Crossing the Pond
British Member of Parliament shares his views on Brexit, President Trump, and the Middle East
The United States’ “Special Relationship” with Great Britain has been the strongest, most enduring alliance in modern history. Within the past year, both countries have undergone divisive changes: Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and the United States’ election of President Trump. Both changes will not only affect the relationship between Britain and the United States but also their relationships with the rest of the world. The Rover had the privilege of conducting an interview with Adam Holloway, a Conservative Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons, on these fascinating events.
Holloway, a former British Army officer and investigative reporter, has been the Member of Parliament from Gravesham, a constituency in northwest Kent, since 2005. During his time in Parliament, Holloway has served on a variety of committees, including the Defence Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee, where he has shared his expertise derived from spending a great deal of time in the Middle East. A strong proponent of Brexit, he shares his thoughts on the current state of the world.
The Irish Rover: President Trump’s election is widely viewed as a parallel to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. As a strong proponent of Brexit, could you share your thoughts on what you believe are the driving forces behind these movements?
Holloway: Brexit and Trump are completely different things. If you think they are the same, then you misunderstand the nature of Brexit. The reason that Trump likes Brexit is because Brexit is about hitting back at political elites who have run things in their own cozy way for too long. Trump’s election is the American public—or at least large parts of the American public—basically saying that they are fed up with the political establishment. Trump is about America looking much more inwards, whereas for us, true believers in Brexit, it is about us being much more outgoing. It’s about no longer being cocooned in this declining European Union—it’s about getting out there and embracing trade with the rest of the world as well as the European countries.
President Trump recently issued an executive order banning immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries for 90 days, and indefinitely banning Syrian refugees. The order received immediate backlash from both Americans and the people of Great Britain, who have protested and suggested that the state visit scheduled for later this year be canceled. What are your thoughts on the ban, and how do you think this will affect the Special Relationship between the United States and Great Britain?
It is quite refreshing to see a politician who—even if we think what he is doing is completely bonkers—actually carries out what he promised the electorate he would do if elected. This shouldn’t be a new thing. You all shouldn’t be surprised and horrified by it on that level—you should be quite pleased. Having said that, to me it is just a very ignorant thing to do. Of course he’s right that the first duty of a President—of the government—is to protect its people. So to have greatly enhanced vetting from these countries is an entirely reasonable thing for a state to do. To make it about Muslims, and to exclude a number of countries from where terrorists come from as well, is, in my view, unwise. What we’re trying to do in the fight against ISIS is to separate wide populations of good people—of good Muslims—from these crazy people. Your average Muslim is, as far as the likes of ISIS are concerned, a person who should be put to death. So this actually bans a lot of people who are our allies in the fight against ISIS, and that’s very unwise.
These people calling for the state visit to be canceled—well, I’m really sorry. We’ve got to stop this idea that somehow people’s views are unacceptable. Well, the fact of the matter is that Donald Trump—whether you voted for him or not—is the President of the United States of America. He was voted in under the rules that you have always elected Presidents. Whether you like what he does or not, he is the President, and he is perfectly correct that he should come to Britain and be properly hosted for a state visit—he is the President of the U.S.A., even if we don’t like what he does.
You spent a lot of time in the Middle East, both as a soldier and as a war reporter, and you now serve on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. What do you think is the best strategy for both Britain and the United States to help contribute to stability and peace in the Middle East, and handle the humanitarian crisis?
We had disastrous Western interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya—we have left those countries considerably less stable since. We have plunged Iraq into chaos, and have broken the balancing of Shi’a and Sunni in the Middle East by removing Saddam Hussein, and we have cast tens of millions of people in Libya into unimaginable insecurity. I think the first thing that the West and the United States needs to realize is that we actually have done an enormous amount of damage by our activism—by our disgraceful view that we could enforce Western democracy with the hand of a gun and then leave when it didn’t work. We have to understand that we have unleashed pre-existing political forces that are playing out in a most unfortunate way—the latest symptom of this being ISIS. We have to see that the problems in Iraq and Syria particularly are political. It’s about Sunni discontent. It’s about Sunni feeling abused by either the government in Baghdad or the Assad government. The only way to fix the problems in Syria and Iraq is to find some sort of solution for the Sunnis so that it’s not a binary choice—ISIS or nasty Shia government. It’s ISIS, or nasty Shia government, or political accommodation with nasty Shia government, responsibility for your own security, wealth, and that kind of thing. Until we stop meddling in the Middle East—stop doing what makes us feel good and not what actually helps the people—and see and understand that these problems are fundamentally political, then things will not improve.
Madeleine O’Mara is a junior political science major and a business economics minor. She once built a PVC motor that reached 9100rpm. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.