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What Effect Would a Trump Presidency Have on the 'Special Relationship' Between Britain and the United States?

01/04/2016 17:12 | Updated 01 April 2016

'Buffoon, demagogue and wazzock', these were just a few terms used by Members of Parliament during a debate in January, on whether presidential hopeful Donald Trump should be banned from entering the United Kingdom. For the benefit of those who are not fluent in Northern slang, "Wazzock" means stupid or annoying chump.

The Republican front-runner laughed off MP's criticisms, with the story eventually lost in a wave of Primary victories that followed. However, it raises an interesting question; what effect would a Trump presidency have on the 'special relationship' between the United Kingdom and United States?

Now obviously, the election is eight months away and neither party has a confirmed nominee, so anything can change. It's possible that Trump won't win the GOP's nomination, yet this seems unlikely. On top of that, securing the nomination doesn't mean a Trump presidency either. There's a tough general election fight ahead against Hilary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. However, in a scenario where Trump was elected President of the United States, that could very well spell the end of 'special relationship'.

Trump has gained vast popularity (and criticism) in his short political career, mainly due to his unconventional policies and a refusal to sound how a traditional politician should. It's these policies, if enacted, that would cause the biggest friction between the United Kingdom and Untied States.

Foreign policy is one of the cornerstones upon which the special relationship was created. The current and ever growing challenge of Daesh in Iraq and Syria, along with refugee crisis faced by Europe as a result, is one of the central debated topics on the campaign trail. Trump's policy to deal with this multilateral, incredibly complex and heavily volatile situation - "I'd bomb the sh*t out of them. I'd blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left". Sounds like a good PR soundbite for a campaign rally; but it's not exactly a solid, coherent strategy.

I'm sure a Trump supporter would happily point out that the House of Commons voted to extend UK airstrikes into Syria late last year, which are still ongoing today. However, the UK are undertaking sustained bombing operations, as part of a coalition, against select targets in order to degrade, push back and defeat Daesh. Trump's policy (the term policy is used moderately), lacks any sort of concrete detail. It also sounds eerily familiar to the unsuccessful strategic bombing of Dresden that took place during the Second World War. The implication of such a plan would only cause significant tension between the US and other Western states, as well as feeding into Daesh's propaganda narrative.

Immigration is another explosive topic that Trump has spoken about often, using it to gain favour with the blue-collar caucuses. His comments on banning all Muslims from entering the US have proven to be one of his most extreme and controversial. The statement caused outrage and in response a petition was started to have Trump banned from the UK - it received over 550,000 signatures.

If Trump was elected, it's unlikely that such a policy would even pass through Congress, yet if enacted, the ramifications could forever change the 'special relationship'. British Muslims account for 4.5% of the entire UK population, and Islam is the second largest religion in the country. It's unlikely that the UK would sit back and let such blanket discrimination and racism take place. A situation could arise were European states respond to any sort of ban with retaliatory sanctions against US citizens.

The United States have a keen interest in defence and the geo-political environment of Europe; mostly because of Russia. Trump has stated his intent to massively increase America's military, "We're going to make our military so big, so strong and so great, so powerful that we're never going to have to use it". The idea of having such a large military that acts as a deterrent by default is a dramatic escalation, but at least it's less controversial than some of his other policies. (Unless of course Trump is discussing the use of nuclear weapons, something he failed to ever rule out - including in Europe)

The glaring issue here is convincing NATO members to increase their spending to match Trump's own, in order to comprehensively stand up to Russia. The UK already has one of the highest defence budgets in the world, and currently spends 2% of its GDP on military expenditure. Increasing this further would be a tough sell in a time of such austerity.

You'd like to think that a Trump presidency could not possibly end a friendship that has spanned over one hundred years and two World Wars. Yet, it's very clear that the policies Trump is currently proposing would put America at great odds with their closest ally. Some issues can of course be worked upon, and countries have in the past worked with those they have greatly differed with. However, if a policy like banning all Muslims from the entering the U.S. were to pass into law, it would undoubtedly be the straw that broke the camel's back.

The UK and America would still work together, it would be near impossible not to. Yet, the 'special relationship', the camaraderie and environment of trust, would be gone. The term forever cast-away, confined to the archives of history and A-Level politics essay questions.

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