Expert View

Trump urges walking away – how’s that going for him?

by David Hannay | 06.06.2019

David Hannay is a member of the House of Lords and former UK ambassador to the EU and UN.

We have spent the last three days being exposed to the views of the author of “The Art of the Deal”. Amongst Donald Trump’s views, none is more frequently reiterated – or more frequently parroted by eager Brexiters – than you cannot expect to get a deal if you are not prepared to walk away from the negotiating table without a deal.

So perhaps we should test this standard operating procedure of Trumpian diplomacy against the experience of the Great Deal-Maker over the last two years.

North Korea

Trump certainly walked away from the latest meeting in Hanoi. Has that made it more likely that North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons? Not obviously so. Has it limited North Korea’s production of fissile material and the means of its delivery? Not in the slightest.


The US unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency regularly certifies that Iran is fulfilling its obligations under the agreement to roll back its uranium enrichment programme, and thus lengthening the time it would take Iran if it were to decide to resume acquiring a nuclear capability. Has Trump’s move made it more likely that Iran will stick to its side of the deal; or that we can avoid a nuclear arms race in the Middle East? Unfortunately not.


Trump has ridden roughshod over UN Security Council resolutions by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the Golan Heights as part of its territory. He has also withdrawn from the UN’s Palestinian relief agency. Has that brought a solution of the Arab-Israeli problem closer? Quite the contrary. It has merely ensured that his peace plan – “the deal of the century” – will be dead on arrival if it ever does see the light of day.

UN Human Rights Council

Has the US withdrawal from the Council improved human rights observance worldwide? No. It has weakened it by removing US influence.

Climate change

Has the US decision to withdraw from the Paris agreements helped to limit, or at least to mitigate, global warming? Neither of these objectives has been advanced.

Trade policy

The tariff wars triggered  by the US against China, Mexico, Japan and the EU are merely damaging world economic growth and US producers and consumers. Any sign of a benefit to anyone? None.

So, if the track record of Trump’s walking away strategy is so appalling, what makes the Brexiters think that it will be any more successful if a new government here practises it on the other 27 EU countries? The hard fact is that there is not a scintilla of evidence that it would work. But there is plenty of evidence that, if it did not work, the UK would be more seriously damaged than its EU partners.

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

6 Responses to “Trump urges walking away – how’s that going for him?”

  • Unfortunately, Trump only cares about bullying tactics and “winning” over the soft power approach that helped the USA gain it’s dominance and influence over the world.

    Trump is a human powered by spite and ego, which is a large part of why he ran for President in the first place after the 2011 White House Correspondant’s Dinner where he was humiliated by President Obama.

    The ego driven part of him is also exasperbated by the advisors that have stuck with him while many have left in droves, like John Bolton and Stephen Miller, who would like nothing more than a good old fashioned war or the complete obliteration of the Human Rights Act. For them it is something that they must do in the name of their God or for the sake of their race, and they will say or do whatever it takes to please the man who holds the keys.

    I think a more effective argument to make to not have a deal with Trump is to point to Atlantic City, where his casino failed and he did not pay his contractors. He broke a simple promise to pay them for their hard work, and even then his efforts failed and he lost out. How can we trust a leader who won’t even admit that happened?

  • I was astounded at Trump’s comment about the Irish border which illustrated his ignorance and total lack of diplomacy. Is he that stupid? Wasn’t he briefed? Varadkar was forced to make an inane defence that there are 200 countries in the world and it is impossible to have an understanding of them all !! What a farce.

  • It is of course true – and has been since long before Trump came on the scene – that you can’t expect a worthwhile outcome from any negotiation if you aren’t prepared to walk away without a deal, should the other side prove insufficiently accommodating. But the corollary of that is that you don’t voluntarily start negotiations in the first place unless you can walk away. It was May’s crass error to trigger Article 50 without having first settled back at home what (achievable) outcome she would be seeking, while also committing herself never to revoke the Art. 50 notice. Once the clock had started ticking, she was over a barrel,, and could only get whatever the EU27 chose to offer. Walking away with no deal at all was never a viable option for any responsible politician. And so it has proved.

  • We live in a most unfortunate period of history. Not only is the UK in political meltdown but the world is saddled with a self-obsessed moron for a US President. At the same time, would-be nazis are propagating their hateful messages all over the world and, although they are uncoordinated and fractious, they represent far too many ignorant and foolish electorates. It is, so to speak, a perfect storm of unfortunate situations. but it will pass, just as the Black Death passed, and just as the Second World War eventually drew to its dismal end. What this has shown us is the level of gross stupidity in the world combined with unbelievable mendacity on the part of people who are supposed to represent the finer elements of human society – i.e. our politicians (don’t laugh). Given that governments everywhere have, in the past, usually encouraged bovine docility in their electorate, I’d say this policy, whether deliberate or accidental, is now coming back to bite them firmly on the bum. One last thought; the USA has the largest number of privately held weapons on the globe. I’m amazed that nobody has so far used one of them on Trump.

  • Trump is an unfortunate aberration, albeit a dangerous one, and an unwelcome distraction. Let Farage sup with the devil (or is it the other way round?), if he wishes. Much more pressing in the current Brexit limbo, is the need to hear those public figures who are Remainers, speak out, individually or collectively, for the EU and spell out in simple terms what tangible benefits the EU has brought to the UK in the last 45 years and how far reaching these have been socially and economically.

    Because post-WW2 history and the establishment of the EU is not, extraordinarily, part of our national curriculum, the corresponding ignorance, at all social levels, of the EU and how it works is widespread. Nigel Farage and others feed on that, yet nobody challenges them head-on with the facts that would demolish their posturing at a stroke. It may be a given that Brexit will be hugely and lastingly damaging to the UK, but Remainers need to talk up the EU first and foremost. The default position of Leavers and politicians in any argument is the ‘betrayal of 17.4 million voters’, whose average age is well over 50. Well, my children and grandchildren who treasure the European citizenship they may soon lose, feel betrayed .

  • Please can you stop blaming Brexit on the over 50s. I know many people over 50, even over 80, who voted Remain, and are actively campaigning for a second referendum.