Donald Trump has been dragged into the general election campaign ahead of his arrival in the UK today to attend a Nato conference, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accusing Boris Johnson of being the “world’s leading sycophant” towards the US president.
Despite moves by the Conservatives to prevent Mr Trump “interfering” in the election, wary of any endorsements from him, Mr Corbyn put the president’s visit front and centre of his campaign yesterday and signalled that a Labour government would distance itself from the US administration.
Mr Corbyn said it was “time for Britain to stop clinging on to Donald Trump’s coat-tails” and that there was a need to make “foreign policy free from a knee-jerk subservience to a US administration which repudiates our values”.
Post-Brexit trade deal
He has also raised concerns about a potential post-Brexit trade deal which he claims would result in the NHS being “sold off” to US companies, with UK employment, environment and food safety standards undermined. Mr Johnson denies that his government would put the NHS on the table in trade deals.
Mr Corbyn’s remarks were supported by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, who said “the sight of Boris Johnson trotting along behind Donald Trump” would give people pause to reflect on “the type of Prime Minister they want”.
He added: “Boris Johnson talks about taking back control but he wants to strike a trade deal which will turn the UK into the 51st state of the US. And while the SNP claim they will protect our NHS from Donald Trump, their record points to a failure to stand up to him – not least in the Scottish Government-owned Prestwick Airport landing US military flights free of charge, and then advertising Trump’s Turnberry resort to the crews.
“At this election we face a choice between the Trumpian Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, who has a track record of standing up to Trump and the bigotry he represents.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat election campaign chair Alex Cole-Hamilton also used Mr Trump’s visit to highlight concerns about the future of the NHS. He said: “Donald Trump is a serious and direct threat to our beloved NHS. Our NHS is a vital public service which must be protected from commercial exploitation .We need to keep it out of the hands of Donald Trump.
“Waiting times are deteriorating, mental health services are at breaking point and health boards can’t recruit the staff they need. The NHS is facing enough problems under the SNP without adding ravenous US pharmaceutical companies into the mix.”
Scotland's food standards
The SNP also warned that Scotland’s food standards were at risk from a backroom Johnson-Trump trade deal as internal memos from the Department for International Trade’s revealed that geographical indications (GIs) – a mark of quality that protects produce from bogus imitations and to promote regional products – have also been put on the table as part of potential negotiations.
GIs are a long-standing subject of disagreement between the US and the EU and SNP international trade spokesman Stewart Hosie said removing them would be a disaster for Scotland’s world class produce, including whisky, Arbroath Smokies, Scottish farmed salmon and Stornoway black pudding. He said: “The Tories are teeing up a sellout of Scotland’s world-class food and drink produce in exchange for a dodgy Johnson-Trump trade deal cooked up in the backroom.
“With Trump set to arrive in the UK, behind the scenes US officials are willing to help wage a spin campaign to sell a race to the bottom in food safety and lobby the UK to step back on protecting geographical indications. That would put at risk some of our famous produce.”
The president is set to visit Buckingham Palace for a reception tomorrow, before he joins world leaders at a Nato summit in Watford, hosted by Mr Johnson, the next day. Yesterday, White
House officials said Mr Trump had been briefed and warned not to speak about the election on his trip.
A Trump administration official added: “He also, as I suspect you know, likes Boris Johnson – Prime Minister Johnson – personally. But he is absolutely cognisant of not, again, wading into other countries’ elections.”
The president last month hailed Mr Johnson as “the exact right guy for the times” and warned that Mr Corbyn would take the UK to “bad places”.
As well as distancing the UK from the US, Mr Corbyn advocated for Nato to de-escalate tensions with Russia.
“President Macron is right to press the case for a change of direction in Nato policy, including the need to de-escalate conflict with Russia and a wider perspective on the most serious threats to our common security,” he said. “Under Labour, Britain will have its own voice in the world, standing tall for security, peace and justice.”
Meanwhile Nicola Sturgeon’s calls to scrap Trident were criticised by Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, who said the world would not be safer if Nato members got rid of their nuclear arsenals.
Asked on The Andrew Marr Show whether Britain would still be a valued member of Nato without nuclear weapons, he said: “Britain is a highly valued member of Nato for many reasons.
Part of the UK contribution to Nato is of course the UK nuclear weapons – the nuclear deterrent – which contributes to the overall nuclear deterrent of Nato”
Mr Stoltenberg, the former Norwegian prime minister, added: “Nato’s goal is a world without nuclear weapons but we have to arrive there through viable, balanced nuclear arms control and disarmament.
“The world will not be safer if Nato got rid of all its nuclear weapons while countries like Russia, China, North Korea and other countries maintain their nuclear weapons.”