The planned visit of President Donald Trump to Britain early next year has been cancelled by the US, deepening a rupture with Prime Minister Theresa May over his retweeting of videos from the fascist organisation Britain First.
According to a Daily Telegraph report, “US diplomats have dropped plans for Donald Trump to conduct a visit to Britain in January amid a war of words between the two countries’ leaders.”
Trump was set to arrive on a “working” visit, including formally opening a new London embassy. This was envisaged, said the Telegraph, as a “scaled down version of a state visit with no meeting with the Queen… intended to allow Mr. Trump to come to the UK while avoiding the mass protests a full state visit would likely trigger.”
On Wednesday, Trump retweeted three anti-Islamic videos originally posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First. The small fascist group specialises in “mosque invasions” and “Christian patrols” in urban areas with large Muslim populations. During the Brexit referendum campaign last year, Thomas Mair shot and stabbed to death Labour MP Jo Cox while shouting “Britain First”.
Trump openly associating himself with Britain First is part of a deliberate political strategy aimed at inciting and encouraging far-right and fascist forces. His tweets provoked a wave of denunciations in the UK, and Downing Street responded with a statement that they were “wrong.” Sir Kim Darroch, the UK's ambassador to Washington, lodged a formal protest with the White House.
Trump countered with a tweet to May stating, “Theresa May, don't focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine.”
During a press conference in Oman Thursday, May again criticised Trump, stating, “The fact that we work together does not mean that we are afraid to say when we think that the United States have got it wrong and to be very clear with them. I am very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do.”
Downing Street nevertheless insisted that “the US is one of our longest, closest and most trusted allies. The offer of a state visit has been extended and accepted. Further details will be set out in due course.”
May was forced to respond because politicians from all parties, including within her own ruling Conservatives, were denouncing the US President in unheard of terms as a racist and fascist, who was not welcome in Britain. This was backed up with newspaper front pages attacking the tweets.
During an emergency debate held in parliament, Commons Speaker John Bercow, a Conservative, told MPs he wanted “urgently to express support for the victims of racism and bigotry and to denounce their purveyors.”
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, who is of Pakistani descent, said Trump had “endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organisation that hates me and people like me… He is wrong and I refuse to let it go and say nothing.”
Another minister, Sam Gyimah stated on the BBC’s Question Time that he was “deeply uncomfortable” about the prospect of Trump coming to the UK.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable declared Trump an “evil racist.”
Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the tweets represented a “betrayal of the special relationship between our two countries” and called for the cancellation of Trump’s planned visit. Labour MP Naz Shah said Trump should be banned from Britain for promoting “the hate-filled ideology of fascism,” while two other Labourites, Paul Flynn and Chris Bryant, said Trump should be arrested for inciting racial hatred if he comes to the UK.
May became prime minister at the head of a crisis-ridden and deeply divided government following the Brexit vote.
To the extent that she ever had a Brexit “strategy,” it was based on deepening Britain’s orientation to the US and other markets to counter economically a potential loss of trade with Europe. With the subsequent and unexpected election of Trump as president, May saw an opportunity to capitalise on his declared hostility to the EU, which he decried as a German-dominated protectionist opponent of the US, and his support for Brexit, to place maximum pressure on the EU for favourable trading access to the Single European Market.
Just seven days after Trump's inauguration in January, May became the first foreign leader to visit him at the White House, during which they were photographed holding hands as she offered a series of eulogies to the “special relationship.”
Following Trump’s unprecedented public attack on the prime minister, the alliance between the two countries has never been shakier, with Britain’s entire foreign policy orientation called into question.
Trump has made clear once more that his administration is concerned only with carrying out the interests of the US corporate elite, based on a policy of “America First.” The foreign policy objectives of the Trump administration—threats of trade war with the EU, calling into question the US commitment to NATO, targeting China by threatening war against North Korea and now threatening Iran—endanger Britain’s commercial interests.
With tensions between the imperialist powers escalating amid a fracturing of the global economy and a retreat to protectionist policies, British imperialism confronts an existential crisis. Any conception that Britain can maintain a beneficial relationship with the US while at the same time seeking a stable trading relationship with the European Union has become clearly untenable.
It is over these fundamental issues of strategy and orientation that the contending factions of the British ruling elite are fighting. The Trump/May conflict only confirms that her days are numbered.
In the last month, May has seen the resignation of two of her senior cabinet ministers—Sir Michael Fallon and Priti Patel—due to scandals. The resignation of a third minister, which could prove fatal to May’s premiership, is now threatened. First Secretary of State and de facto deputy prime minister, Damian Green, is under investigation based on allegations dating back to 2008 that he viewed pornography on his House of Commons computer.
The campaign against Green escalated Friday when former Metropolitan Police detective Neil Lewis told the BBC that "thousands" of pornographic images were found on Green's computer during the 2008 inquiry into government leaks. Green, who denies the claims, was previously accused by another police officer, Bob Quick, the former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. However, Quick was forced to stand down in 2009 after a scandal.
A Cabinet Office investigation is currently underway into Green based on allegations that he made “inappropriate” advances to a political activist. The inquiry is also looking into the claims that he accessed pornography. The report will likely be handed to May early next week or even sooner.
Were Green to resign or be forced to stand down, it could also lead to the resignation of Brexit Secretary David Davis, who is tasked with leading the government’s fraught negotiations with the European Union. On Friday, the BBC reported that Davis warned “Downing Street not to sack Damian Green as a result of a ‘wrongful attempt by former officers to do him down.’” A source close to Davis told the BBC that he would consider resigning if Green, who worked under him when Davis was shadow home affairs minister in 2008, were sacked.