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Kathy Sheridan: Trump has already reduced Britain to vassal status

The dangled bait of a US-UK trade deal is laced with predatory controls and manipulations

The British media’s heroic efforts to fill the year-long lacunas between actual events during Monday’s Trump ego massage-fest still left some questions dangling. Did someone order massive pizza deliveries to the US embassy in London as a prank? Did no one warn Trump that Fox News had been pulled off air in Britain for failing to air alternative viewpoints, and for just, um, failing? If Melania was really channelling Rose DeWitt from the film Titanic in that outfit, was she conveying a message we should worry about? And what in the name of God was her spouse wearing at dinner?

The interminable, space-filler interviews were a master class in modern communications. The Republicans Abroad crew had the better of it. Interviewers cited heinous Trump behaviour and stood waiting for red faces. By way of answer they got insouciant grins and shruggy variations on “he’s a rule breaker, it’s who he is”, plus the obligatory reference to a poll that puts him at 70 per cent approval for the US economy.

But, but . . . what about the other bits of the poll, stuttered the interviewers? Nope, don’t care, people are happy, even black people are joining the haemorrhage from the Democrats. They call it Blexit. (I’m just the messenger.)

The only slight off-message note came from a former vice-president of Republicans Overseas, Jan Halper-Hayes. While senior British journalists were abasing themselves describing slack-jawed Americans wandering through Buckingham Palace sobbing about how OLD was Britain and how YOUNG was America, Halper-Hayes was asked just how impressed the folks back home would be at the images of their cheeky chappie hobnobbing with British royalty.


Infantile boss

Not much, she told the nonplussed interviewer; they don’t really care. The folks in the states way out west wouldn’t even know about it. In fact, when she was way out there with her own son, he begged to be taken back to where people knew what was going on in the world. (I paraphrase only slightly.)

Her majesty's leader of the opposition confirmed he would be addressing Tuesday's big anti-Trump march

Labour had a tougher time in the grim filler slots. Her majesty’s pro-Brexit leader of the opposition – who had absented himself not just from the state dinner but from all people’s vote demonstrations – confirmed he would be addressing Tuesday’s big anti-Trump march. That left his shadow secretaries flailing to explain how he planned to square this two-fingers to the vengeful, infantile boss of the UK’s prospective, pre-eminent, post-Brexit trading partner with his forthcoming gig as prime minister of the UK.

Meanwhile, with impeccable timing, Channel 4 was screening a documentary called The Truth about Chlorinated Chicken. This is highly relevant since chlorinated chicken has become the dark insignia of any US-UK trade agreement. Apart from secret filming in a giant, disgustingly unhygienic, chicken-processing factory, and amid talk of finger amputation and “adulterated product” (glass in the chicken), it revealed that chlorine masks harmful bacteria and leaves 10 per cent of it in the chicken. It also suggests that US rates of campylobacter infection are 10 times higher than in the UK. But this is clearly about much more than chlorinated chicken or hormone-pumped cattle. It’s about food standards, workers’ rights, animal welfare. It’s about the choices to which the no-deal merchants are reducing the country, in ways unimaginable (maybe) to many of their supporters.

A Washington DC think tank member talked of Trump’s “predatory policy” towards Brexit – “and top of his list is agriculture . . . They think they can tell London it’s a take-it-or-leave-it thing.”

‘Economy on table’

On Sunday, the billionaire US ambassador to London told the BBC plainly that in any trade negotiation “probably the entire economy – all things that are traded – would be on the table”, including the National Health Service. Anyway, they have only to glance at the “America First” White House negotiating objectives released in February to know where they stand. The US wants the UK to stop “practices that unfairly decrease US market access opportunities” and to scrap regulations that “distort agricultural markets to the detriment” of the US. There is no mystery about why the no-dealers need their red lines in this rodeo or the reasons behind their outrage at EU red-tape and regulations.

The man who views every interaction as a zero-sum game and gets his talking points from Fox and Friends is endorsing no-dealer Boris Johnson as next prime minister

The White House doesn’t merely think it can tell London to take it or leave it. Trump’s tone and language has already reduced Britain to vassal status, a fat chicken to be plucked, chlorinated and chopped into bite-sized pieces for American consumption. The man who views every interaction as a zero-sum game and gets his talking points from Fox and Friends is endorsing no-dealer Boris Johnson as the next prime minister while urging that no-dealer Nigel Farage be included in the UK-EU negotiating team (note the presumption that there will be negotiations).

Presumably, Johnson – the laziest, most unfocused foreign secretary in British history – and policy-free Farage would also enjoy dancing to Trump’s foreign policy tune, watching Nato and the UN being undermined in their name, arms control and climate change treaties being torn up and constant megaphone threats of war. Those buccaneers already know about Trump’s petulant abandonment of treaties and of the people he once liked a lot. They know he is not endorsing them out of some sweet altruism.

How many of them have the intelligence to be terrified by now?