Trump & Europe: a relationship under threat

Friends indeed: This weekend Trump met Nigel Farage, who calls the EU ‘a failed project’. © PA

Europe’s leaders held an emergency summit to discuss Donald Trump last night. Today Theresa May will make a major speech about the implications of his win. How risky is Trump for Europeans?

Spot the difference.

‘Britain and the United States are, and will remain, close partners on trade, security and defence. I look forward to working with president-elect Donald Trump.’

‘Germany and America are connected by common values: democracy, freedom, respect for the law and for human dignity irrespective of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political conviction. On the basis of these values, I offer Donald Trump a close working relationship.’

Both Theresa May and Angela Merkel stressed their nation’s ties with the USA after Donald Trump became president-elect last week. But only May welcomed the new president unconditionally.

Trump’s victory has divided the leaders of Britain and Europe. Some fear his inward-looking policies on security and trade could threaten long-standing institutions which have united democracies across the Atlantic.

During the campaign he criticised NATO and said he would tell allies who did not ‘reimburse’ the USA: ‘Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.’ Yesterday Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary-general, warned of the danger that could bring. The USA has underpinned NATO’s commitment to common defence since 1948; it now contributes almost 70% of its defence budget.

Trump’s relationship with the EU will also be fraught. Yesterday EU foreign ministers held an emergency summit to discuss their response to his win, with some suggesting there should be closer European co-operation on security issues. Anti-EU politicians hailed Trump’s win, and he has repeatedly endorsed Brexit.

But that could benefit Britain. During the campaign, Trump suggested a US-UK trade deal would be a priority if he won. This may explain the UK government’s attempts to charm Trump since Wednesday. For example, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, boycotted the EU meeting and called the European reaction a ‘whinge-o-rama’.

So what does Trump’s win mean for Europe?

Into the unknown

It brings only risks, say some. At the moment of Trump’s greatest validation, he will not change his isolationist mentality. He is ignorant of the systems which have kept Europe secure and prosperous. He will energise Europe’s nationalists, destabilising the EU and NATO further. And Vladimir Putin will not fear aggressively expanding his interests.

There will be opportunities, others respond. Trump will replace his hardline campaign rhetoric with a reasonable approach as president. His call for NATO allies to pull their weight could create a fairer partnership, with the USA no longer taken for granted. And the EU will need to listen to its critics if it is to survive. This may be the wake-up call which powerful Europeans need.

You Decide

  1. Which matters more to you: stability or opportunity?
  2. Does Donald Trump’s presidency bring more risks or opportunities for Europe?


  1. You are prime minister of your country. Write two sentences responding to the election of Donald Trump. Is your response more like Theresa May’s or Angela Merkel’s?
  2. You are an adviser to either Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, or Jean-Claude Juncker of the EU. Research and write a one-page briefing on the risks and opportunities the organisation faces during a Trump presidency.

Some People Say...

“Leaders should always put their own nation’s interests first.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Isn’t this just a few powerful men arguing about dry agreements?
If you live in the USA, the UK or most other European nations, your country is part of NATO. Perhaps one day you will join the armed forces and take part in NATO exercises; when you get a job, the tax you pay will help to fund this alliance. And groups like NATO and the EU make decisions based on what is best for the security and prosperity of people who live in the member states.
I don’t live in Britain. Why does the UK matter so much?
Britain is preparing to become the first country ever to leave the EU — after a popular vote. Other European politicians who want to follow them are gaining more support. And their decisions will have a global impact. So the UK’s success or failure will set an example all around the world.

Word Watch

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, an alliance of 28 democracies — the USA, Canada and European nations.
Stoltenberg wrote in The Observer: ‘Going it alone is not an option.’
Common defence
Article five of the NATO treaty says members will respond to an attack on one nation as an attack on them all.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s president, has said the EU should consider ‘setting up a European army’. Reports suggest France and Germany will soon propose military integration between EU states. Yesterday Nick Clegg, the former UK deputy prime minister, said Trump’s win ‘should prompt more Europe, not less’.
Trump has a particularly close relationship with UKIP’s Nigel Farage.
Trump said Britain would go to the ‘front of the queue’ for a US trade deal if he won.
A leaked memo from the UK’s ambassador to the USA said the UK could influence the new president’s foreign policy and encourage him to ‘evolve’.
This causes particular concern in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — the Baltic states, which border Russia.


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