It looks increasingly likely that Donald Trump will take on incumbent Joe Biden at the next US presidential election – but what would a second Trump administration mean for the UK?
The controversial figure, who still faces 91 criminal charges, now has only one more rival to become the Republican candidate.
And, after he won the New Hampshire primary over South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, most pundits predicted a Trump vs. Biden election would happen again.
Although former PM Boris Johnson said “a Trump presidency could be just what the world needs” in his Daily Mail column, this is not believed by many people.
MI6 and the Foreign Office even worked together on a document on how this would impact Britain’s national security and international diplomacy, according to the i newspaper.
In fact, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is already preparing for another Trump White House “uncertainty.”
He told his cabinet they needed to ensure they could work together, even though Trump’s final presidency was “difficult” for US-Canada relations.
Meanwhile, Britain and America have long boasted of their “special” relationship – so what would it mean if Trump returned to office?
1. Can the West’s attitude towards Ukraine change?
When asked by Talk News Uk about the most immediate changes that could occur in the UK after a second Trump term, director of the UK in the World program at Chatham House, Olivia O’Sullivan said one “obvious concern” was Ukraine.
One of Trump’s impeachment trials centered on Ukraine, amid accusations that he tried to force Kiev to interfere in US politics ahead of the 2020 election.
The former president has also publicly sided with Putin on more than one occasion, calling him “smart” and a “genius,” despite the Russian president’s persistent anti-Western stance.
In May last year, Trump said that if he were US president, he would resolve the Ukraine war within 24 hours. He boasted he would do this by stopping all US aid to Ukraine, and forcing the country to make a deal with Russia.
The comments drew praise from Russian President Vladimir Putin, but sparked concerns in Ukraine that Trump was planning to cede Ukrainian land to Russia – something Moscow has pushed for.
Even if Trump had just withdrawn US funding for Ukraine’s defense efforts, it would have been a major blow to the beleaguered country, as the US is its biggest donor.
But this does not mean that Britain and other Western countries will stop supporting Ukraine.
In fact, O’Sullivan said this could provide an opportunity to “rally” Europe in support of Ukraine.
This could be key as pity begins to sweep across Western countries, as the war enters its third year.Former US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meet in New York on September 25, 2019
SAUL LOEB via Getty Images
2. What might happen to NATO?
The Russo-Ukrainian War is also related to Moscow’s fear of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and its eastward expansion.
According to Politico, Trump allegedly told the EU in 2020: “By the way, NATO is dead, and we’re leaving, we’re leaving NATO.”
Even if Trump does not keep his word, but manages to take office, his distaste for military alliances will likely undermine the trust each member has in one another, writes former US ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, in Politico.
Article 5 of NATO is binding on all its members. The treaty stipulates that an attack on one member state is an attack on the entire alliance – but would the Trump administration jump to help if ordered by NATO?
More recently, Trump drew criticism from European officials after he said he “would encourage” Russia “to do whatever they want” against any “rogue” country that does not “pay” the alliance.
However, if the US decides to withdraw from the alliance, this does not mean the alliance will collapse – but it will weaken and reduce the effectiveness of deterrence against geopolitical threats around the world.
However, this does not only impact NATO members such as the UK.
According to The Atlantic, all US security allies will question whether they can continue to rely on automatic US support – and the US’ position on the world stage will falter.President Donald Trump during the NATO Summit in 2019
3. What might happen in an Israel-Hamas war?
Although the British and US governments have so far been relatively aligned in responding to the Middle East crisis, Trump’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war remains unclear.
Currently, under the Joe Biden administration, the US is Israel’s biggest ally and the US president has avoided direct calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.
However, he recently told protesters that he was “secretly working with the Israeli government to get them to withdraw and get out of Gaza”.
Trump has not publicly pushed for Israel to limit civilian casualties (currently exceeding 27,000 people in Gaza, according to Hamas-run local authorities).
Instead, he told Univision in November: “So, there’s a war going on, and you should probably let this happen. You have to let it happen because a lot of people are dying.”
He said Israel needs to “do a better job of public relations, frankly, because the other side has them beat in terms of public relations”.
The former president also said his administration would “revoke student visas for foreigners who are anti-American and antisemitic radicals,” in what was seen as a blow to the pro-Palestinian protests sweeping across America.
It’s worth remembering that Trump also officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, and moved the US embassy there, even though the US – and most other countries – have refused to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital since Israel was founded in 2017. 1948.
This move was criticized for having the potential to increase violence in the region, as the city is a site of contestation between Palestinians and Israelis.
Trump also has a history of hostility towards Iran – and the Palestinian militants, Hamas, supported by the Iranian state.
O’Sullivan said: “He has good documentation of antagonism towards Iran. It is possible that he could inflame further worsening tensions around Israel and its Iranian proxies.”
However, he added: “I think the bigger thing is that he is unpredictable. So for England, this makes it very difficult to know what to expect.”
In an interview with Univision, Trump, when he spoke about the Hamas-Israel war, he said that “sometimes you have to let things go and you have to see where the war ends.”
“They learn to hate Jews from the start of school, whatever the form of schooling… pic.twitter.com/3f1CL4rBa3
— Yasmina (@yasminalombaert) November 11, 2023
4. Could international trade be impacted?
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt warned Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos that a return to US protectionism would be a “huge mistake”.
His remarks came after Trump signaled last year that he would consider trade tariffs of 10% – meaning all imports would be subject to the same amount regardless of how far they have traveled.
Hunt said “thriving global trade” had helped tackle world poverty.
However, Trump has encouraged trade wars in the past, even claiming “trade wars are good and easy to win.”
Trump also said in February that he would impose more tariffs on China if he was re-elected – and they could exceed 60%.
Trump started a trade war with China during his previous term in office by imposing significant tariffs on Chinese goods – and Beijing retaliated.
The former president also used economic conditions as a reason to withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement in 2020. He claimed there was an unfair burden placed on US workers, businesses and taxpayers because of US promises under the agreement.
This means private sector companies face less pressure to adapt environmentally friendly policies, and carbon prices in other countries rise while carbon prices in the United States fall.Trump is pushing protectionist trade policies.
Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images
5. Should we worry about nuclear ‘Armageddon’?
The News Agents host Jon Sopel recently compared the fight between Biden and Trump to “two old men fighting over a zimmer frame.”
“The only difference is that this zimmer frame has a red button that can cause nuclear Armageddon. Should we be afraid? Yes, we should be afraid that they are the ones who can lead the free world as we know it,” Sopel said.
However, Trump has actually expressed his concern about the possibility of nuclear war.
He said in April last year that the world’s “biggest problem” was “nuclear warming”.
“All it takes is one crazy person…and that’s just a matter of seconds,” he said.
However, he withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in 2018.
The deal was intended to limit Iran’s nuclear facilities, but Trump claims it does not limit Iran’s missile program and regional influence.
This sparked a serious response in Europe, with Germany, France and the UK saying they were “regretful and concerned” by the decision – and they said they were willing to go ahead with the deal.
6. Could the UK election result impact the UK’s response to Trump?
It is likely that – for the first time since 1992 – Britain and the United States will hold general elections in the same year. Sunak hinted he would cancel it in the second half of 2024.
Although a date has not been confirmed, according to The Sun, Sunak plans to hold a general election in October rather than November to avoid global “upheaval” triggered by a potential Trump victory in the US.
Tory sources told the newspaper Sunak would call the election weeks before the US election scheduled for November 5.
However, despite warnings from the Conservative Party, Labor is still expected to achieve a landslide victory as they lead in the opinion polls.
Starmer has never served in government before – meaning a government without much experience will have to quickly adapt to Trump.
O’Sullivan stated that, overall, UK-US relations would probably remain stable even if the former US president was re-elected.
He noted that there is a strong history of UK and US intelligence exchange, as seen through NATO, the Five Eyes Alliance and recent military operations in the Red Sea.
“Many of those relationships persisted in Trump’s first term, and will likely persist in his second,” he said.
“Every British leader must find a way to forge a productive relationship with a US leader,” he said – even when faced with “a very unpredictable leader”.Boris Johnson and Donald Trump had a good relationship when they were both in office.
WPA collection via Getty Images