Presidents and Prime Ministers


The United States and the United Kingdom have shared intelligence and coordinated surveillance since World War II. Such cooperation has arguably led to closer transatlantic security, a defining pillar of what is popularly known as the Anglo-American “special relationship.” But when the New York Times published leaked photos of the May 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, images shared with the US by the UK intelligence community, the cordial relationship faced a real, and public, test. Prime Minister Theresa May protested to President Donald Trump and Manchester police suspended intelligence sharing.

In the public eye, Trump and May struck a friendly accord when they met. In fact, Trump compares the rapport with that of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher; he called May, “My Maggie.” Until the intelligence leak, the fondness could be seen in the duo holding hands outside the Oval Office, trading jokes alongside a bust of Winston Churchill, and heaping praise on one another. Before their meeting, however, May made no secret of her disapproval, calling Trump’s election campaign “just plain wrong.” For his part, Trump praised one of May’s political opponents, UKIP leader Nigel Farage, and threatened to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal that the UK government helped negotiate. The presidents repeated commitment to an “America First” policy could be described as a linguistic affront to the transatlantic alliance, at best; at worst it’s a signal the alliance is over.

The changing tenor of the Trump-May relationship provided a fitting backdrop to the Presidents and Premiers conference held at Newcastle University (26-27 May 2017). Supported by Newcastle University’s School of History, the University of Roehampton’s Department of Humanities, and the Presidential History Network, the event brought together 10 invited speakers who delivered a rich analysis of the personal relations between US presidents and UK prime ministers, and how these bonds between individuals define transatlantic relations.

For the full report on the event, CLICK HERE.


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