Politics Explained

Why the ‘special relationship’ won’t improve Britain’s Brexit prospects

However loyal and aligned to American objectives the British government is, there is no necessary linkage to trade and economics, writes Sean O'Grady

Tuesday 21 July 2020 17:53 BST
Pompeo leaves No 10 with Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary
Pompeo leaves No 10 with Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary (AP)

It was considerate of the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to tweet the magic term “special relationship” as he landed for his talks with the prime minister and the foreign secretary. It probably doesn’t mean that much to the Trump administration, and most Americans are probably unaware of its existence, but it means a great deal to the British diplomatic and political establishment.

It is certainly true that the UK and US, even in the era of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, share certain values and have many interests in common. It was poignant that Mr Pompeo arrived just as the much-delayed Russia report was published, reminding all concerned (if it were needed) that the Russians enjoy toying around with the democratic processes of those they think of as rivals or enemies, and indeed that they are not fussy about which side they choose and are happy to change sides if they think it suits their national interest.

America and Britain have both experienced such meddling, though Washington has been more effective than Whitehall in investigating it. Both states have also experienced the malign effects of Russian espionage on their own territory, and been fighting low-level proxy wars with Russia’s allies abroad, most lethally in Syria.

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