— Donald J. Trump
The first incumbent US president to visit Britain was Woodrow Wilson, who in 1918 was in Europe at the end of the First World War to prepare for the Paris Peace Conference that was to set the road map to the Second World War. Wilson met the prime minister, David Lloyd George, and had tea with the king, George V.
If the president had any opinions about the government of the United Kingdom, he kept them to himself.
It’s impossible to predict what the 45th president of the United States will say or do; what we do know for sure is that he has little if any time for the diplomatic niceties that until his election normally shaped dialogue between allied nations.
It’s no surprise, then, that as Air Force One was minutes from landing in Britain he tweeted out a blast at London’s mayor “a stone-cold loser” who, equally stupidly, had said that Trump’s use of language encouraged fascists.
Earlier, the president had said Boris Johnson would be a good prime minister, heaped praise on Nigel Farage, rubbished Theresa May’s Brexit negotiation strategy, and set out the case for Britain leaving the European Union without a divorce agreement.
It’s highly likely that he will use his London visit to tell the UK government that he will curb Anglo-American intelligence sharing, a fundamental feature in Nato’s operations, if Huawei is given a role in building a part of Britain’s 5G mobile network. It’s his way, or Huawei.
What advice, then, might he have for Ireland when he meets Leo Varadkar for a friendly chat at Shannon Airport later this week?
Mr Trump is an exceptionally brilliant negotiator.
His 1987 book, Trump: The Art of the Deal, written by someone who could write properly, tells us so, and his astounding success in achieving a trade deal with China and disarmament agreement talks with North Korea have laid lingering doubts to rest.
It’s possible that the president might have some promising tips for closing the deal on which the Taoiseach has spent so much time.
Could this be one of them? The big sticking point in the draft UK-EU document is Ireland’s north-south border.
Trump gets this, since he has a border problem, too.
But it’s simple: get rid of the border, and it’s a problem solved.
There are two ways of doing this: what about having a united Ireland or, if that’s too difficult right now, taking Ireland out of the European Union, thereby removing the need for the Irish backstop that so upsets the Brits?
Frankly, Leo, the US would be happy with either.
The last thing a US president wants is to tell a friendly country what it should do.
Ireland would then be free to get its own, tailor-made free trade deal with the US, the benefits of which would be chlorinated chicken, trust us, you can’t taste the chemicals; and health services run by people who really know how to make them first class: asset managers.
Or he might just be content to suggest that what this country needs is many more golf courses.