The underlying context of Donald Trump’s forthcoming visit to the UK is supplied by its ongoing Brexit psychodrama.
The UK has been a de facto party to all trade agreements made between the EU and other countries by virtue of its membership of the former. When the UK leaves the EU, it will cease to be a party these agreements, and will have to make its own deals with other countries to plug the ensuing huge gap in its trade agreements.
Palpably ravening and desperate for trade deals of any kind anywhere, the UK’s leaders have already engaged in some unattractive spectacles, including the sight of an effusive Theresa May glad-handing the current Turkish potentate while sealing a deal on the sale of British weapons to that despot.
(Admittedly, EU members are free to sell weapons without this having to be under EU auspices. However, May’s servility in front of Erdogan conveyed the impression that any kind of deal helping the UK’s economic situation après Brexit will be lapped up– hopefully she may draw the line at selling Kim Jong-un toxic nerve agents for use on his recalcitrant family members.)
Nigel Farage, the far-right politician of no achievement, was the first UK politician to hot-foot it to the garish golden tower on Fifth Avenue to pay his respects after the Orange Swindler was elected.
Determined at least to be the second UK politician to visit Trump, Theresa May came to Washington in the hope of laying the ground for a future US-UK trade deal. She put on a remarkable display of ingratiation for the benefit of the orange-skinned vulgarian, even allowing him to grab her by the hand (better that than another more delicate part of her anatomy, she might have thought in that initial moment of dread and apprehension).
Despite her sycophancy, all May got from Trump was an assurance there would be a “future” trade deal.
This craven knee-bending is demonstrably at odds with the repeated claim by May and her Tory colleagues that Brexit will enable the UK “to take back control” (whatever that means, since the UK has long swayed and swooned to the money-grubbing tunes of JP Morgan, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, and Rupert Murdoch).
May’s other fawning gesture was to invite Trump, at a time when the visibly unhinged Trump was firing his daily fusillade of executive orders, for an official state visit.
Even some of May’s backers in the UK thought Trump should be given time to wind-down and achieve a (hoped for) more stable post-inauguration psychological equilibrium before receiving such an invitation.
UK protocol demands that such invitations be issued in the name of the queen, which now puts the old lady in a tight spot.
The high point of an official state visit is the royal banquet at the palace. Trump’s unseemly White House crew of mad-dog military men, crackpots, racists, and xenophobes are likely to be in attendance. Trump will also be allowed to nominate his share of British guests for the banquet.
This creates the possibility of the queen having to rub shoulders with the loathsome Farage, as well as a platoon of equally repugnant far-right editors and columnists from the UK’s notorious tabloids (these columnists and Farage being the base of Trump’s UK fan club).
Not since pre-WW2 days, when the Nazi-sympathizing Duke of Windsor was a brief occupant of the throne as Edward VIII, will so many fascists or proto-fascists be ushered through the doors of the palace by its liveried footmen!
Other delicious possibilities are in prospect.
The Orange Swindler is reputed to have a taste for a certain stimulative white powder, and with many tedious official functions swamping him during his visit, he may be tempted to bring his own supply to see him through those long and wearisome hours of speechifying and handshaking. Will the sniffer dogs of Her Majesty’s Customs be allowed to perform their official duties on this occasion? And what if they do discover a stash?
Furthermore, what if Trump succumbs to his well-known libidinal incontinence and makes a grab at a palace maid?
Officials in foreign ministries and chancelleries throughout the world breathed a collective sigh of relief when the globe-trotting philanderer Dominque Strauss-Kahn derailed his bid for the French presidency while being front-runner (his presidential visits to other countries would have spawned all sorts of nightmarish scenarios), but their relief has surely been short-lived– chiefs of protocol and legal authorities the world over will probably breathe less easily whenever it’s announced that the world’s most famous comb-over artist, with his long record of lechery, will pay their country a visit.
I have no sympathy for the queen, but sense there may be, perhaps until Trump’s visit is over, a slight chill in the air when Theresa May has her weekly prime ministerial audiences at the palace.
In any event, the independent-minded Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, despite being a Conservative, has decreed that Trump won’t be extended the invitation, customary for a visiting head of state, to address parliament.
In all probability, the Speaker’s decree, while decried in the right-wing press, will be a huge relief for the majority of parliamentarians, who may fret at the thought of having to sit and listen to an incoherent stream of half-consciousness of the kind we’ve been treated to in the last month or so– on such possible topics as Trump’s margin of victory in the electoral college (“yuuuggge”), how much he’d like to date Kate Middleton, and how the protesters dogging his steps outside are put up to it by Barack Obama while being paid by George Soros.
Or how Farage is the greatest Englishman since Churchill, how Winston Churchill is “doing a good job” a la Frederick Douglass, how the BBC (that purveyor of fake news now banned from the White House) needs to be sold forthwith to his viperish bosom-pal Rupert Murdoch, and how the future of the UK’s economy depends on Trump being allowed to build golf courses anywhere on this “green and pleasant land”.
Or how Jeremy Corbyn is a loser for supporting Bernie Sanders, how the UK authorities need to investigate media reports that the crowd welcoming him was not “bigly”, how if the queen had a surplus palace he’d be happy to turn it into a Trump hotel, why Mrs May needs to do something about those wind turbines spoiling the view at his Scottish golf course, and so forth.
Nearly everything Trump says is a mush of braggadocio, bullshit, and self-puffery– the rubes who voted for Trump regard this as a marker of his “authenticity”, but a far less charitable view is likely to prevail across the pond.
British political cartoonists, who as a tribe are much more savage than their American counterparts, are probably licking their chops.
Trump is likely to be greeted by massive protests and demonstrations. In fact, one must wonder whether someone with his filigree-thin skin will submit himself to this ordeal. Press reports in recent days say his visit, initially planned for June, will now take place in October, supposedly to allow time for anti-Trump passions to cool.
When Reagan came to London in 1985, the streets were so jammed with protesters that it took his motorcade hours to get from one venue to another. Ronnie, by then making his descent into senility and taking his renowned frequent naps, probably didn’t notice. Nancy Reagan, with a little assistance from her astrologer, was starting to be the proxy president, and the Gipper in his cognitive decline may have had little or no idea whether he was in London or some old film-set from his B-movie days featuring a London street.
The Orange Swindler and his handlers might decide it just wasn’t worth his while to endure a show of opposition from vast numbers of people in a foreign country who have nothing but contempt for him, and defer his visit indefinitely.
As an alternative, a triumphant domestic rally in front of adoring crowds at Boca Raton or Topeka will be a much more appealing prospect.