The UK General Election - 4th July 2024

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A Second Trump Term: What would it mean for the UK?

Stefan Cirjan

Account Manager

2024, the biggest election year on record, will test the health of democracies around the globe with more than 2 billion voters set to go to the polls in 50 countries. Perhaps none will be more closely scrutinized than the US Presidential election. With Donald Trump set to become the Republican nominee and several polls suggesting he is closely tied to, or even beating, President Joe Biden, many in the UK are wondering what a second Trump Administration would mean for the UK.

UK Party Politics

The US election is set to coincide with the UK’s General Election, with the former Chancellor George Osbourne recently suggesting that the Government is currently planning to hold this on 14th November. Similar to the US, a seismic political shift is likely to be witnessed in the UK through an expected return to power for the Labour Party for the first time since 2010. Yet regardless of who is triumphant, navigating a second Trump administration, and its ramifications in the UK, would be a challenge for either party.

For the Conservative Party, the impact of a second Trump term is both complex and revealing. Current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak finds himself in a party where a number of its senior and influential members have endorsed him, such as Boris Johnson, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Liz Truss. Despite Sunak’s preference for traditional conservatism, he must walk a fine line between a growing number of Tory MPs privately welcoming Trump’s return and more centrist figures like Alicia Kearns, chair of the foreign affairs committee, who denounced the former president, or Chancellor Jeremy Hunt who warned that a return to U.S. protectionism would be a “profound mistake.”

On the other benches, Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, would face a different set of challenges. Trump’s rhetoric and policies are in sharp contrast to the liberal values that Starmer and his party champion. However, the diplomatic dance required of a potential future Prime Minister necessitates a careful approach. Balancing the need for functional engagement with the White House, regardless of its occupant, with the imperative to uphold democratic values would become a tightrope walk for Starmer.

Transatlantic Trade

Trump is well known for his “America first” approach to foreign policy, often wielding trade instruments as a coercive tool. Ever since Brexit, the UK has long been seeking a free trade agreement with the U.S. This could become significantly difficult with Trump in office as he has already floated the idea of imposing a 10% tariff on all imports. Given the large volume of trade between the two countries, British policymakers would face considerable challenges to navigate.

Green Transition

A second term for Trump could also mean a continued withdrawal from international agreements, such as the Paris Agreement, dealing a blow to global efforts to combat climate change. Trump’s protectionist stance has been coupled with promises to reinvest in fossil fuel exploration and production in the US. His senior campaign officials have said he intends to roll back investments under the Inflation Reduction Act, which he called “the biggest tax hike in history”, and regulations aimed at accelerating the transition to electric vehicles. With Starmer reaffirming Labour’s commitment to invest £28bn a year on low-carbon efforts, the UK could find itself at odds with the U.S. on this front too.

International Security

Yet perhaps most concerning for the next UK Government is Trump’s scepticism towards NATO, deemed a “bedrock of our security” in the UK, as this raises concerns about the reliability of traditional security partnerships. Despite recent legal restrictions preventing a complete withdrawal, Trump’s inclination to reduce American involvement to a “standby” level prompts questions about the UK’s dependence on established alliances. Moreover, in light of the crucial US support for Ukraine, a potential Labour Government under Starmer faces the challenge of determining the extent to which it should engage with the White House to secure continued U.S. involvement in European defence efforts, particularly along NATO’s eastern border.

As British people brace themselves for parliamentary elections, a second term for Donald Trump could usher in a complex and uncertain era for the UK. Economic challenges, diplomatic upheaval, and ideological divergences would ultimately test the resilience of the ‘special relationship’.

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