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Put your misgivings aside — state visits are worth all the Trumpery

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04.06.2019

It took a while but at last something pleased Donald Trump about his state visit in London. “The Queen’s been fantastic,” declared the great tweetsman — some magnanimity after dishing it out to “stone-cold loser” Mayor Sadiq Khan and sounding disgruntled that Michael Gove, a longstanding hawk in Tory foreign policy circles, was not belligerent enough on Iran.

It goes to show that the Queen still refreshes the parts other diplomacy cannot reach. The royal family is the sole institution that pulls off a dinner at which Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary doggedly searching for a post-Brexit free trade deal, sits next to Ivanka Trump. USA Today deemed it a “glittery” occasion, though Ivanka might have donned her best Carolina Herrera in the hope of more glitz than a discussion about chlorinated chicken.

Whether this was the right time for a state visit is questionable. Theresa May felt obliged to deliver on a promise to host one but much has unravelled since (including the PM herself). And for the crowd gathering to rail against the President with the help of an inflatable baby Donald — and a robot Donald on a gold toilet — the answer is that there is never a good time to meet Trump. But these are two separate considerations.

Warts and all, I would say, state visits from important allies are more useful than not. Diplomacy and trade ties are a long game, not a tweet-fuelled sprint. To look at it another way, if you don’t have the President and his machinery of state engaged with Britain and its interests at a time of geopolitical instability, why would you........

© Evening Standard