Friendship with Trump May Catapult Farage into the UK Foreign Office
Nigel Farage, the founder of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) which promoted Brexit, was the first British and indeed European or even foreign politician to be received by Donald Trump after his election as US president. This week, in the middle of pressing business on appointments and policy planning, the president elect devoted an hour in his Trump Tower office to the British politician, who had accompanied him on the campaign trail with open support and sage advice.
Asked what they talked about, Farage said: ‘freedom and winning.”
Trump dubbed him affectionately “Mr. Brexit” and embraced him for his vision of a Britain outside the European Union and “regaining its independence.”
On Monday, Nov. 14, Trump instructed Stephen Bannon, shortly after his nomination as Chief West Wing strategist, to canvass Farage’s views on key issues before setting the agenda for his first discussion with Prime Minister Theresa May.
In this way, Trump and Farage, both inveterate prickers of establishment balloons, colluded to shift the focus of future relations between Washington and London away from the pious official rhetoric hailing the “special relationship” governing US-UK military and intelligence affairs in global politics, which in fact had eroded over the years.
This was also Trump’s answer to the patronizing contempt heaped on him by leading British newspapers. One headline offered the UK government advice on “how to tame Trump.” Opposition Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn urged Donald Trump to “grow up and understand that the US economy depends on immigrant labor.”
Downing Street said Farage had "no role" in the government's relationship with the incoming US administration. And a leading parliamentarian said “we have no need for Nigel.” The prime minister would meet the new US president after his inauguration.
Farage himself commented in an interview on Nov. 15 with Sky’s Adam Bolton that he found it astonishing that no one in London had any use for his close friendship with Donald Trump and family. The incoming president, he said, was a great Anglophile, his mother was Scottish and this was Britain’s big chance “to get back in control.”
Asked if he would serve as UK ambassador to Washington, he laughed and said diplomacy was not his strong suit, but he would be glad to help the May government get on a sound footing with the new administration.
“Let’s see what happens,” he said, noting one obstacle ahead: Prime minister May in her six years as Home Secretary had allowed a peak number of refugees to enter Britain. This was in line with European policy but contributed heavily to the British majority vote to leave Europe in a referendum on the subject.
The election of Donald Trump, who has questioned the EU’s tenets, prompted an emergency meeting of jittery European foreign ministers on Sunday. NATO, after being condemned as “obsolete,” and not spending enough on their militaries, shares their concern. (See a separate article on this)
The notion of Nigel Farage as the behind-the-scenes linchpin of US relations with the EU sends shudders down the spines of Europe’s major players, and even more so in NATO circles.
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon Sunday seized the bull by the horns by proposing the establishment of a European defense force that would not depend on the United States.
The next day, defense and foreign ministers of the European Union (which the UK is committed to quit) agreed on a defense plan for sending rapid response forces abroad for the first time. They would be sent over to stabilize a crisis before UN peacekeepers could take over and act independently of the United States..
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources note that a European rapid deployment force without America has been on the table for 21 years and never made it past a draft on paper.
Although official London treats Farage with contempt, there is quiet talk in political circles of this outsider, who retired from UKIP some months ago, joining the ruling Conservative Party and working his way up to the top. His friendship with the incoming US president might be worth a high slot or two, such as some sort of envoy to Washington or even foreign secretary.
The Conservative party and its leader, Prime Minister May, are in disarray, at a loss on how to realize Britain’s exit from Europe, a process that calls for breaking into completely new ground. Downing Street was forced embarrassingly Tuesday to deny a press report that it had no plan to accomplish this and would need another six months to form a strategy.
As their prestige sinks, UK leaders may decide to avail themselves of Farage’s offer of influence with the Trump administration as a lifesaver. Restoring the UK’s special relationship with America as a senior ally and trading partner could help London weather its tortuous divorce from Brussels and come out smiling.