Today Nigel Farage became the first foreign politician to see Donald Trump following the Republican candidate’s election win on Tuesday 8th. According to reports, they discussed “freedom and winning”, their shared desire for Britain and the US to reinvigorate the “special relationship” between their two countries, as well as the possibility of Trump returning the bust of Churchill to the Oval Office – a suggestion of Mr Farage’s which was apparently well received. The two reportedly got along well, with one Trump aid saying that he thinks they like each other’s company.
After Farage’s visit to Trump Tower, he announced on Twitter that Trump was a man Britain could “do business with”, while Trump is reported to have said that the UK is a “very, very special place for me”.
There have been suggestions that Farage could help the UK government get to know Trump.
Farage already knows the president-elect, having joined him at one of his rallies during the election campaign where he told Trump supporters that they were part of a similar movement to the Brexit campaign, and that if they went out to vote they too could win against the odds.
By contrast, Theresa May has yet to meet Trump, and the government has not got things off to a good start. First of all, there’s the Parliamentary hearing which took place in January 2016 on whether Britain should ban Trump from setting foot in Britain.
Then there is the fact that Theresa May and Boris Johnson – the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary – have both made negative comments about Trump in the past. Boris Johnson is perhaps the worst offender, having said in December 2015 that Trump was “out of his mind” and “unfit to be president”.
Almost a year on, Boris is now talking about the need to end the “whinge-o-rama” following Trump’s election, and get on with establishing a good working relationship. The Foreign Secretary has also skipped an EU emergency meeting that had been called in response to Trump’s election – a gesture intended to say to the Americans “what’s all the fuss?” and to thereby ameliorate relations, such as they are.
The Prime Minister may be cautious about liaising with Farage and she may prefer not to boost his standing. However, May might want to overlook those reservations. Now is a time when the special relationship is more important than ever as Britain prepares to negotiate its exit from the EU. If Farage and Trump get along well, then in the apparent absence of good relations between the UK government and the Trump team, it would be best to make use of that, even if only informally. At the very least Farage will have some insights into what Trump is like in person, and how to deal with him.
Furthermore, the proposition of giving Farage a role is attractive in principle.
Nigel Farage is arguably the man who has done the most to see Britain leave the EU. Now that he has helped get us into this mess in which Britain must renegotiate its relationship with the EU 27, secure trade deals with non-EU countries across the world and establish a new position on the “world stage”, it’s only fair that he should do his bit to help tidy up. And since he can only stir up trouble in the EU and foster more resentment from EU leaders, keeping him busy on the other side of the pond might be for the best!
UPDATE (14.11.16): Nigel Farage uses an article in The Telegraph to say that he is prepared to help:
The British government needs to mend fences to improve US-UK relations – I can help. https://t.co/1k78tf7oFK
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) November 14, 2016
Welcome though some help might be, one wonders if the offer needs to be made quite so publicly, and whether talk of the government needing to mend fences is entirely helpful. Is this just self-publicity on the part of Farage?