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Trump will target UK weakness after Brexit, says UK former top diplomat


  • Exclusive: Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Britain’s former ambassador to the US, tells Business Insider that President Trump will try to ‘take advantage’ of the UK’s weakness after Brexit if re-elected.
  • Boris Johnson enjoys a warm personal relationship with the president, but the White House has adopted an increasingly bullish attitude towards the UK in recent months, Sheinwald said.
  • Sheinwald said: ‘The mood [from Washington to the UK] has become increasingly hectoring and domineering. I think that is likely to intensify if President Trump wins a second term. All bars, all constraints, are off.’
  • Sheinwald, who served in Washington between 2007 and 2012, said a Biden administration would be in the UK’s interests.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Trump will  seek to “take advantage” of the UK’s “weakness” after Brexit, if he wins a second term, according to Britain’s former top diplomat in the US.

Speaking to Business Insider, Sir Nigel Sheinwald — who served in Washington between 2007 and 2012 — said that President Trump had only a “superficial” interest in the UK, despite him and Johnson having demonstrated a warm personal relationship.

He said that Trump would look to target the UK’s economic and diplomatic vulnerability once it has fully left the EU next year.

“I think that the mood [from Washington] has become increasingly hectoring and domineering,” Sheinwald told Business Insider.

“And I think that is likely to intensify if President Trump wins a second term. All bars, all constraints, are off,” he said.

“I think he will take advantage of what I fear will be a perception of UK weakness in the aftermath of Brexit and run a very dismissive policy [towards] the UK. I can see problems ahead.”

Trump and Johnson’s personal rapport, Sheinwald said, would not be enough to change the dynamic between the two administrations. “Of course you will have that chemistry at the top. I don’t believe that alone can create a healthy relationship,” he said.

On issues including how to respond to China’s growing economic and political might, the Trump administration’s at-times divergent approach to Middle East policy, and on the prospect of UK-US trade deal, Sheinwald said that an “unencumbered” Trump would be “very difficult for the UK.”

Sheinwald cited the White House’s fury at Boris Johnson’s decision to work with Huawei, a tech giant with alleged links to the Chinese government, as evidence Trump’s increasingly aggressive behaviour towards the UK.

Boris Johnson in January announced that he had approved the Huawei decision, prompting a public admonition from the White House, before he reversed the decision in July and banned the purchase of Huawei 5G equipment from 2021.

“On China, on Huawei, the US did not give up,” Sheinwald told Business Insider. “The UK government took a decision at the beginning of the year which the US was openly critical of and they kept going in private and in public. And their pressure was one of the reasons … why the UK position changed this summer.”

Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, leads Trump in national polls by an average of 9.9%, according to FiveThirtyEight’s forecast on Thursday October 22, which gave Trump a 12% chance of winning the presidency, compared to Biden’s 88%.

Sheinwald said that a Biden presidency would be in the UK’s long-term interests because he had a more conventional view of American power, and because he would seek to work with allies and multilateral institutions in a more traditional manner.

“The key thing about Biden is that he’ll want to work with allies who want to build coalitions and go back to a more traditional form of foreign policy,” Sheinwald said.

“That hasn’t been Trump’s style. For Trump, it’s not just America First in terms of interests. America acts in the world by itself. It doesn’t bother with its allies.”

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