Oooops. So much for the transatlantic alliance and the “special relationship”.
Sir Andrew Cahn backed the US president, undermining attempts by a furious Downing Street to fight back against the bombshell dropped in Washington.
Sir Michael Fallon, the former defence secretary – who will vote against a deal he branded “doomed” – also warned that “brushing off” Mr Trump’s embarrassing comments would not work.
No 10 was thrown on the back foot when the president described the Brexit proposals as “a great deal for the EU” and “a very big negative” for the UK’s aim of striking its own trade deals.
Sir Andrew Cahn, the former chief executive of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), agreed, telling BBC Radio 4 that, unusually, the president “is actually speaking the truth”.
The pound didn’t like it much either, though frankly I would have thought businessmen and financiers would have been able to work out what even Trump understood.
Theresa May demurred, of course. I supposed she naturally assumed that when Trump speaks, he lies automatically, so it couldn’t possibly be true, but Michael Fallon is a former ally of hers, and even he found Trump credible on this one point.
It is a good point that May’s Brexit agreement leaves the UK in a limbo where it’s stuck in a customs union with Europe so unable to reach trade deals with other nations that don’t take Europe into account, yet also unable to influence and decide European trade policy. It’s not much better than a no-deal Brexit which, while economically catastrophic, would at least have the advantage of clarity and an opportunity to struggle to right Britain’s economy after a huge shock. It would take years, maybe a generation to recover, but at least the go-it-alone choice and direction would be clear.
The safest of the three worlds on offer is staying in the EU. Now, I know that May is resolutely and noisily opposed to a referendum., and is threatening pro-European critics with a no-deal, empty plate Brexit if they don’t vote for her bowl of gruel instead. But if her hand is forced where she faces a choice between no deal and a new referendum, how resolute is she likely to turn out to be? Contemplating being dubbed by history as the prime minister who presided over the worst ever self-inflicted economic disaster achieved by a modern British government, her anti-democratic resolve might just crumble.
It would be an idiot who bet on the outcome of the Commons vote on Dec 11th on May’s little scheme, but I’m thinking the chips may fall down on the side of thinking this Tory will turn to people’s democracy when bullying parliament results in her schemes being foiled. She won’t want to go down in history as the second most bull-headed female prime minister. This lady may well be for turning, if served by the House with this unthinkable alternative.