Will Donald Trump's tweets affect the Special Relationship?

The news that Donald Trump has offended sensibilities in Britain by retweeting a far-right leader hasn't yet made that big a splash across the pond.

The US political agenda is concerned not only with the tax reform battle in the Senate, but are concentrating more on the President’s tweets regarding his own citizens.

In the UK, the news is dominating headlines – Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to criticise the President - a key ally – while some of her own ministers went far further in their attacks on Trump, who hit back in a late night tweet effectively telling Ms May to butt out.

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Could lasting damage be done to the UK/US relationship? We look at the potential impact.

State visit

When Theresa May, despite some criticism, visited Donald Trump shortly after his inauguration, she extended an offer of a state visit to the


This was an unusually quick offer, and was seen as an early sign that the UK Government under Mrs May was keen to get off on the right foot with a President who had already shattered so many norms.

Working together closely has been a near-constant feature of British-American relations, but the bells and whistles of a full state visit, which involve dinner with the Queen, is a less frequent honour.

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George W Bush and Barack Obama didn’t receive state visits until three years into their respective terms, and Buckingham Palace was understood to be edgy about previous lewd comments Trump had made about the late Princess Diana.

The offer of a state visit, and the acceptance of it, appeared sincere earlier this year, but both sides appear to have lost enthusiasm for the idea.

US officials have made it clear that the President won’t come to the UK unless he will be guaranteed a good reception from the public, which is about as unreasonable as demanding that there will be good weather.

For their part, sources in the UK Government have talked of kicking the state visit into the longest of long grass.


With the tweet from President Trump reading “@Theresa_May don’t focus on me,” was a sharp reminder for the Prime Minister on the sensitivity of the man in the Oval Office.

As political rebukes from world leaders go, Mrs May’s condemnation of Trump’s retweets was hardly ‘Mr Gorbachev tear down this wall.’

The Prime Minister merely opined that the President’s retweets of Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of fringe group Britain First, were ‘wrong’.

Anyone who has dealt with Donald Trump, whether politically, personally, or in business, knows that the best way to recruit him as an ally is through appealing to his ego.

China has already felt the benefit of this, having used a recent Presidential visit to flatter Trump, who has since softened his tone on Beijing’s stance on North Korea.

Having received a swift and highly personally backlash over her relatively mild condemnation, Mrs May could be set to reassess the diplomatic aspect of the Special Relationship, which has previously shown a reliance (some would argue over-reliance) on personal rapport between two leaders.

Long way round?

A potentially interesting facet of the Special Relationship in 2017 is the position of Republicans in Congress.

The GOP controls both the Senate and the House of Representatives, but have often found their mission has been hampered, not aided, by Trump.

Most Republicans in Congress have taken the lead of Speaker Paul Ryan, who has adopted the politically useful, if not entirely courageous, approach to simply ignore Trump controversies when they arise.

None have yet broken ranks on the President’s retweets, and Mrs May and her team will be watching with interests to see whether, in diplomatic terms, an irate President can simply be circumvented.

As with all things to do with a President who has scant regard for norms and protocols, there are no easy options, and uncertainty over the Special Relationship will continue for years to come.