theresa_may

In all the hype and good wishes associated with Theresa’s May’s trip to the US, it is worth looking at some hard numbers.

There are many in the UK who are urging Mrs May not to be a poodle: be more like Mrs Thatcher and less like Mr Blair.

Spitting Image once ran a sketch showing the Thatcher and Reagan puppets smooching on the steps of Downing Street. And as Mrs T left, the Regan puppet said; “what a shame I am just screwing her country, and not her.” But for all her faults, Mrs Thatcher was respected by America, more rottweiler than yapping lap-dog.

And now Mrs May is in America, trying to agree a trade deal with a man who seems to like Britain: along with Canada and Israel.

And some say the US needs Britain more than Britain needs the US, that the US needs a friend, desperately.

But the facts are these: 44 per cent of UK exports are to the EU, 17 per cent of UK exports are to the US, and yet just four per cent of US exports are to Britain.

Britain desperately needs a trade deal with the US, but whatever Mrs May agrees, it seems unlikely it will be worth the handshake it is written on.

For one thing, it takes years to agree a trade deal. For another thing, the UK cannot formally engage in trade talks until it has left the EU – two years after Article 50 has been kicked off, for a third thing, there is a shortage of skilled British trade negotiators, and for a fourth thing, the US has many of the best trade negotiators in the world.

Maybe the best hope for Mrs May, in an attempt to control its borders and cut back on immigration, is that Mr Trump allows her to borrow some of his trade negotiators – the new immigrant worker to the UK will be trade negotiators.

A better hope for the UK may lie with China – keen to establish its free trade credentials, except that that would put her at odds with Mr Trump.

And while she is over there, she must be careful not to mention torture – Jeremy Corbyn mentioned it once but thinks he may have got away with it.

And if Mrs May is not going to be a poodle, what will she be? A labradoodle, perhaps?