- Title: US-UK "special relationship" hailed ahead of May-Trump meeting
- Date: 25th January 2017
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (JANUARY 24, 2017) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR JOHN BEW, PROFESSOR WAR STUDIES KINGS COLLEGE LONDON AND LEAD CONTRIBUTOR ON "BRITAIN AND THE WORLD" AT THE THINK TANK POLICY EXCHANGE, SAYING: "Even America needs close friends and Britain has managed to, partly by luck and partly by stealth, place itself in front of the queue again."
- Embargoed: 8th February 2017 16:13
- Keywords: Theresa May Donald Trump US UK special relationship Brexit trade deals
- Location: LONDON AND WATFORD, ENGLAND, UK / WASHINGTON DC AND MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE AND CAMP DAVID, MARYLAND, USA / GAUMONT / YALTA, CRIMEA /
- City: LONDON AND WATFORD, ENGLAND, UK / WASHINGTON DC AND MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE AND CAMP DAVID, MARYLAND, USA / GAUMONT / YALTA, CRIMEA /
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Diplomacy/Foreign Policy,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00M60KWWG7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: British Prime Minister Theresa May will meet new U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on Friday (January 27) seeking to reinvigorate what London views as the two countries' "special relationship".
May, the first foreign leader to visit Trump, aims to forge closer ties with the United States as Britain leaves the European Union.
"I am pleased that I am able to meet President Trump so early in his administration. That is a sign of the strength of the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States of America. A special relationship on which he and I intend to build," May told the House of Commons on Wednesday (January 25).
She hopes to enjoy the same closeness with him that Margaret Thatcher famously had with Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
"It has become a little bit hackneyed and a bit clichÃ©d when we talk about the special relationship and a bit tired because it is tied to a post-1945 world system that is changing pretty rapidly," said John Bew, a history and foreign policy professor at King's College London.
"The point here is it has been given a shot in the arm, a kind of collagen injection if you like, as that order begins to be reshaped into a different order and I think that's the important thing, so I think the special relationship seems relevant again in different circumstances, that's the first time that's happened in 70 years," he said.
The history of the special relationship between the two countries has always been defined by personalities, Europe and security issues and has not always been easy.
The United States declared independence from Britain in 1776 but it was not until 1946 that Winston Churchill coined the term "special relationship" following World War Two.
The establishment of NATO in 1949 helped to deepen military ties but the alliance saw challenges in the early years of the Cold War.
The defining image of British and U.S. relations by the end of the Cold War was of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan.
The grocers' daughter and the Hollywood film star struck up a rapport on the basis of their shared commitment to small government, economic liberalism and anti-communism.
The special relationship was reinforced again with the co-operation of Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush over the Iraq War.
Following the 9/11 attacks on the United States, Blair was keen to offer support to the United States. However, while the initial military action to depose Saddam Hussein as Iraq's leader in 2003 achieved its aims, the war became drawn out.
The lack of weapons of mass destruction, which had provided a justification for the action, drew opposition on both sides of the Atlantic, with some describing Blair as a puppet of Bush.
Closeness to the American president became an issue for Blair, but with the election of President Barack Obama it was once again seen as an asset to have good relations with a U.S. president.
Obama was popular in Britain and Prime Minister David Cameron was keen to portray their closeness, sharing hotdogs and rounds of golf together.
However, Obama's comment in April 2016 that Britain would be "at the back of the queue" in trade talks should it vote to leave the EU also raised questions among Britons about the value of the relationship.
Trump has criticised Obama for that comment and has pledged to strike a deal with Britain as soon as possible, something Theresa May will be keen to get further commitment on.
But Bew said Trump needs May as much as she needs him.
"He needs a good story too, despite the self confidence, despite the fact he won the election, despite the fact he has blustered into the White House with the same type of rhetoric, he also needs a success story here and here is an open door for both governments, symbolically as much as anything else," he said.
"Even America needs close friends and Britain has managed to, partly by luck and partly by stealth, place itself in front of the queue again," said Bew.
Most Britons though do not relish the sight of their prime minister coseying up to Donald Trump - an unpopular figure in Britain.
"I think it's appalling. Absolute bloody disaster. I mean I can see the British prime minister has got to go and meet this horrible slob," said one man.
"Unless she bows down to him or curtseys or smiles when he says smile, it'll never be the same," said another woman.
In the House of Commons, May said she wouldn't be cowed by the new American president who has offended so many with his comments on women on the campaign trail.
"I am not afraid to speak frankly to a president of the United States. I am able to do that because we have that special relationship," May told the House of Commons to cheers.
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