Analysis: How the UK’s ‘special relationship’ with America turned toxic in just 10 months
Posted by Geoff Bishop.
Written by Nigel Morris.
It was only three days ago that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted that the United States was committed to maintaining its historic “special relationship” with Britain.
The reality today is very different as the two nations face their deepest diplomatic rift since Harold Wilson refused to bow to American demands to commit troops to Vietnam. The rapport between Churchill and Roosevelt, Reagan and Thatcher and Blair and Bush is a distant memory following the public clashes between Theresa May and Donald Trump.
As Downing Street joined the anger over his endorsement of Britain First’s tweets, the President did not back down and try to soothe the diplomatic tensions. Trump’s disdain Instead he doubled down and responded with disdain to the Prime Minister, leaving relations between Downing Street and the White House in ruins.
The fallout could hardly have come at a worse moment for the government. It needs to sign a rapid trade deal with the US after Britain leaves the European Union, and had believed the election of a pro-Brexit President with sentimental links to the UK would help.
As a result Mrs May hurried over to the White House days after his inauguration and broke with precedent by issuing an invitation to pay a state visit.
She faced widespread mockery as pictures of the pair holding hands went viral, but the image appeared briefly to show that they could do business.
Relationship goes downhill Since then it has all been downhill. The state visit invitation provoked such uproar that Mr Trump is reported to have told her that he does not want to come to Britain if he has to face protests.
Mrs May had little option but to distance herself from his failure to condemn white supremacists after the death of an anti-racism protester in Charlottesville or his claim that police knew the identity of the people behind the terror attack on the London Underground in September.
A stunned Downing Street issued a direct condemnation after he then handed a propaganda boost to the obscure extremist group Britain First. The notoriously thin-skinned President responded in the only way he knows by hitting back angrily on Twitter in the middle of the night.
It’s a fair bet that the two leaders will never be seen again holding hands. It is even hard to see how they can share a civil word.