Donald Trump may be offensive in many ways. He may have defiled his office during his previous stint as president by claiming the 2020 election was stolen from him. But at some point over the next ten and a half months before polling day in 2024 even his detractors are going to have to start asking themselves: might a second Trump presidency actually be in Britain’s self-interest?
Had Trump remained in office it is very likely that Britain would by now have a fully working trade deal with the US — which is after all the largest single country which they export to. It would have required some compromise — dropping, for example, the UK government’s illogical ban on chicken which has been chlorine-washed. Washing food in a dilute chlorine solution is a safety measure — which is why Britain already does it with salads, without anyone keeling over from chlorine poisoning, nor even, it seems, even noticing or complaining. But once the UK had conceded that, they could have stolen a march on the European Union and now be trading with the US mostly tariff-free. Trump had frequently spoken of it — countering Barack Obama’s jibe about Britain being “at the back of the queue” for a trade deal — saying if his presidency had continued we would be promoted to the front of the line.
But with Joe Biden? The president has just rejected moves by the Office of the US Trade Representative to open negotiations with Britain in a limited number of areas — a process that was supposed to lead to a full free trade deal. It means, effectively, that any hope of a US-UK trade deal is effectively dead for the rest of his presidency. But then it is hardly out of character for Biden, whose Inflation Reduction Act is about neither reducing inflation nor in keeping with its stated purpose of reducing carbon emissions. It is a blatant protectionist device in thin clothing, offering bungs to US consumers to buy electric cars and other green goods so long as they are made in the US. The Act has made it much harder for UK clean energy businesses — frustrating even more the British government’s promise of masses of “green jobs” as it transitioned to net zero.
Trump was supposed to be the inward-looking president, the one who would look after his voters in Rust Belt states by erected trade barriers with the rest of the world, even if it worked against the US’s economic interests as a whole. He did, indeed, declare a trade war against China, and withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership — Biden has pointedly not chosen to reverse that decision, although Britain has applied to join.
But as far as Britain is concerned, Trump was never anything other than positive about Britain and a trade deal. The UK could have found themselves in a privileged position. Instead, the whole deal has died. A second Trump presidency would be viewed by many in Britain as the return of a dark age. But the truth is that it would be more positive for Britain than a second Biden term.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.