The UK is busy this week. US President Donald Trump has arrived to start his state visit on Monday June 3rd, commemorations for the 75th anniversary of D-day have begun, and while everyone is watching Trump and his wife Melania greeting the Queen, the date of Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation is approaching fast.
In an official statement on May 24th, May announced she would step down from her position as leader of the Conservative party and the office of Prime Minister on June 7th. She will continue to serve as the latter until a successor can be found, she clarified.
With the resignation date just days away, some of the candidates in the running to become Theresa May’s successor have made use of the events currently happening in the UK to raise their profile.
Trump’s stay was expected to bring some controversial comments; the reputation of being unpredictable precedes the American president wherever he goes. Some of the issues, British media predicted him to comment on were Britain’s ongoing Brexit chaos and the country’s future with technology company Huawei.
These topics, however, offer cues that not only Trump might pick up on. Candidates have tried to position themselves on these issues that are dominating the political debate in Britain at the moment and play important parts in their campaigning.
For example, Jeremy Hunt has been the UK’s foreign minister since July 2018. A position in which he is used to dealing with the state’s foreign relations. A fact that could explain why Hunt is one of the few candidates considering renegotiating a different Brexit deal. In a Daily Telegraph article, he explained that a different deal was “the only solution” and added that meant, “negotiations that take us out of the customs union while generously respecting legitimate concerns about the Irish border”.
Reuters reported that Hunt has not entirely ruled out a no-deal exit, saying he could consider it as a last resort.
On Huawei Hunt told BBC radio on Monday, "We take careful notice of everything the US says on these issues." He added, “We will certainly listen carefully to what they say."
Only a single candidate in the race is currently representing the option to hold another Brexit referendum. Sam Gyimah, a former investment banker and entrepreneur, pointed out the circumstance himself when he told Sky News he was joining the contest to "broaden the race". "There is a wide range of candidates but there is a very narrow set of views on Brexit being discussed," he said. "I'll be the only candidate in the race offering this option which is supported by the vast majority of people in the public, in order to take us forward."
Outrightly sceptical on the topic of the UK’s future relationship with technology company Huawei, Sajid Javid appeared. "I would not want any company, whichever country it's from, that has a high degree of control by a foreign government to have access to our very sensitive telecommunications network," he told the BBC.
Javid wrote on Brexit in the Daily Mail, saying, "We should leave on October 31. And if we cannot get a deal we should, with great regret, leave without one, having done everything we can to minimise disruption.”
According to Reuters, Javid is looking to increase preparations for a no-deal exit to show the EU that Britain is serious about walking away from talks. He further said he was strongly against a second referendum, "Never in this country's history have we asked people to go to the polls a second time without implementing their verdict from the first."
Another link between Trump and the candidates for the Conservative party’s leadership, was built with some comments Trump made before leaving the US for his state visit. He found positive words about British politician and current bookmakers’ favourite to win the succession race, Boris Johnson.
Johnson is well known by the British public as the face of the leave campaign from the 2016 Brexit referendum and former mayor of London. Trump enthusiastically called him his friend and highlighted he had been doing a “good job”.
Johnson has stated his views on Brexit extensively. In a campaign video he said that Britain would leave the EU on October 31st, "deal or no deal". He has also said a second referendum on EU membership would be a "very bad idea" and divisive.