The Blog

Angela Merkel's Reaction To Trump Win Beats May Hands Down

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Theresa May greeted the President-Elect of the United States with the statement that the UK and US shared the values of 'freedom, democracy and enterprise'. This minimal list contrasted with Angela Merkel's explicit reference to 'respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political views'.

Our Prime Minister failing to back the rule of law is perhaps unsurprising given the Justice Secretary's hesitancy in defending the independence of British judges. Now we have our Foreign Secretary telling people to stop 'whingeing' and recognize the legitimacy of Donald Trump. This contrasts sharply with his previous doubts about whether Barack Obama really speaks for America (because of his 'part-Kenyan' ancestry).

These absences are an indication that the rule of law, human rights and race equality aren't really fundamental British values. Donald Trump just won an election in which he threw people of colour (and other minorities) under the bus because he thought it would help him get to the White House. Our government needs to follow Angela Merkel rather than keeping silent on the rights of British minorities in an effort to appease a Trump administration.

Of course the UK needs a close relationship with the United States. But what will the UK government do if the Trump administration bans a few million British citizens from entering the US? Will they say, as their Conservative predecessors did in rejecting the 1965 Race Relations Act, that the democratic majority has the freedom to discriminate, and there's nothing we can do? Or will they instead follow their more recent Conservative predecessors who defended gay rights whether or not a majority of the population rejects those rights?

The evidence continues to show that ethnic minorities in Britain, as in the United States, experience disadvantages in the labour market, criminal justice system, housing, health, and education. Yet as in the United States, there was at least a sense that the rule of law, human rights, antidisicrimination legislation and the promotion of equality were legally enforceable universal values.

As the far-right that rejects these values celebrates Trump's victory, Nigel Farage preens for a plum job in a foreign US administration where he isn't a citizen and doesn't live. If Chuka Umunna or Sayeeda Warsi were to express such ambition they'd be called rootless cosmopolitan citizens of the world and their Britishness questioned. Let's be honest: the upheavals we're seeing across Europe and the United States, and the shameful response to the refugee crisis, aren't just connected by shared economic uncertainty among 'working class white people'.

Animating the revolt across Europe and now the United States is the idea is that race and religion is what really matters for identity. Fortunately, the majority of British citizens - however they voted in the referendum - reject Farage's racialized sense of a shared identity that apparently trumps even British sovereignty.

Into this vortex we shall shortly see the British government launch its report on integration. We can anticipate this will emphasise British values and offer some 'hard hitting truths' for minority communities. In a spirit of sharing hard hitting truths, let me remind this government that minorities are watching and listening to see which values (and indeed which citizens) the British government will actually defend when push comes to shove.

The question of Britain's (and indeed America's and Europe's) future is existential, both for the safety and rights of ethnic minorities, LGBT and disabled people, and for the values that we as a nation say we uphold. The British government appears a supplicant to the United States, Saudi Arabia, China, and India, neither pointing out the violation of rights among minorities in powerful countries, nor defending British minority citizens from discrimination domestically or globally.

If they can't find the voice to defend human rights and equality they will simply confirm what many minorities have felt for some time: that the British values emperor has no clothes.

Dr Omar Khan is Director of the Runnymede Trust