The Strategist

What to expect from Theresa May's visit to the United States?

01/27/2017 - 14:03

British Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump are meeting in Washington this Friday, 27 January. There’s no surprise in the fact that Mrs. May is the first foreign leader to hold talks with the new master of the White House. Both countries have a long history of cooperation and traditionally occupy similar positions on global policy. For this reason, the US-British relations have always been special. This feature in recent years has been more important to London than to Washington.

Surrey County Council News
Surrey County Council News
In other circumstances, the British prime minister's visit to the US would be only an ordinary diplomatic event. However, when the American leader is Donald Trump and his British guest is Theresa May, their meeting can’t help but looks intriguing for the international community.

Not only has Trump openly supported Brexit, but also said that his unexpected victory in the US presidential race is American version of Brexit. In turn, May has been charged with a difficult task to carry out the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU. Thus, the British referendum and Trump's success in elections in a sense united the leaders of both countries.

"I think that the two leaders are so much interested in a positive outcome of this meeting, that the negotiations will appear successful in any event."- says expert on US foreign policy James Goldgeier, Dean of the School of International Service at American University.

However, the probability that May’s visit would bring concrete decisions is extremely low. Trump has been in office only a few days, and his administration is still in the process of formation. At the same time, it is expected that the two leaders would declare their intention to begin negotiations for a US-British agreement on free trade, which is also in their common interests. In mid-January, Trump said that the United Kingdom is not the "last in line" to enter into a trade agreement with the US, as previously promised by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Theresa May is going to implement "tough" scenario of British withdrawal from the EU. Her visit to Washington shows London’s importance to Trump’s administration, and clearly indicates the White House’s attitude to the European Union, which strongly opposes Brexit.

Indifference to the EU is in itself evidence of a fundamental change in Washington's policy. The United States has traditionally stood for a strong and united Europe and closer European integration. It has always been a key element of US foreign policy, regardless of who was master of the White House at the moment.

At the same time, the meeting with May in Washington indicates sweeping changes, said Dan Reuter, a professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta: "Strengthening relations between the US and the UK are taking place in the context of shuffling cards on a global scale."

According to Reuter, May’s visit, among other things, is a proof that Trump opposes globalization and integration in its present form, and that he is sympathetic to political leaders with a similar outlook.