This article is part of POLITICO’s Westminster Survival Guide.
LONDON — As Britain readies to leave the world’s largest trading bloc and step out onto the global battlefield, it faces one major problem: U.S. President Donald Trump has changed the rules of engagement.
Where previous U.S. leaders tended to keep talks about economic policy and national security separate — at least between allies — Trump is unapologetic about making one conditional on the other.
The commander in chief refuses to trade with those who do business with his enemies; threatens his friends with tariffs if they fail to sign up to his foreign policy objectives; and invokes arguably spurious security complaints to trigger trade wars with fellow Western states.
“It’s the bully-boy style,” said Barry Gardiner, the British Labour Party’s shadow international trade secretary. Trump, he said, is telling allies: “We can either be nice or we can be nasty to you. And if you want us to be nice, this is what you have got to give us.”
That puts U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has placed the U.S. at the top of his trade deal wish list, in a difficult position as he tries to chart a new course for the country as an independent trading partner after Brexit.
At stake is not only Britain’s economic outlook, but its position on the global stage: Whom will London align itself with on hot-button issues like Iran and the use of Chinese-manufactured 5G technology — and at what cost?
Trade-offs on foreign policy are arguably a normal part of bilateral negotiations,