No US president makes good on all their campaign-trail promises, but from ripping up America’s security alliances in Europe and the Asia-Pacific to threatening a trade-war with China, Donald Trump has promised to put “America first” by instituting an ultra-isolationist US foreign policy.
Here Peter Foster, our Europe Editor, looks at what that could mean for British foreign policy after more than seven decades of shared strategic outlook with the United States.
Europe & Nato
Policy: Trump has promised to mend fences with Vladimir Putin and leave Nato countries to “defend themselves” if they won’t meet the cost of their own defence. If enacted, this would effectively destroy Nato common security guarantees and mark the end of post-War US foreign and security policy, on which the UK’s own foreign policy has been largely predicated.
Impacts: European defence budgets would have to soar, the sanctions regime on Moscow would collapse, Baltic states would largely be left at Putin’s mercy and Russia’s influence over eastern and central Europe would return.
The UK would be forced to distance itself from Washington, while French and German calls for a Euro Army and strengthened common defence policy, already gathering pace, would take on a fresh urgency, reducing the UK’s traditional clout in Nato structures.
China and Asia-Pacific.
Policy: Trump promises to end the free-trade consensus and confront China over trade and currency manipulation, risking a full-blown trade war. He publicly disavows US security guarantees to Japan and South Korea, who then look to build nuclear weapons for their own defence.
Impacts: In the extreme scenario of a trade war, the City suffers blowback as global trade and finance stalls. The Asia-Pacific security environment deteriorates also negatively impacting trade.
In the more moderate scenario of growing US-China trade skirmishes, the UK moves to play ‘good cop’ with Beijing, winning deals as China seeks to divide old allies. But UK-Washington relations, already strained over China, would deteriorate still further as a result.
Policy: Trumps moves to crush Isil, but otherwise withdraws from Middle East; makes harsh demands on Iran which withdraws from nuclear deal. As US withdraws, Iran seeks N-bomb and with Russia becomes newly ascendant Middle East power, destroying US alliance with Saudi Arabia.
Impacts: UK and US divorce on Middle East policy as US policy weakens Saudi Arabia, the UK’s biggest ally in the region. The Trump administration’s unconditional support for Israel stokes terror, becomes recruiting sergeant for Islamist terror and deepens regional instability. Refugee-flows spike, putting further pressure on Europe.
Policy: Trump has promised to break or renegotiate NAFTA, the North America free trade deal, while building a wall to keep out Mexican and other migrant labour from Latin America. His general disdain for free-trade deals would also likely sink already-struggling negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade Partnership (TPP).
Impact: UK has led the calls for TTP and, like all European countries, would suffer as a result if negotiations broke down. If Britain has voted to leave the EU in June, negotiating a US-UK trade deal with a mercantilist Trump administration would be tough, if not impossible.
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