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How U.S. And U.K. Citizens Are Making Sense Of Trump's State Visit Abroad

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip greet President Donald Trump and first lady Melania outside 10 Downing Street in central London, Tuesday, June 4, 2019. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip greet President Donald Trump and first lady Melania outside 10 Downing Street in central London, Tuesday, June 4, 2019. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

How does the world stage look right about now? With President Trump and United Kingdom Prime Minster Theresa May before the world in a press conference from London — Trump threatening tariffs against Mexico and May ready to step down as conservative leader on Friday?

The BBC asked On Point to link our audiences on Tuesday — American and British — to talk about Trump’s state visit to the U.K. Of course, we said 'yes.'

Along with Nihal Arthanayake, presenter for BBC Radio 5 Live’s "Nihal Arthanayake" showOn Point host Meghna Chakrabarti hosted a conversation with callers about the relationship between the two countries with so much change afoot. Britain is still trying to figure out how to leave the EU, and the U.S. prepares for the 2020 presidential election.

We opened our BBC and NPR phone lines to listeners in the U.S. and the U.K., simultaneously. Here are some of the conversations we heard.

U.K. Callers: Claire, From Leeds and Jed, From Manchester

On President Trump

Claire: "I wouldn't say I'm a Trump supporter necessarily, toward him as an individual person, but as the office of the president of the U.S., I think that we should always have open for an ally that has had our backs throughout many historical times.

"I feel strongly sort of joined with the American people at the moment, because I think that the vote for Brexit and the vote for Trump are one in the same thing. I think it has been blue-collar, working-class, patriotic communities voting for their own prosperity and peace in the land."

Jed: "I would agree that like the same kind of forces that are driving Donald Trump are also driving Brexit. But I think in both cases what they do is offer simple, easy solutions to kind of much more complex problems that are going on, in the kind of terms of a globalized world and the rise of automation, which is going to put so many of these kind of blue-collar workers probably out of work in the next few decades going forward.

"I think it's very easy to say, 'If we just leave the European Union, all these big problems that people are worried about are going to go away.' 'If we just build this massive wall along the border, all of these immigrants — these are kind of causes of your problems. But, actually. I think it's quite easy to kind of point and say, 'These are the scapegoats.' And it's a quite common tactic we've seen always, throughout history, where you kind of point to one other group of people and say, 'This is the source of all your problems,' when in fact it's something much wider and something much deeper which I think neither the Brexit or Donald Trump really has the answers to."

"I feel strongly sort of joined with the American people at the moment, because I think that the vote for Brexit and the vote for Trump are one in the same thing."

U.K. caller Claire

U.K. Caller: Andrew, From Oxfordshire

On President Trump's leadership style, what he claims to do for the American people and how that compares and contrasts with British leadership

Anthony: "I'm a very big fan of President Trump. He's one of the few leaders around the world that speaks up for his country, America, puts America first. He sticks up for the American people and he's doing everything for America. Unlike some leaders. A lot of leaders around the world don't do that."

"He'll do a good trade deal for America, and it's up for our side of the Atlantic to put up a good trade deal for us. I mean, that's common sense, really. Every leader will do a good deal for their own country. It's up to our leaders — which I didn't have much faith in, to be honest. They've messed Brexit up. Everything they've touched is not going well. We've got very weak leadership in this country. It saddens me to say that."

U.S. Caller: Dan From Boston, Massachusetts

On the historical ties between the United Kingdom and United States

Dan: "I wanted to touch upon the relationship between the U.S. and Britain. Being in Boston, we're surrounded by our historical ties. We see it everywhere we go. And I think that those ties are much stronger than one president or one prime minister.

"I'm certainly not a fan of Donald Trump whatsoever. He doesn't embody what both of our countries have stood for for so long, as far as respect and as far as tradition. Yeah, a lot of people like the fact that he's 'shaking things up,' but he's doing it in such a crass and crude way that there isn't really much chance that we're gonna be able to come back and ever be the same in the light of the world in the eyes. ... We will recover, but it won't be the same. And the thing is, that when you take one smaller group in a very large country and you make them the singular voice and you say, 'OK, these people are what is representative of an extremely — probably the most diverse — country on the face of the planet in history, I think that's dangerous."

"A lot of people like the fact that he's 'shaking things up,' but he's doing it in such a crass and crude way that there isn't really much chance that we're gonna be able to come back and ever be the same in the light of the world in the eyes."

U.S. caller Dan

U.S. Caller John, From West Haven, Connecticut, And U.K. Caller Johnny, From Glasgow, Scotland

On Brexit

John: "My question is: From basically everything that I've seen, it seems like the majority of the British people don't want Brexit to happen. So what's being done to just cancel it? It seems like a dumb idea, seems like people thought it was a good idea and they put that foot forward, and then it seemed like it wasn't such a good idea. So is the time to back up and stop now?"

Johnny: "I actually voted to leave the European Union. And I possibly took a slightly more binary view on that, if I'm being completely honest — one of the few Scots that would probably admit that, on an open forum, as well. However I think the problem that we've had is the majority of politicians who are in the position to influence how, when and in what manner will leave the European Union, don't want to. So I think they're having to battle with their own conscience to try and push something through that they don't actually want. And I think that has been the major stumbling block and get things moving forward, if I'm honest."

John: "If their heart isn't in it, and they don't think that it's the right thing for the U.K., then why are they doing it? Why don't they just cancel it?"

Johnny: "A due democratic process was followed, a vote was had, a question within that vote was asked and the answer was a clear request to leave the European Union, albeit it was quite a close vote. I think purely from a political and a democratic standpoint, the politicians are to carry out the wishes of the electorate and for them not to do that would be really quite awful."

What about a second referendum? Some believe you can't just keep changing the rules, voting on the same question, until you get a certain result. Others say that the first vote on Brexit was symbolic, not policy-oriented, and therefore hard to take action on.

Johnny: "As we've seen the complexities of Brexit happening at all and the things that have to be considered, all that information that would have to be considered couldn't go on a sample ballot. It just wouldn't work at all. The queues for the polling stations would be [very long] with people just trying to understand what they're being asked, rather than simplifying the question: 'What do you want?' and thereafter working out the details. It's not perfect. I absolutely grant that."

Anna Bauman produced this hour for broadcast.

Related:

Alex Schroeder Twitter Digital Producer, On Point
Alex Schroeder is a digital producer for On Point.

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