Let Trump in

Loathe him or love him, President Trump’s visit to the UK should be welcomed

The visit of ‘Wotsit Hitler’ to the UK has not started smoothly. So far, Donald Trump has managed to criticise May’s Brexit plan (then lie about doing it,) express his desire to have Boris Johnson as the new Prime Minister, and singled out Sadiq Khan as having done a ‘bad job’ on terrorism. That’s just the first day: I wish my holiday had been even half as productive.
Unfortunately, vile as Trump is, the act of banning him from entry to the UK would do more damage than allowing him in. There are opportunities here, and much of the press excitement that has surrounded the visit has missed the fact that having Trump to stay is an essential part of US-UK relations going forward.
The UK has hosted worse leaders, for sure: Bashar al-Assad visited under Tony Blair, Xi Jinping came under David Cameron, and we even gave Mugabe a knighthood in 1994 (perhaps the queen tried to behead him and missed). The UK has not and should never pick its state visits, or even its trade relationships according to whether the population agrees with the visiting leader. Eliminating trade and diplomacy with all the nations whose leaders that we disagree with just isn’t possible. Instead, let’s acknowledge the reality of living in a globalised world and, furthermore, the benefits of the sitting American President making a state visit to Britain.
Those benefits start with the US’ potential as a trade partner. The US will be a welcome source of income post-Brexit if a bilateral trade deal is secured, which looks likely: on Friday, Trump called the American-British relationship the ‘highest level of special’ (whatever that means.) Forming a good relationship now will lead to benefits later. Sidestepping EU tariffs implemented by Trump will allow us to continue exporting to our main trade partner, currently accounting for around 14% of all UK exports according to the OEC in 2016. It’s also worth noting that many American diplomats, and certainly British civil servants, will keep their jobs after Trump is gone. It is not just the national leaders’ relationships that will benefit from the physical proximity.
If I can’t appeal to the nation’s pragmatism, let me appeal to its pettiness. A second, and no less valid reason to accept Trump’s visit is to show Donald that not all UK citizens are Trump fans: preferably vocally, and with massive Trump-shaped balloons. According to a recent ITV poll, 77% of the British public view Trump unfavourably: if just a small percentage of those people protest this weekend, and Britain will have raised a higher turnout for its Trump protest than Trump did for his own inauguration. Why deny ourselves the opportunity to berate the billionaire bigot for his amoral policies if that opportunity is given to us locally?
Let’s be honest, with two days to go of the visit, Trump is unlikely to stay quiet, but his trip is crucial for Britain’s current objectives: trade deals, global relevance, and standing up against bigotry. The UK wouldn’t have proved a point by denying Trump entry, it have missed an opportunity.

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