The Special Relationship: UK-US Ties in the Johnson-Trump Era

Which of the UK prime ministers adhered to the Special Relationship? How did Boris Johnson copy Donald Trump?

The UK and the US are known as close allies and share common interests in global issues with a Special Relationship. This relationship is sometimes bolder, like the personal fondness and relationship between the most recent leaders of both countries.

The term Special Relationship was first used by the UK Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, in 1946. Ever since then, it has been used to point to the special intelligence, political, military and economic alliance between the UK and the US. The term is used in international relations to describe the importance of relations between the two allies. Officials of both countries have used this term to describe the transatlantic alliance as different and unique from all others. The United Kingdom and the United States consider themselves to be in a higher place than others on the global stage, so their relationship can help both sides on a higher level. However, the long-term Special Relationship between the two allies is better recognised by the people of the United Kingdom and the United States, and others around the world, when the relationship between the UK Prime Minister and the US President becomes closer on a more personal level.

The personal relationship between the leaders defines the ‘Special Relationship’

In the modern era, the Special Relationship was seen between the UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan when Cold War tensions were at an all-time high worldwide. Thatcher and Reagan’s close cooperation and personal relations were so strong that it reinforced bilateral relations between the two countries in many different aspects. During Tony Blair’s time in office, the Special Relationship came to notice once again and the UK Prime Minister had good personal relations with Bill Clinton. When Clinton was leaving office, he advised Blair not to distance himself from the next US Administration. And, the new Special Relationship was reinforced again with the cooperation of the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W Bush over the war in Iraq. Both officials supported each other strongly on the war issue and went to Iraq hand in hand. Later, Barack Obama became popular in Britain during his presidency and the UK Prime Minister David Cameron displayed this with their alliances. This relationship seems to apply to the most recent officials of both countries too, namely Donald Trump and Boris Jonson.

Johnson’s team copied the populist method of Trump

When Donald Trump was elected US President, Boris Johnson was the UK Foreign Secretary; he was so fond of Trump that he had privately praised his presidency and mentioned that Trump was “Making America Great Again”, a phrase which was repeatedly used by Trump and his team during the election campaign and afterwards. Johnson told the US ambassador to the UK that Trump did a fantastic job on foreign policy issues regarding China, Syria and North Korea. President Trump, after the revelation of the news by the press, thanked Johnson in a tweet and expressed hope for a great cooperation. In the meantime, before Boris Johnson’s election, Trump had asked Theresa May, who was then Prime Minister of the UK, during their first meeting in Washington why Johnson was not prime minister. Later, during the general elections, Trump expressed that he really wanted Johnson’s party to win. Following his win and during his tenure in office as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has worked towards a close alliance with the Trump Administration and enhanced the Special Relationship between the two countries.

Trump to Johnson: He is called Britain’s Trump

Boris Johnson became Prime Minister mainly because he supported the withdrawal from the European Union. The US President encouraged the UK withdrawal from the EU and said he was hopeful that Brexit would be finally completed by Boris Johnson. Donald Trump said that Boris Johnson is a good, smart and tough man who is called “Britain’s Trump”; he emphasised that Johnson should leave the EU. After the UK left the EU, the US President congratulated the UK and mentioned that their countries can easily strike trade deals and added that any free deal with the US is much bigger and more profitable than the deals with the European Union. President Trump has business interests in the UK. He stressed that he likes the UK and mentioned that the other European countries can learn from it and leave the bloc. He continued by saying that he would quickly make a trade deal with the UK after Brexit. He also mentioned that the UK will perform better outside the EU.

Trump hoped Johnson would finally complete Brexit

Boris Johnson’s election is another representative of Trumpism in politics: the rise of populism and the collapse of the old political order. Johnson uses populist language just as Trump does. He is able to use this language for inspiration, but Trump uses populist language to agitate. Many voters in both countries were tired of the damaging effects of globalisation, so nationalism grew among the people and Trump, with pledges and vows to make America great again and build a wall along the southern border, was welcomed by the voters. Boris Johnson’s team followed the same path and, by strongly backing Brexit, vowed to take back control of UK borders and withdraw from the EU.

The United Kingdom and the United States are two close allies with intelligence and military cooperation. When personal relations between the leaders of the two countries are closer, this so-called Special Relationship is better recognised by their people and around the world. The relation began in Winston Churchill’s era and was continued by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Later, Tony Blair had good relations with both Democrat and Republican presidents, Bill Clinton and George W Bush. After him, David Cameron established close ties with Barack Obama. Recently, after populism grew in the US and Trump came into power, the UK Conservative Party followed suit with the same policy and used populist language to promote Brexit. The Brexit issue was strongly supported by Trump, and Johnson was called a favourite figure by him and even dubbed Britain’s Trump. But now that Trump has failed to get re-elected for a second term and incited riots on Capitol Hill, Boris Johnson needs to change his policies before it is too late for the UK Conservative Government.


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