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How Stakeholders In Relations Between The U.S. And U.K. Feel About Trump's Visit

Jul 13, 2018
Originally published on July 13, 2018 7:44 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

On Day 2 of President Trump's visit...

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KELLY: ...Thousands of protesters flooded the streets here in central London carrying signs reading jail Trump, not kids, why did you comb-over here and feed him to the corgis. Those are just the ones with language we can use on public radio.

Still, as we've been reporting here in Britain all this week, loads of people from members of Parliament to random people we struck up conversations with at the pub told us they love America, they love Americans, and they hope the tensions in the U.S.-U.K. relationship are temporary. These next few minutes, we're going to let you listen in on the conversations we've been having here in Britain - three moments, three vantage points on the so-called special relationship.

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KELLY: Stop one, a display of military pageantry, the kind of event President Trump would have eaten up.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh, wow.

KELLY: Top of everything else going on in the U.K., this week happens to be the hundredth anniversary of the Royal Air Force, celebrated with - what else? - a flyover above Buckingham Palace. The queen walked out onto her balcony to watch and, yes, so did the newlyweds Harry and Meghan. The highlight, at least for me....

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KELLY: ...Twenty-two Typhoon fighter jets flying in perfect formation in the shape of the number 100. What are the chances that in a crowd of thousands we would wind up next to the family of the lead pilot, the guy flying the jet that marked the tip of the number one? That is Christopher Hoyle's kids you can hear. They're wearing T-shirts that say, that's my daddy and his Typhoon. Hoyle's wife was there, too, and his dad, Des Hoyle, who told us his son's been to the U.S. for military exercises at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

DES HOYLE: I know our forces work closely together, which is always good, isn't it, you know?

KELLY: Still?

HOYLE: Oh, we're all fans. Just want to sort Donald out, God bless him.

KELLY: Nearby, Dennis Hill stood watching wearing a cap emblazoned with an ancient RAF badge. He flew in the 1950s. His dad flew in World War II.

DENNIS HILL: Yes, I think we are special because most - a lot of Americans went from here to America in the old days. We speak the same language. And I think we have the same democratic view of life, don't we? And we value that association. And long may it live.

KELLY: One other vet to introduce you to - Richard Spink. He served in the RAF in the '60s and '70s. And he told us he remembers doing NATO exercises with U.S. forces at a time when many Americans were forcibly conscripted - the Vietnam War.

RICHARD SPINK: The U.S. presidents have had problems with British prime ministers, and British prime ministers have had problems with U.S. presidents. But the relationship just goes on. No one person can sweep away 200 years' worth of alliances. You know, we've fought side by side in countless wars all over the world. And that's not going to go away just because you've got - I'm being diplomatic here - you've got an idiot in the White House. I mean, that's all I can really describe (laughter).

KELLY: Richard Spink, one of many vets in Britain this week reflecting on the state of the military alliance.

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KELLY: Next stop - we have come to Islington. This is North London. And there's a little corner of Kentucky right there. This is a pub called The Lexington.

OK. So, yes, we did have a reason to stop by a whiskey bar in the middle of the workday. It's a window into one of the major themes of President Trump's visit to the U.K. - trade.

Hello, I'm here for Stacey.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Manager will be out in a second.

KELLY: On June 1, American tariffs went into effect here on exports of steel and aluminum. In response, the EU announced tariffs of its own on classic American products including bourbon.

And describe for people who can't see this what we're looking at here.

STACEY THOMAS: We're looking at about 150 bottles of whiskey.

KELLY: All American.

THOMAS: Yeah, pretty much, actually. I think we've got one bottle from Canada.

KELLY: (Laughter) OK.

THOMAS: (Laughter).

KELLY: Stacey Thomas - she owns the Lexington. She told us the big brands - Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and so on - those places will likely eat some of the cost of the tariffs, so their prices won't rise the full 25 percent. But for the smaller craft distilleries, Thomas says they'll have to hike prices.

THOMAS: It'll hurt us in the sense that a lot of customers that maybe would have tried bourbon will probably just go for a vodka or a gin or a rum. Maybe we'll become a rum bar, you know? (Laughter) You know, why not?

KELLY: But Thomas says she's not quite there yet.

THOMAS: Hopefully - what I'm hoping - this is my great big hope - is that Trump will come to his senses, stop the tariffs, EU will of course do the same straight away, and there'll only be a momentary blip of price increases.

KELLY: You sound optimistic, which we've heard from other people we've been talking to here in Britain, that maybe this is all just a phase and it'll pass.

THOMAS: Well, I mean, it's - you know, Trump has history for going through phases - doesn't he? - changing his mind. Yeah. I just don't take anything he says seriously anymore. You know, fire and fury against North Korea, look how that turned out - you know, best buds. I think he's all mouth.

KELLY: I think he's all mouth - Stacey Thomas, proprietress of The Lexington. Now, President Trump might take issue with the charge that he's all mouth. And Stacey Thomas might actually have liked what he had to say today, which is that he is all about trade with the U.K. and doesn't want any restrictions on it. That would be good news for Gareth Stace, our last voice on relations between Britain and America. Stace is the head of UK Steel, which represents the steel industry here. He argues the current trade fight is bad for his members and bad for workers in the U.S., too.

GARETH STACE: I was talking to a steel company only last week that was telling me that he has been supplying steel to one of his customers in the U.S. for 30 years. They have a very good relationship. That customer in the U.S. still wants to buy the product that he's buying from the U.K. steel company. And they've got to work out what they're going to do because is that going to damage that relationship? Are those orders going to be canceled? Is that customer in the U.S. going to be now priced out of the market? Because let's remember that suddenly his raw material that he gets from the U.K. is now 25 percent more expensive than it was before that date.

KELLY: I asked Stace, does this trade fight change the way he thinks about the U.S. or doing business with the U.S.?

STACE: You know, I'm 50 years old, and I've always seen the U.S. as a really strong ally of the U.K. I think I was surprised on the first of June that it actually happened because I couldn't believe that this is what President Trump does to his friends and his allies. And it just made me think I would not want to be his enemy.

KELLY: Gareth Stace, head of UK Steel, one of many people we have been talking with here in Britain about trade, whiskey and fighting side by side about the state of the special relationship.

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KELLY: And as President Trump concludes his trip to Great Britain, we will, too. From here it's on to Helsinki. That's where I will be on Monday to bring you complete coverage of Trump's meeting in Finland with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.