Theresa May this week has got pretty much everything that she could have wanted to out of her visit to see the new US president Donald Trump, as the first leader of a foreign nation to do so.
On Thursday she gave an eloquent, discerning and inspiring talk on an ambitious and strategic UK-US foreign policy at the Republican Party conference. She spoke about the significance of the cooperation between the UK and the US and reminded her counterparts of the shared heritage of our two nations in shaping the modern world. May said:
“One hundred years ago this April, it was your intervention in World War 1 that helped Britain, France, our friends in the Commonwealth and other allies to maintain freedom in Europe.
A little more than 75 years ago, you responded to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour by joining Britain in World War 2 and defeating fascism not just in the Pacific but in Africa and Europe too.”
The Prime Minister spoke of the way in which the institutions which the world now relies on “were so often conceived or inspired by our 2 nations working together”, stating that “the leadership provided by our 2 countries through the special relationship has done more than win wars and overcome adversity. It made the modern world”.
In words that will be received as an immense complement and encouragement to the Prime Minister, Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan commented that “it was an honour to welcome Prime Minister May to Philadelphia. We had an excellent, wide-ranging discussion about strengthening the special relationship between our nations. In particular, I reaffirmed our commitment to a strong security alliance and expressed Congress’s interest in moving forward with bilateral trade talks. I appreciate Prime Minister May coming to meet with us and speak to our Members of Congress.”
And on Friday, May emerged as the leader, diplomat and visionary that we Britain has hoping she would evolve into. At such a volatile and pivotal moment in British history, we needed a leader who would emerge as a champion for a global Britain – a champion of free trade, international security and cooperation, and hope.
In the Trump/May press conference, the new president described Brexit as a ‘fantastic thing’ and that he considered our new-found sovereignty to be a ‘tremendous asset’ for the UK. What’s more they seems to connect at a personal level too. Trump had already predicted that they would have a ‘fantastic’ relationship, and every indicator throughout the day pointed to that being the case.
A critical part of May’s aim in her meeting with the president, Trump was to win his backing over the continued strategic importance of NATO, and in her comments to the press she managed to repeat a comment he made in their discussion that he backed Nato 100 percent – a comment which Trump did not oppose. He also effectively ruled out backing torture as a form of interrogation.
May confirmed that she had conveyed the invitation of Her Majesty the Queen for president Trump to come to the UK on a state visit later this year. No doubt this visit will be met with significant protest, yet this invitation will have gone down very well with him.
There is no doubt that the Prime Minister recognises and is deeply concerned about the shortcomings in the character, attitudes and intellectual integrity of president Trump, but only a true leader is able to focus on the greatest opportunities for our two nations. Theresa May has the diplomacy and vision that Britain needs to make the most of its new-found independence, and I have confidence in her ability to make the most of it.