Dec 8, 2019

Why Trump cares about this week's U.K. elections

Trump and Johnson at the NATO summit in London this month. Photo: Steve Parsons-WPA Pool/Getty Images

President Trump will be watching another political contest this week: The U.K.'s Dec. 12 general election will decide what happens to Brexit and if Prime Minister Boris Johnson — aka "Britain Trump" — remains in charge.

Why it matters: If Johnson's Conservatives win the majority in Parliament, Brexit clears the way for the bilateral U.S.-U.K. trade relationship that Trump favors over negotiating with the European Union.

  • But if Johnson falls short, one scenario is a coalition government with Labour's Jeremy Corbyn in charge, throwing a curveball not just to Brexit but to U.S. partnerships on foreign and national security policy.
  • "The president is interested in seeing more leaders like him win elections," Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, tells Axios' Margaret Talev.

The big picture: Among the hurdles between Johnson and a runaway election victory this Thursday are a polarized electorate, his own reputation for dishonesty and Trump.

Behind the scenes: Trump is politically toxic throughout much of the U.K. And Johnson, one of the few European leaders with whom he has genuinely warm relations, was careful not to get too close to Trump during last week's NATO summit in London.

  • Johnson huddled with other heads of state including Justin Trudeau as the Canadian prime minister mocked Trump's rambling press conferences.
  • "Boris kept his distance and was with the gang mocking the president," Nigel Farage — a Trump ally but a Johnson rival as leader of the upstart Brexit Party — tells Lawler via text. "I did not like it."

Yes, but: James Johnson, who ran Downing Street's polling under Theresa May, says focus groups suggest Trump isn't as much of a liability with British voters as he's made out to be. Johnson, the pollster, gives the Conservatives a 75% chance of a parliamentary majority.

The bottom line: Peter Westmacott, former British ambassador to the U.S., tells Lawler that even if Boris Johnson's Brexit deal passes there will be "numerous dramas throughout the course of 2020" as the U.K. negotiates its future trading relationship with the EU, while a U.S.-U.K. trade deal will take "years of hard bargaining."

Go deeper:

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U.K. election: Polls put Boris Johnson on track for a pro-Brexit victory

Johnson today on the campaign trail. Photo: Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be steaming toward the parliamentary majority he desperately desires to pass his Brexit deal and end the gridlock in Westminster.

Why it matters: Thursday’s vote is the culmination of three years of intense efforts to deliver Brexit, and to block it. The rocky road Johnson has plodded along since replacing Theresa May in July would become much smoother with a resounding electoral mandate.

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U.K. Parliament approves Boris Johnson's Brexit deal

Photo: Leon Neal/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

U.K. lawmakers approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal on Friday with a 358-234 vote, showcasing the power of Johnson's new majority after last week's general election, per the BBC.

Why it matters: The vote puts the country on course for a Jan. 31 exit from the European Union. It'll also lock in a transition period through the end of 2020 — in which the U.K. will have left the EU but remain subject to many of its rules — in order for the government to flesh out new international trade deals and relationships.

Go deeper: Britain remade by Boris Johnson

Keep ReadingArrowDec 20, 2019

AOC urges U.K. voters to back Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party

Photos: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images; Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) urged U.K. voters to head to the polls to vote for Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party in Thursday's general election.

"The hoarding of wealth by the few is coming at the cost of peoples’ lives. The only way we change is with a massive surge of *new* voters at the polls. U.K., Vote!"

The big picture: Ocasio-Cortez, who said a Labour-created video "might as well have been produced about the United States," is the latest big-name U.S. politician to have a stake in the U.K.'s trip to the polls — which features Brexit at its center.

Go deeperArrowDec 12, 2019