White House's reaction 'very positive' as invitation extended to join Commonwealth - report

US President Donald Trump's White House is reportedly "very positive" about the invite.
REUTERS

US President Donald Trump's White House is reportedly "very positive" about the invite.

The Royal Commonwealth Society is planning to open a branch in New York with a view to bringing the US into the fold as an "associate member".

The project, said to be backed by the Queen, has come about in part as a result of Donald Trump's fondness for Britain and the Royal Family.

It follows efforts to develop the Commonwealth as a tool for building relationships on foreign policy and trade following Britain's exit from the EU.

British politician Nigel Farage delivered a Commonwealth invite to Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon.
SHANNON STAPLETON/REUTERS

British politician Nigel Farage delivered a Commonwealth invite to Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon.

"The UK rather left this treasure in the attic, and forgot about it because people were so glued to Brussels," said Michael Lake, the director of the Royal Commonwealth Society.

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Opening a branch in the US, Lake said, would further Britain's ties with America, developing new connections between two countries that already share a common language.

Queen Elizabeth has made the strength of the Commonwealth one of her main priorities.
REUTERS

Queen Elizabeth has made the strength of the Commonwealth one of her main priorities.

Lake said the plans had been hastened by the "opportunity of a new president, and the slightly dangerous but great fun opportunity that the 'Bad Boys of Brexit' offered".

In December, Lake wrote a letter to Trump, which was hand-delivered by Andrew Wigmore, an aide to Nigel Farage, and then passed on by the former Ukip leader.

Wigmore joined Farage and Arron Banks, the millionaire businessman, in visiting Trump after the US election and continues to have close ties with the administration.

Farage, who has emerged as an ally of Trump, promoted the idea with senior aides, reportedly presenting the letter to Steve Bannon, the president's chief strategist.

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He believes the Commonwealth alliance fits well with Trump's foreign policy outlook.

The president, for example, is said to have expressed his desire for India to be a "true friend and partner" in a phone call with Narendra Modi, the country's prime minister.

Lake wrote that opening a Commonwealth branch in America would help the UK and the US "find imaginative ways" to work together.

Wigmore told The Daily Telegraph the response from the White House was "very positive".

Although Lake has not yet received a formal confirmation, discussions are said to be under way to establish an office in New York.

It is part of an effort by Lake to raise the profile and relevance of the modern Commonwealth, seeking to make it more active in matters of foreign policy.

"It has been very introspective, it needs to more extrovert," he said. "In that sense we have adopted a policy of getting branches of the Commonwealth in non-Commonwealth countries."

The idea, he said, is to promote "mutually advantageous" links with "reliable friends" around the world on everything from business to defence.

The advantage of the Commonwealth, Lake said, was that it operated less formally than government.

"It works because companies find it easier and more congenial to work in Commonwealth countries," he said.

"The Queen makes it clear to me that the Commonwealth is a priority for her."

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 - The Telegraph

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