Is it the end of the affair? The Financial Times has the scoop on President Trump being ‘apoplectic’ at Boris Johnson during a tense telephone call between the two leaders following Britain’s announcement that it would be using Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant, to do Britain’s 5G networks.
That’s not all. Cockburn has further gleaned from a British official familiar with the call that Trump hung up on the British PM call without saying goodbye. Temper temper!
This is not what everybody expected. The so-called Trump-Johnson bromance has become the subject of some mockery on both sides of the Atlantic. Trump has until now been nothing but effusive in interviews about his ‘friend’ Boris. The two men see greatness in each other (even if Boris has said unkind words about Trump at one time or another). But Trump’s administration was quick to make clear that it was ‘disappointed’ with the UK’s decision to embrace China’s tech, in spite of the grave security implications.
But the president, as we know, demands a quid pro quo, when it comes to public displays of affection. He has wanted to do a ‘beautiful’ trade deal with Britain ever since the Brits voted to Brexit. Even if an actual deal will take years to complete, Johnson desperately needs Uncle Sam’s warm support as leverage in his talks with the European Union. Cockburn doesn’t know if Boris has read The Art of the Deal, but the PM is clever enough to understand the Trumpian basics.
Still, Johnson is also keen to head off the accusation — oft made — that he is going to be Donnie’s poodle, in that Tony Blair was to George W. Bush over Iraq. Johnson, like Trump a New Yorker by birth, is keen not to be craven in his approach to America: as foreign secretary he banned the phrase ‘Special Relationship’ because it made because it made the UK seem ‘needy’.
Risking Trump’s wrath over 5G might be a calculated move, then. It makes Johnson seem his own man, and it’s not as if the damage to the special relationship is so dire that it can’t be repaired.
Soon after the call, secretary of state Mike Pompeo arrived on an already scheduled visit to London, and he played nice. ‘Good friends don’t always agree on anything,’ he said about the Huawei row.
So — how will Boris and Donald kiss and make up? Expect some warm and fuzzy British overtures towards Team Trump in the coming weeks.