Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House may have driven a wedge between Washington and Europe, but it is fundamental changes in demographics and the weakening of institutions like Nato that pose the greatest long-term threat to transatlantic relations, a leading think tank has warned.
A report from Chatham House said migration patterns were having a far more profound impact in the US and Europe than the election of Mr Trump.
“The increase in Latin American and Asian groups in the US, and to a lesser extent, Middle Eastern populations in Europe is likely to cause the US and Europe to continue to diverge in terms of their regional interests and attention,” said Xenia Wickett, an international relations expert who authored the report.
The US Hispanic population has grown in recent years, with one in five Americans now from the Latino community. That has coincided with a surge in the flow of refugees and migrants to Europe from the Middle East, triggered by wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ms Wickett, head of the US and Americas programme at Chatham House, said the election of Mr Trump would cause “real and meaningful shorter-term disruptions” but that he posed “less of a long-term threat to the relationship between the US and Europe”.
The report noted: “While many fear that Trump’s presidency will lead to a permanent decline in the transatlantic relationship and that the Trump years may be fundamentally different from anything that has gone before, history suggests otherwise.
“While his policies may have reverberations beyond his time in office, there is no reason to believe that the consequences are likely to be profound and long-lasting for the fundamental interests of the transatlantic relationship.”
The decline of international institutions is highlighted as a secondary trigger of US-European divergence.
Organisations and treaties, including Nato, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, are “perceived as unable to meet today’s challenges”, wrote Ms Wickett.
“As their relevance declines, so they weaken as levers of transatlantic cooperation.”
The report also said the likelihood of a post-Brexit deal with the US had been thrown into doubt, with political uncertainty causing agreements on free trade and environmental protections to “halt or even go into reverse”.
“With the EU currently looking inward, and President Trump’s antipathy to a number of historically common US–European interests – from Nato to the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Agreement and the decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – the continuation of close transatlantic collaboration is in question,” she wrote.
The British Government has defended moves to court Mr Trump, including with an invitation for a state visit later this year, saying it was crucial to secure a favourable post-Brexit trade deal.
But the Chatham House report noted Mr Trump may be less pivotal to the future of the UK-US “special relationship” than Theresa May has suggested.
At the weekend, Jeremy Corbyn said Britain’s relationship with the US was “culturally and economically significant” but not necessarily the most important.
“I think there are many important relationships,” he said.
In contrast, Ms May has defended close ties to the US, saying she and Mr Trump “work very well together”.