and it would thus make sense for this new Prime Minister to appoint him, rather than Theresa May.
There is a strain of anti-Americanism in British life. Maybe this is inevitable if one cousin is bigger (America) and the other better (Britain, or so most of us would say) than the other. That famous scene in Love Actually in which a British Prime Minister tells an American President to get knotted has a certain resonance. This is especially so when the real-life President in question is Trump. As a site that wanted Hillary Clinton instead – Trump’s position on NATO was very worrying – we understand the feeling. But is has to be said that he’s turned out better than we feared. To pick up on the very point that most concerned us, the defence alliance is still alive and, it seems, kicking.
We are suspicious of Trump’s protectionist stance, see no evidence that he has a plan for controlling spending, and wonder whether an economic correction will take place at precisely the wrong moment for the President in America’s electoral cycle. That touches on a key point: as matters stand, Trump is likely to be re-elected. We may have to live with all the faults of which Darroch complained a while longer. In which case, whingeing about the President – his tweets, instability, his boasts – is like whining about the weather. Better to seek to exploit his instincts. These may be anti-Darroch but they appear to be pro-British.
That being so, it is worth making every effort to strike a trade deal, and exploring whether NAFTA membership is a runner. Some on the Right, reacting to anti-Americanism on the Left, take being pro-American off the chart: parts of it seem to think Britain should be the 51st state. This isn’t where the temper of our country is and, when it comes to trade, the Trump administration will doubtless put America First (as any other administration would seek to do too). But if Global Britain is to mean anything, striving for a trade deal with the United States should be part of it. For better or worse, the facts of life are less Love Actually than Trump Actually.