YET again, via the calm and cloistered medium of Twitter, President Trump has returned to his obsession with tariffs. This time his target is Mexico: beginning on June 10 the US will impose a five per cent tariff on all goods “coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP”. The tariffs would increase until the “Illegal Immigration problem is remedied”, at which point they would be removed.

Not for the first time, Mr Trump has with a tweet cheered his loyal conservative media echo-chamber and his legions of supporters, who are already gearing up for the 2020 election. Liberal opinion in the States is aghast: it has been pointed out more than once that swingeing tariffs on Mexican goods would end up hurting US consumers and businesses. The markets themselves were spooked by Mr Trump’s statement.

Now the president is bound for Britain on a visit that is already proving highly controversial. He will be greeted by the Queen, the Prince of Wales, Theresa May and high-profile business leaders. He will attend a state banquet, visit Westminster Abbey and observe an event marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

It plainly sticks in many people’s throats that a man they deem objectionable (to use one of their milder epithets) should be feted like this. Jeremy Corbyn and Speaker John Bercow will boycott the state banquet.

Large-scale protests will dog his every move. Many Britons view with contempt what has been described, by the commentator Medhi Hasan, as “the rise and rise of the British Trumps, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage”, both of whom Mr Trump counts as friends. To actually welcome Mr Trump himself into our midst feels like a step too far for many.

For millions of Americans, who view with distaste their belligerent, swaggering president, the 2020 election cannot come quickly enough.

For all this, there is a case to be made that it is time to treat the president as a friend insofar as trade is concerned. Britain, in a self-induced, never-ending turmoil of its own, needs all the allies it can get in this field.

The Conservatives have embarked on a lengthy process to find a new Prime Minister. Many of the frontrunners are happy with the prospect of a no-deal Brexit; despite their sang-froid, it is difficult not to feel twinges of genuine alarm at the prospect. The CBI warns that a no-deal outcome would inflict severe damage on British businesses. The prolonged leadership campaign and its inevitable mutual sniping will do nothing to calm nerves.

Meanwhile, there is evidence that President Trump’s lifelong pro-business instincts are having a beneficial effect on the US economy. Joblessness is at a five-decade low and wages are starting to increase. The FT says the economy is expected to continue to grow steadily over the next few years, outpacing many other western countries.

With his gung-ho attitude towards free trade, his enthusiasm for Brexit, and his apparent willingness to do a free-trade deal with Britain, Mr Trump may be useful for a country drowning in Brexit uncertainty. His national security adviser, John Bolton, says Britain remains the US’s staunchest ally and that the president “is prepared to help out in any way he can”. In trade if nothing else, this might be a friendship worth taking seriously.

Positive access

COMMENT is free, but facts are sacred, the great newspaper editor CP Scott wrote in 1921. The truth of that dictum is as true today as it was then, if not more so. The initiative of to offer its content free of charge to colleges and universities across Scotland is a small but important step forward. CP Scott himself, we suspect, might have approved.