Americans put great store in their national identity, “the land of the free and the home of the brave” is a phrase lisped by pre-school children from sea to shining sea. But to my mind a country which denies sanctuary to refugees, erects walls to peaceful neighbours, curbs the press and sanctions torture is neither free nor brave.
Many have watched in horror as the progressive legacy of Barrack Obama has been comprehensively devoured in the early days of Donald Trump’s post-truth presidency and with it, a cold awakening to a new kind of America.
That matters. Much of the hopes of the Brexiteers were pinned on a swift and fulsome trade detail with America to mitigate the trade vacuum caused by us (somewhat rashly) pushing the ejector seat button on the Treaty of Rome. Trump’s rhetoric in his inaugural address is a clear and present threat to that plan.
In advance of her meeting with the 45th President, the Prime Minister said that in partnership with Donald Trump our two nations can ‘lead the world again’. That’s a bullish claim, and one designed to appeal to the Donald’s sense of entitlement. But in these fractured times how can this be possible? The world is gazing at Brexit Britain, with a sense of alarm only tempered by their terror at the witness they bare to the birth of Trump’s new order.
During the EU Referendum the Brexiteers called on the British people to take back control. But how much control are we going to have when we need to engage with a country whose leader’s first impulse is to insert punitive, protectionist caveats into deals that put the interests of his country above all others?
Put simply, Theresa May is leading Britain into a new alliance which affords us far less influence than we enjoyed within the EU. A partnership with a leader who fails to understand the simple definition of partnership will only take us for granted.
My party hasn’t given up on the EU, nor will it, but naturally we want a healthy trading partnership with the US whatever our future relationship with continental Europe. That relationship should not however come at the expense of our respect for human rights, the rule of law and equality. My hope is that Theresa May will use these pillars of British sensibility to bring Trump and post-truth America to its senses. The signs aren’t encouraging:
We have a Tory Government pandering to the xenophobic, insular right wing of its own party as it pirouettes over EU departure and if there was any resistance shown to Trump in the US last week it comes in the odd and highly inappropriate form of a state visit and holding hands.
In that context I rather suspect that the world she talks of leading smacks more of days of empire and the 19th century, than of the cosmopolitan and liberal society that I want to help build.