Why you should care
As the U.S. president visits Great Britain, he may affect public opinion on conservative leadership, Brexit and the NHS.
This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
WHAT TO KNOW
What happened? President Donald Trump, 72, touched down in the U.K. today for a three-day visit. Prime Minister Theresa May, 62, was the first foreign leader to visit Trump after his own inauguration, and his visit coincides with her final days in office: She steps down Friday after proving unable to negotiate a Brexit deal that was acceptable to Parliament. But as Britain’s Conservatives struggle to choose a new leader, Trump’s endorsement might carry weight, which could have implications for Brexit and even Britain’s single-payer health care system.
Why does it matter? Trump’s expressed support for Nigel Farage, the leader of the newly formed Brexit Party, who has run for the House of Commons five times and never won. Trump has recently praised Farage, suggesting he should be involved in negotiating Brexit, and he may meet with the conservative firebrand during his visit. But Trump has also gone to bat for former mayor of London Boris Johnson, who’s currently seeking the top job despite a checkered history. In the past, Johnson’s made openly racist comments — and he was ordered last week to appear in court over allegations that he made false claims to the public while campaigning for Brexit in 2016. Trump suggested last week that he might meet with Johnson or Farage while in the U.K., though it’s unclear if that will happen.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT
A deciding voice. Johnson is already the front-runner to be the next Conservative Party leader and thus Britain’s new prime minister. But Trump’s praise, while it may not change the outcome, is still important. First, because to declare something close to an endorsement is a breach of longstanding diplomatic norms, and second, because the “special relationship” between the U.S. and U.K. is seen by many as key to the global future hoped for in a post-Brexit Britain. Trump also called on Britain to “walk away” from any unsatisfactory deal with the European Union over Brexit, despite warnings from experts that crashing out with no deal is likely to be catastrophic for the U.K. economy.
Is there a doctor in the house? That could extend to Britain’s National Health Service, its ailing but beloved system of free health care for everyone. U.S. Ambassador Woody Johnson, who’s a close friend of Trump’s, said Sunday on a British talk show that private U.S. firms may want the right to bid for NHS contracts as part of a trade deal. Meanwhile, Farage suggested earlier this month that private insurers (which already exist in the U.K.) could ease the burden on the underfunded NHS. Johnson, meanwhile, just released a campaign video to kick off his leadership bid that spoke specifically of supporting the NHS.
Second time around. Trump’s state visit was originally to take place in early 2018 to allow him to officially open the new U.S. embassy, but the president canceled it, blaming Barack Obama for relocating the embassy in a “bad deal.” There had been reports of massive protests against his visit to London at the time, and more are expected tomorrow — including a $25,000, 16-foot robot, commissioned by an American artist, of Trump sitting on a gold toilet emitting sound bites like “no collusion” and farting noises.
Those other leaders. Trump and his wife are lunching at Buckingham Palace today, but the president hasn’t exactly been flattering to the royal family recently. Over the weekend, he called Meghan Markle, Queen Elizabeth’s American-born granddaughter-in-law (pictured), “nasty” after hearing she’d been critical of his 2016 presidential campaign. He later denied the remark, but had been caught on tape saying it. The Duchess of Sussex is currently on maternity leave and unlikely to cross Trump’s path. Trump has previously boasted on tape that he could have had sex with Princess Diana if he’d wanted to.
WHAT TO READ
“This is a man who tried to exploit Londoners’ fears following a horrific terrorist attack on our city, amplified the tweets of a British far-right racist group, denounced as fake news robust scientific evidence warning of the dangers of climate change, and is now trying to interfere shamelessly in the Conservative party leadership race.”
“He wasn’t exactly saying that he’s going to be inviting Sadiq Khan for royal treatment at the White House anytime soon.”
WHAT TO WATCH
President Donald Trump lands in London for UK State Visit
“You know the president doesn’t like staircases so he’s going rather gingerly.”
Watch on The Sun on YouTube:
Trump Calls Duchess of Sussex ‘Nasty’ Ahead of UK Trip
“Meghan Markle now is a member of the royal family: She cannot be seen to be political.”
WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER
Et tu, Theresa? Outgoing Prime Minister May is more likely now to freely speak her mind around Trump, given that she only has a few days left in office. But aides — who say the visit comes at the worst possible time — have said not to expect a “Love Actually moment” (referring to the cathartic plot point in the 2003 rom-com when Hugh Grant, playing Britain’s PM, stands up to a pompous U.S. president). She is, however, expected to discuss that the U.K. might allow Chinese firm Huawei to build its upcoming national 5G network despite the U.S. ban on the company, and the continued U.K. support for the Iran nuclear deal even after the U.S. rejected it.