The bromance between US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson could be nearing its expiration date.
The two unconventional politicians have been relying on a safety-net trade deal between their two nations, which has emboldened each man to take a hardline stance in his government’s other international trade negotiations.
However, their relationship of convenience could soon become one of contention, as they may soon have to square off over Anne Sacoolas, a US diplomat’s wife, who allegedly misused immunity to escape criminal charges.
A recent traffic accident that left a British teenager dead at the hands of Anne Sacoolas could sever the relationship between Trump and Johnson. Sacoolas, who was driving on the wrong side of the road and allegedly admitted fault following the accident, promptly left the UK by claiming diplomatic immunity in order to avoid prosecution.
Now, Johnson is tasked with bringing Sacoolas back to the UK to appease the angry mob of Brits who want to see justice served. Perhaps in another situation, the PM could have turned a blind eye, but considering he’s always been critical of diplomatic immunity, he had no choice but to back his own people.
Johnson has said he will work with US Ambassador Woody Johnson to bring Sacoolas back, but talks could prove unsuccessful since the ambassador himself is said to have advised Sacoolas to return to the US.
Boris Johnson says he’ll escalate matters to President Trump if need be, but if the ambassador protects Sacoolas, Trump likely will as well. Trump’s relationship with Boris Johnson matters to his political agenda, but probably not as much as his relationship with the significant campaign contributions that Woody Johnson has long provided to the Republican party.
A Republican with deep pockets, Woody Johnson was personally appointed to his position as ambassador to the UK by Trump, so it seems very unlikely that Trump would be willing to put those ties in jeopardy with reelection around the corner.
The outcome of Sacoolas’ fatal traffic accident is more than just a test of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump’s bromance, though. It could play a role in determining the outcome of several ongoing trade negotiations.
The lynchpin in this conundrum is the US-UK trade deal. This summer, Donald Trump was on-board with expanding the trade deal between the US and the UK. With the UK heading toward a no-deal Brexit and the US entrenching itself deeper into a trade war with China, the deal was mutually beneficial.
Since then, the case for a deal between the two nations has only strengthened. Brexit is due to happen in less than a month, and the UK is still struggling to make a deal with the EU. The US has not only deepened its trade conflict with China, but it’s started sparring with the EU as well.
The Sacoolas incident confronts each man with his own campaign promise – to end the abuse of power in the government.
On its own, Sacoolas leaving the UK under diplomatic immunity after killing a teenager should be a short-lived, albeit tragic, scandal, but with all of the political strings attached, it could end up changing the course of trade negotiations on multiple continents.