My first reaction to the Trump-Farage pictures last night was to be repulsed, not least because the group picture also shows Arron Banks and Raheem Kassam there with him – a nastier threesome in British politics would be harder to find.
My second reaction was to think the opulent background, and the smug grins, might mean the idea that these are in any way non-elite, men-of-the-people, could start to crack.
My third reaction was then about the global politics of all of this, and how it forces the UK to think again about its world role.
Farage goes off to meet Trump days after his election victory, and spends an hour with him. May will only get to meet him sometime at the start of 2017. The whole British political establishment ought to be concerned that it’s Farage, and not someone in the government, who seems to have the best connections to the incoming President.
But if anyone in May’s government gives an obvious sign they are moving towards Farage it takes them closer to a persona non grata in British politics, a politician who proved himself to be a racist demagogue in the EU referendum campaign, an impression he underlines with his chumminess with Trump. Further, The Telegraph reports that 9 members of May’s cabinet have publicly criticised Trump – even for May’s government, an administration that is not centrist, Trump’s positions seem a bridge too far. Iain Martin’s tweet sums up the challenge.
On this side of the Atlantic, the challenge of Trump is forcing the EU to think about its own behaviour, not least in terms of defence and foreign policy in light of Trump’s unwillingness to commit to NATO during his election campaign. Merkel’s reaction to Trump’s win was rather frosty. An informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers will take place today in Brussels to debate what the EU ought to do, but Boris Johnson is not going, saying “it’s time we snapped out of the general doom and gloom about the result of this election” in his critique of the meeting. After Brexit one feels he would not be welcome anyway.
All of this contributes to the feeling that the UK is drifting free from its moorings, off alone in the mid Atlantic. Getting cosy with Trump is unpalatable, but Brexit has meant building bridges with the EU is harder now than ever before. This could get rather lonely.