Robert Peston 10/11/2016

Robert Peston

Donald Trump and Theresa May have two big things in common, which is that they both worry in public about how those on low and middle incomes feel (and often are) damaged by globalization and they both promise immigration controls as a palliative.

But that is where mutual understanding ends.

Worse than that the vaunted and cherished special relationship between the UK and US has for decades rested on seemingly permanent and unbreakable commitments to NATO as the bulwark of global security and the promotion of free trade as the generator of global prosperity.

May and the whole machinery of the British state remain conspicuously and ideologically wedded to both principles.

Trump is conspicuously and – probably pragmatically (but who really knows?) – chary of both.

Which raises serious questions whether the special relationship will became a bit ordinary – unless May is prepared to dump the economic liberalism and collective approach to maintaining the peace that are the lettering which runs all the way through the Tory Party’s stick of rock.

What is more Trump and the British government are worlds apart on pretty much every other issue of global importance, from global warming (he’s a denier), to Putin (he’s an admirer), to China (we court, he wants to contain, if necessary by allowing Japan to acquire nuclear weapons).

As it happens this potential UK/US schism is being fomented by Trump’s election at the worst possible time for us – because in quitting the EU we surely need to become even closer economically and diplomatically to the US then we’ve ever been.

And another thing.

The people who really run Britain, our civil servants, are already on the point of a collective nervous breakdown having been set what most of them see as the impossible task of getting us out of the EU expeditiously and at minimal cost.

Their senior members tell me it’ll take at least a decade of intense complex nerve-wracking preparation and negotiation, during which we’ll be poorer (or more accurately, less prosperous than we would otherwise have been).

So to instruct them now to cement an intimate relationship with a new president they neither admire or understand is to give them several sacks of potatoes to carry on a marathon.

The machinery of the British state is being tested as it never has been outside of war.