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Weighing Up The Importance Of British Values Against Economic Stability In Light Of A UK And US Trade Deal

27/01/2017 11:44

Theresa May has emphasised that she considers the "special relationship" between the US and the UK, developed by the history of political relations between the two countries, to be a factor that effectively divides the professional relationship between UK and US political leaders from their personal relationship. May believes that it is possible to form an allegiance with Trump without compromising what she calls "British values". However, while it is possible to work with an individual while harbouring a personal dislike towards them, allying with someone who attacks basic human rights effectively suggests a condoning of the practices of the leader with whom they have agreed to make trade deals - effectively leading to the compromising of British values.

Although May has yet to specifically define what she interprets British values to be, it can be assumed that they relate to the upholding of basic human rights, at the very least. The lack of a detailed explanation of May's perception of British values means that she could, in theory, adapt the meaning of the phrase to serve what she considers to be British interests as she engages in talks with the new President. This thought is somewhat unsettling. May's ambiguous answers to any questions relating to how accommodating of Trump's ideas she might be in a trade deal highlight the unpredictability of what she will prioritise when the time comes to form a US trade deal: will she put first British values or British economic interests? Her determination to maintain economic stability at all costs post-Brexit, and the pragmatic attitude that she seems to have adopted, might suggest the latter. While on one level it makes sense that the economy would be considered more important than the abstract idea of morality, what immoral, or even inhumane, Trump values and ideologies would May be willing to excuse in order to form a deal?

Trump, in his first few days in office, has already launched an alarmingly effective attack on some of the most basic human rights; rights that are commonly taken for granted in most modern societies. He has cut off funding relating to abortion that affects non-governmental organisations abroad, and from the gender-related objectives that he has set out it can only be assumed that this is only the beginning of his attempts to degrade women's rights in relation to their own bodies. He has successfully begun his attack on free speech; he has issued a gag order intended to censor the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Agriculture, attempting to stop them from publicly discussing climate change. He has already signed the bill that he infamously promised in his campaign, to try to literally create a division between human beings - in the form of a wall between the US and Mexico. On another chilling note, he is openly advocating for the re-introduction of torture methods. Whatever May might personally define British values to be, there can be no doubt that the concept of torture unquestionably attacks the notion of any kind of human values. As of yet, May is whole-heartedly open to the notion of working side-by-side with a leader who believes in torture; depriving women of their basic rights, encouraging tensions between groups based on ethnic and religious grounds, and who apparently doesn't believe in free speech - not to mention his attack on the media. These are only the ideologies that have been made particularly clear in Trump's first few days in power, who knows which other human rights he will violate as he becomes more comfortable in the Oval Office?

It should not come as a surprise, however, that May is so openly willing to collaborate with Trump despite his questionable ideologies. The Prime Minister has additionally attempted to form a relationship with the Gulf States, despite their engagement in the violent executions of those who fought for the freedom of speech in the Arab Spring Protests. The Gulf States economically have a lot to offer Britain, like the US. However, regardless of whether the British economy should be prioritised over British values or not, it is clear that when British values are threatened the barrier dividing the professional from the personal breaks down. There are certain instances, such as the question of an allegiance between Trump and May, where the personal suddenly comes to the forefront of any trade deals that they might make. May cannot successfully uphold British values without actively standing against Trump's disregard for human rights, as by failing to stand against him May is effectively communicating the message that Trump's behaviour can be universally accepted. If his behaviour can be condoned by May then this questions the credibility of the very idea of British values. What are these values if May is not fighting against any instances of clear immorality?

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