For decades, successive US administrations have supported both the development of the EU and the UK’s membership of it. Obama even attempted to intervene on behalf of the Remain campaign during the recent referendum. The very fact that the US saw advantages in UK membership of the EU was one of the reasons why de Gaulle twice vetoed membership – he saw the UK as some sort of Trojan horse for the US. But successive US administrations saw the EU as a basis for economic stability and peace on a continent where two interventions in the space of a few decades had cost them dearly.
The new Trump administration has torn up that policy, and not only supports Brexit, but is actively advocating the break-up of the EU itself. It’s possible, of course, that he’s just been paying rather too much attention to the views of his friend Nigel, and has come to believe the distorted image of the EU which has been presented to him. Believing distorted images is hardly something which seems to be unusual for him. But we really should be asking ourselves why a man who says that every aspect of his policy is about putting America first is so keen on smashing apart the EU. We can be pretty certain that the question as to whether it is in the interests of the European states themselves is not one which has even crossed his mind, so in what way does it serve the US?
The only rational answer that I can find (which does not, of course, rule out the possibility that his reasoning might be entirely irrational) is that it’s about dividing and conquering. Sowing dissent in order to divide and conquer was, of course, the UK’s objective in joining the EU according to the comedy series ‘Yes, Minister’. But that was supposed to be a joke rather than a serious portrayal of policy, although it might well have looked like a documentary to our European ‘partners’. But if dividing the EU into a network of smaller states in order to dominate them is in the interest of the US, why are so many in the UK so keen to support it?
The answer to that seems to be based on the delusion that the UK and US are equal partners, whilst the rest of the EU are just, well, Europeans. This strange delusion was neatly summed up by Theresa May recently when she talked about the US and UK being able to "lead together, again". Such an approach would be dangerous enough if it were just rhetoric, but I think she and those around her really believe it. As long as it suits his agenda, Trump is likely to encourage this delusion, but it would be madness to assume that he will really treat the UK as an equal once he’s got what he wants – that’s completely at odds with the character he’s displayed to date.The question for us is, or should be, for how long we will allow ourselves to be led down the garden path by a UK government which is both mad and deluded. For longer than is sensible, I fear.