- Donald Trump’s close ally UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is increasingly distancing himself from the US president.
- In recent weeks the prime minister and senior members of his government have staged repeated public criticisms of Trump and his administration.
- Trump is deeply unpopular with the British public, among whom he has an approval rating of minus 49%.
- Johnson this week accused Trump of “failing to lead” and “letting the air out of the tires of the world economy.”
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been repeatedly praised by President Trump. In recent months the president has labelled Johnson “fantastic,” a “good man” and called him “Britain Trump.”
However, the prime minister has become increasingly reluctant to return the compliment in front of a domestic audience.
The reason for this could be Trump’s deep unpopularity in the country.
The latest polling puts Trump’s public approval ratings in the UK at minus 49%. Johnson’s alliance with Trump was also repeatedly used against him by opposition parties in last year’s general election.
In the wake of that election, Johnson and senior members of his administration have staged a series of public attacks on the president and threatened to cut back on the country’s longstanding alliance with the United States.
The interventions appear to be part of a co-ordinated attempt to put distance between the prime minister and Trump.
Here’s how Trump’s closest world ally is souring on their relationship.
Johnson says Trump is ‘failing to lead’ and ‘letting the air out of the tires of the world economy’
Last month Trump threatened a new trade war with European countries over their continued support for the Iran nuclear deal.
The threats were met with a stark response from Johnson this week.
The prime minister used his first major speech on Brexit since the general election to hit back at the president’s threats, launching a barely coded attack on President Trump and his “protectionist” economic strategy.
“Free trade is being choked,” Johnson told an event in London on Monday, referencing ongoing trade battles between Washington and China.
“And that is no fault of the people, that’s no fault of individual consumers. I am afraid it is the politicians who are failing to lead.” In a clear barb at Trump and his threats to launch a new trade war with Europe, Johnson added that “from Brussels to China to Washington, tariffs are being waved around like cudgels, even in debates on foreign policy where frankly they have no place.”
Johnson defies Trump on Huawei after becoming ‘irritated’ by Trump’s threats
Johnson struck another blow against Trump last month when he defied repeated threats by Trump and agreed a deal to allow Chinese telecoms company Huawei a role in developing the country’s 5G network.
The decision came despite a series of interventions by Trump’s allies, which reportedly “irritated” the Prime Minister.
Johnson gave a hint of his irritation last month when asked by the BBC whether he planned to seal the deal with Huawei.
“If people oppose one brand or another they have to tell us what’s the alternative?” Johnson told the BBC.
The row goes deeper than personal irritation, however. On his recent visit to the UK, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labelled the Chinese government “the central threat of our time.”
This is not an assessment which is shared either by Johnson or his predecessors who have worked hard to forge a closer relationship with the Chinese government and to make the UK a key target for Chinese investment.
On this, as on a growing number of foreign policy issues, the interests of the UK and the US are drawing apart.
Johnson calls Trump’s Iran attack “dangerous” and warns him against committing a war crime
Trump’s decision to assassinate Qassem Soleimani last month was quickly criticised by Johnson’s administration, with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warning that further conflict with Iran is “in none of our interests.”
Raab subsequently warned that terrorists “would be the only winners” of any conflict with the West.
Trump’s threats to target Iranian cultural sites were also criticised by Johnson, with his spokesperson telling reporters in London that any attempt to do so would be a war crime.
Trump accused of withdrawing ‘from its leadership around the world’
Johnson’s administration’s most outspoken criticism of Trump came last month by the UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
Wallace said that Trump’s isolationist foreign policy meant that the UK would have to consider ending its continued support for US-led interventions.
“I worry if the United States withdraws from its leadership around the world,” he told The Sunday Times.
He added: “The assumptions of 2010 that we were always going to be part of a US coalition is really just not where we are going to be.”
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