LET’S call it as it is – America is in one almighty mess right now. From nationwide protests at home against institutionalised racism, to the utter chaos in dealing with the Covid -19 pandemic and dangerously deteriorating relations with China, this is a country that has lost its way.

Frankly, you would need to be pretty dumb to imagine that the United States is a country the rest of us should do political business with right now, let alone aspire to or emulate.

There are those, of course, who will instantly insist that there was never any value in doing that in the first place. They will tell you that the US was always fundamentally flawed in so many ways that it was never really worthy of the envy with which some nations looked upon it.

It’s a valid point, but at the same time it would be foolish to underestimate the need the world has of this giant nation which, when at its best, has helped keep the global moral compass pointing in the right direction.

But that is not the America we are seeing today; far from it. Under the presidency of Donald Trump, this is a country that has been inexorably abdicating its status as a leader of the free world.

Indeed you could go further and argue that America’s own authoritarian drift under the current administration has pushed the needle on that same moral compass in a direction more akin to those regimes Washington once stood against in defence of democratic values.

Trump is not a man who engenders accord. He has, in effect, turned into a major disrupter of the post-1945 international order. That same international order was one to which the UK had been deeply committed, be it through the Atlantic alliance, the UN, the World Trade Organisation and, until recently, the EU.

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But long before the multiple crises now facing America, Trump was far from endearing himself to transatlantic unity. Indeed it was only a few months ago that the US president spent much of this March 11 Oval office address on the coronavirus blaming Europeans for its spread in the US.

The EU had “failed to take the same precautions” as America, he told us, prompting his decision to temporarily suspend travel between the two continents.

That the restrictions initially didn’t apply to the UK (though this changed) were doubtless in great part because Trump identified in Boris Johnson an ally, someone on whom he could rely upon to stick it to the EU as Britain went careering into Brexit.

For his part Johnson duly signed up to this pact, hitching his UK wagons to a train of Washington horses when it came to prospective trade and foreign policy positioning.

That the UK was likely to be reined in or wrenched in the wrong direction by its US driver was always a given.

Then along came the pandemic, and the world that the Tory Government imagined in 2016 would welcome post-Brexit Britain, outward looking and “unchained” from the EU, vanished before its eyes. The crisis also duly confirmed what many had suspected all along, exposing both Trump and Johnson for the incompetents and deceivers that they are. Which brings us to where Britain is are right now, and where it might head in terms of post-pandemic US-UK relations.

The National:

If one thing is obvious it’s that the UK should give Trump’s version of American trade deals the widest possible berth. Johnson’s government, too, must ensure that it doesn’t become even more beholden to the loose cannon that currently passes for US foreign policy. But I’m not holding my breath on either.

It’s not that long ago that, under the benign-sounding “Global Britain” slogan, the Tories imagined a world in which deep, positive economic ties would be possible with the US, China and others.

They could do this, too, they hoped while still relying on the security umbrella that the so-called “special relationship” with the US always provided.

But the goalposts have shifted on the Tory Government’s notion that Britain could do business with both the US and China and it be win-win all round for the UK.

Trump now sees it differently as far as China’s concerned. In part it’s because of the Asian giant’s perceived responsibility for the worldwide pandemic, but also because Beijing-bashing is a crucial part of Trump’s own re-election campaign.

That Trump expects Johnson and the UK to fall into place behind him on declaring a diplomatic and trade war with China goes without saying.

That much was obvious long before things worsened to the point they are now when the US upped the pressure on the Tory Government not to reach an agreement with Huawei to provide the UK’s 5G telecoms network.

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It’s generally acknowledged that since then the Trump administration has been privately pressing the UK in bilateral trade talks in what amounts to an ultimatum to Johnson of choosing between Beijing and Washington.

The question now is which way Johnson will jump even if, as many of our European neighbours have pointed out, it doesn’t have to be that way.

As the Financial Times rightly observed last month, neither the Americans nor the Chinese are likely to commit to comprehensive new trade ties with the UK until there is more legal clarity on the future of the EU-British relationship.

While negotiations between the UK and EU on their long-term, post-Brexit arrangements remain mired in mutual mistrust, their still remains an opportunity here.

On the face of it, Brexit might appear a fait accompli, but in this post-pandemic sphere there is room for manoeuvre should Johnson want to look again at the UK’s links with Europe.

He could, if he wanted, even put some clear blue water between the UK and Trump’s America when it comes to trade and diplomacy right now, keeping doors open with the EU instead.

Whether Johnson’s Government would be willing to seize such an opportunity is, of course, an altogether different matter and highly unlikely, given their slavish devotion to Brexit and accommodating Trump.

But there are two lessons out of all of this, not least for a Scotland seeking independence and remaining part of the EU.

The first is that America’s mess is a sharp reminder why our fortunes would be better served by remaining within the European fold.

And the second lesson is that this Tory Government, blinkered as it is by kowtowing to Trump, is never going to allow Scotland or the wider UK to do just that.