The UK’s election campaign hasn’t officially started yet. But that didn’t stop US President Donald Trump from weighing in on what’s expected to be one of the most unpredictable election campaigns in living memory.
Trump told London-based talk radio station LBC that Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK’s main opposition Labour Party, would be “so bad for your country … he’d take you into such bad places.”
The President told LBC host and Brexit Party leader, Nigel Farage, that he had “great relationships with many of the leaders, including Boris (Johnson), who’s a fantastic man. And I think he’s the exact right guy for the times.”
He went on to predict that Johnson and Farage would work together to deliver Brexit.
“I know that you and him will end up doing something that could be terrific … if you and he get together it’s an unstoppable force … I wish you guys could get together, I think you’d be a great team,” he added.
Farage’s Brexit Party is currently seen as a large obstacle to Johnson winning a majority at the upcoming election. Critics say that the Brexit Party, who finished in first place at the European Parliament elections earlier this year, will split the Brexit vote and leave Johnson’s Conservative Party without a majority — ultimately obstructing the country’s exit from the EU.
Rumors have swirled in recent days about exactly how many constituencies the Brexit Party will run a candidate in at the election. Having once promised to run a full slate of contenders, sources close to the Brexit Party said it is reconsidering its position and might focus on a smaller selection of seats that it has a real chance of winning.
Johnson and Farage are a long way from being on the same page. Ever since Johnson struck a new Brexit withdrawal deal with the European Union, Farage has accused him of selling out to Brussels. Earlier this month, Farage told CNN that Johnson’s deal was the “second worst deal in history.”
In response to Trump’s suggestion, Farage made clear that he would only work with Johnson “if he drops this dreadful deal, fights the general election on the basis of just trade with Europe.”
Trump appeared to agree with Farage, when he said that Johnson’s withdrawal agreement would make striking a trade deal with the US impossible: “We want to do trade with the UK and they want to do trade with us. And to be honest with you, this deal, under certain aspects of the deal, you can’t do it.”
He went on to claim — without citing any evidence — that trade between the two countries could be “four to five times higher than it is right now.”
An endorsement from Trump is not something that many politicians in the UK actively seek. He is on the whole unpopular with the British public. Johnson declined to meet with Trump when he came for the State Visit in June, according to campaign staffers on the Prime Minister’s team. His staff claimed at the time that this was because Johnson was busy working on his leadership campaign.
A photo op with Trump could ultimately be used against Johnson. Jeremy Corbyn made clear on Wednesday that he would be using the Prime Minister’s and Trump’s perceived friendliness during the election, saying that a Conservative majority would lead to a “Trump trade deal” that would sell out the National Health Service.
On Thursday, Corbyn also tweeted a link to the radio interview and accused Trump of trying to interfere in the election. He added that the President “knows if Labour wins US corporations won’t get their hands on (the NHS).”
Trump’s attack on Corbyn could play for Labour. His values are the polar opposite of what British liberals and left-wing voters believe in. And as an election draws closer in which Corbyn might fail to weaponize Brexit, presenting himself as the anti-Trump and Johnson as the British Trump — in the President’s own words — could be a valuable soundbite on the campaign trail.