Donald Trump is “hostile to trade” and “cannot magic up a trade deal” with the UK, an adviser to Liam Fox has said, pouring cold water on Brexiters’ enthusiasm for the US president.
Pippa Malmgren — a former White House official who Mr Fox, the UK international trade secretary, has described as his “political soulmate” — said the US president “does not know how to operate the US government”.
Theresa May, UK prime minister, has gone to great lengths to court Mr Trump, inviting him on a state visit and only offering muted criticism of his controversial stances on immigration, Muslims and white supremacists.
The US president supported Brexit in the run-up to last year’s referendum, and tweeted last month that he was “working on major trade deal with the United Kingdom. Could be very big & exciting. JOBS!”
But Ms Malmgren, an American who has been a non-executive director at the UK Department for International Trade since November, said this week that Mr Trump was “less and less [influential] every day — he says something and then nothing happens”.
“In the political arena, people are already looking beyond him,” she told the Financial Times in an interview. “The vice-president is effectively acting as the president in the sense of running the meetings, handling the day-to-day flow.”
“My working assumption is that Trumpism lasts more than four years, but he personally may or may not,” she added.
She said that vice-president Mike Pence, like Mr Trump, would be “hostile to trade”.
“It stems from a total lack of confidence in the ability of American workers to innovate and become part of a new economy.”
Supporters of Brexit see a trade deal with the US as a key benefit of the UK leaving the EU. Mr Fox, who is well-connected with US Republicans, said last month that US-UK trade could increase by a quarter, or £40bn a year, by 2030 “if we’re able to remove the barriers to trade that we have”.
He said the UK had “great support from the United States and the administration as well as Congress”.
Ms Malmgren was previously optimistic about Mr Trump, describing him shortly after last November’s election as “the bulldozer that promises to clear onerous rules, ossified policy and the orthodoxy”.
Her enthusiasm for free trade and small government is shared by Mr Fox, who returned to the cabinet last summer after several years on the backbenches.
But the international trade secretary has encountered resistance from cabinet colleagues, including environment secretary Michael Gove, who said last month the UK would not alter its farm standards, a key demand of the US agricultural lobby.
A former UBS strategist and adviser to George W Bush, Ms Malmgren is also a critic of quantitative easing, and has warned that it will lead to something similar to the stagflation of the 1970s.
“We’ve unleashed a genie from the bottle, and it will have consequences,” said Ms Malmgren, who also co-founded the London-based commercial drone company H Robotics in 2012.
Relations between Mrs May and Mr Trump blossomed at a meeting in Washington in January, when the prime minister said: “Haven’t you ever noticed that sometimes opposites attract?”
Boris Johnson, foreign secretary, has also conducted extensive diplomacy in an effort to build links with the Trump White House.
But earlier this week, Mrs May implicitly criticised the president’s comments on white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, without mentioning Mr Trump by name. She said it was “important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far right views wherever we hear them”.
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