Trump Is Britain's Great Under-Appreciated Champion | Opinion

Style issues aside, it is a conundrum that more Britons don't revere President Donald Trump—one of the most Anglophilic presidents to ever inhabit the White House.

The list of his actions demonstrating support and sincere affection for our mother country is long. Remarkably, one of his very first acts after inauguration was to restore Sir Winton Churchill's bust to the Oval Office after his predecessor had removed it. He's a champion of the U.S.-U.K. "Special Relationship" and he views British exceptionalism through the same prism as he does American greatness. Consequently, it is no accident that he has taken every opportunity to vociferously support Brexit, the U.K.'s take back control moment.

Trump's pro-U.K. posture could not be in starker contrast to his predecessor. While President Barack Obama famously promised "back of the queue status" for the U.K. if it left the European Union (EU), Trump has called Brexit a "blessing to the world" and the vote to leave the EU a "tremendous asset, not a liability." Furthermore, he has consistently committed to the most mutually advantageous bilateral free trade agreement possible.

So too, the president delights in his (Scottish) British heritage. His genuine enthusiasm is founded on recognition of what Churchill recognized as a relationship based on a shared compassionate worldview, underpinned by "the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world."

Though the most cherished woman in Britain, Queen Elizabeth II, has not shunned the president (he has accepted her hospitality on three separate trips), many Brits do not share her goodwill. But once again, this comes down more to style than substance. The Brits were dazzled by cool, glib Obama, though he had no time for them—as shown most symbolically by his exile of the Churchill bust.

British writer Brendan O'Neill captured the paradox very well when he said that the British assessment is due to Trump's lack of polish: "Obama's wars and authoritarianism were forgivable because he was so handsome and charming. Trump's wars and authoritarianism, in contrast, are held up as threats to morality and decency.

Everyone is entitled to their tastes, but Trump, through his policies, has emboldened the world to stand up to the bullies that currently confront the U.K.—particularly China and the EU.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

It is an understatement to say the EU has not been negotiating Brexit in good faith—and that British industry and commerce have been caught in the crosshairs. Numerous attempts were made to hold the U.K. captive in the customs union. But Boris Johnson's landslide majority election was overwhelming confirmation that Britons were resolved to leave. As it stands, the failures of the EU to provide any benefit for its members during the pandemic further corroborate the merits of Brexit.

Britain's other bully, China, is a threat to the whole globe—and, if any positive has emerged from the pandemic, it is this realization. With the Trump administration and members of the British Parliament sounding the alarm over national security and intelligence exposure, Boris Johnson's government is currently re-working its China policy—including phasing out Huawei's cost-effective equipment in the rollout of the U.K.'s 5G network. For its part, China has vowed that Britain "will meet retaliatory responses."

Britain's Huawei reversal will pay off not only in making its digital networks and intelligence more secure against an unprincipled China, but also by removing a real obstacle to a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement, all the more desirable now that negotiations with the EU are stalling.

With a president who values the heritage and values both countries share, the British would do well to appreciate not only Trump's support, but also his demonstrated willingness to stand up to the world's bullies. If he does not prevail in November, our destiny will be threatened and our greatest ally will find itself dealing with President Joe Biden, who historically has embraced China, decried Brexit and, like his former boss, would put Britain at the "back of the queue."

Lee Cohen, a fellow of the Danube Institute and a specialist on the U.S-U.K. relationship, for years advised the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and founded the Congressional United Kingdom Caucus. He tweets at @leesco3.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.