AILSA CHANG, HOST:
British Prime Minister Theresa May says she's looking forward to hosting President Trump in the United Kingdom tomorrow after the NATO summit concludes. She said the two leaders have much to discuss. Trump, for his part, has sounded less diplomatic. He noted the other day that May's government was somewhat in turmoil over Brexit, and he predicted that he'd find it easier to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The relationship between the U.K. and the U.S. runs deep, but NPR's Alice Fordham suggests the allies may need some relationship counseling.
ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: Before we get on to the politics, we could just remember for a moment how strong cultural bonds are between Britain and America.
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BRIAN PETERS: (Singing) The first of the men was a bumblebee, jow-lee, jow-wee (ph). The first of the men was...
FORDHAM: This is an Appalachian version of an old English folk song being sung by Brian Peters, who studies how British ballads made their way into the American countryside and formed the roots of bluegrass and other genres. And it's not just the songs. Many American people have British roots. The countries share a language, and it was Winston Churchill who made this phrase famous in a speech in Missouri.
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WINSTON CHURCHILL: A special relationship between the British commonwealth and empire and the United States of America.
FORDHAM: That was after the two countries fought shoulder to shoulder in the Second World War. And security cooperation is still a cornerstone.
SHASHANK JOSHI: You know, they trust us with stuff on intelligence. They trust us on issues to do with nuclear missiles in a way that they don't trust any other country.
FORDHAM: This is Shashank Joshi, a security analyst who adds the Brits these days are anxious about how long these close security ties will last.
JOSHI: What they worry about is that Trump will wake up one day and say, hey, why do we give all this stuff to the Brits?
FORDHAM: Which is why Prime Minister Theresa May says she'll make it a priority to talk about defense cooperation with Trump. Another aspect of the relationship that's really important to Britain is trade. Britain's trading future with Europe is unclear, muddied by Brexit. The U.K. is looking to the U.S. market, as Bronwen Maddox from the Institute of Government (ph) tells me.
BRONWEN MADDOX: There is definitely a sense that Britain needs America more because of Brexit, that Britain is going to have to look right round the world for allies, you know, with which to do trade deals.
FORDHAM: For example, the American market for British gin has exploded in the last decade and is now worth more than $200 million a year.
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FORDHAM: And to British business owners, that's a big deal, as distiller Jake Tuckey tells me over a gin and tonic.
JAKE TUCKEY: They've been drinking a lot more of our stuff over there. People like the whole image of gin being this very kind of traditional London spirit. So, yeah, it's a market we're obviously hoping to get into.
FORDHAM: But despite all these good reasons to nurture the special relationship, Britons will greet the president with vociferous protests. Organizer Zoe Gardner says she sees no reason to cultivate ties with a man whose policies she considers unconscionable.
ZOE GARDNER: It is in the interest of the U.K. to stand up and take a firm moral stance. We are at a very key point in history right now, and we need to take a stand.
FORDHAM: It's not just protest organizers. Members of Parliament have called out Trump for separation of migrant families and detention of children, for praising North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Mrs. May justifies receiving him by saying that once Trump is here, she can raise all those issues with him. She will host him for a gala dinner and a meeting outside the capital. Then he plans to take afternoon tea with the queen before heading to Scotland and his golf course. Alice Fordham, NPR News, London.
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