Donald Trump (C) and First Lady Melania Trump (L) walk on the tarmac with US Ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson (R) as they disembark Air Force One at Stansted Airport, north of London on Thursday as he begins his first visit to the UK as US president. (AFP)
US President Donald Trump’s British hosts were taken aback when within hours of landing on an official visit on Thursday, he reportedly criticised Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans, tore into London mayor Sadiq Khan and said Boris Johnson would make a ‘great prime minister’.
Trump’s intervention, seen as extraordinary and breaking normal diplomatic norms by criticising hosts, was made in a detailed interview with The Sun, which released it as Trump, May and others met for dinner at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
If May went ahead with the ‘soft Brexit’ plan outlined last Friday that led to the resignation of Johnson as foreign secretary and Brexit secretary David Davis it will “kill” any prospect of a US-UK trade deal, Trump warned in the interview conducted in Brussels before he flew into Stansted airport.
A trade deal with the US is supposed to be the big prize of Brexit, with its potential for largely compensating for the economic loss that would ensue by exiting the European Single Market. Trump’s words poured cold water on May’s latest plans.
‘Told May How To Do It’
May’s plan to be put to Brussels shortly envisages continued trade and economic links with the EU, as demanded by British companies that operate across Europe and have supply chains in various countries in the continent.
Trump said: “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal. If they do that, then their trade deal with the US will probably not be made”.
May’s plan “will definitely affect trade with the United States, unfortunately in a negative way”, he said, and added: “We have enough difficulty with the European Union. We are cracking down right now on the European Union because they have not treated the United States fairly on trading”.
“No, if they do that, I would say that that would probably end a major trade relationship with the United States. I would have done it (Brexit) much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me. She wanted to go a different route.
“I would actually say that she probably went the opposite way. And that is fine. She should negotiate the best way she knows how. But it is too bad what is going on,” he said.
Trump, who predicted the Brexit vote in the 2016 referendum, also questioned whether May’s Brexit plan upholds the referendum result: “The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on.”
“It was not the deal that was in the referendum. I have just been hearing this over the last three days. I know they have had a lot of resignations. So a lot of people don’t like it,” he said, but insisted that May is a “very good person. I get along with her very nicely”.
Shocked at the criticism, Downing Street quoted May as saying: “We have come to an agreement at the proposal we’re putting to the European Union which absolutely delivers on the Brexit people voted for. They voted for us to take back control of our money, our law and our borders and that’s exactly what we will do.”
‘Sadiq Khan Has Done A Bad Job’
According to Trump, London mayor Sadiq Khan has “done a very bad job on terrorism”. He went on: “Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place. Look at what is going on in London. I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism”.
“I think he has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in,” he said.
Khan and Trump have clashed in the past. As mayor, Khan has allowed an anti-Trump blimp protest to go ahead, which has added to the president’s assessment that he is not welcome in London.
Trump said: “I think he has not been hospitable to a government that is very important. Now he might not like the current President, but I represent the United States. I also represent a lot of people in Europe because a lot of people from Europe are in the United States.”
“I used to love London as a city. I haven’t been there in a long time. But when they make you feel unwelcome, why would I stay there?” he asked.
‘Boris Johnson Has What It Takes To Be A Great PM’
Trump went on to describe Johnson as “a very talented guy”, adding: “I like him a lot. I have a lot of respect for Boris. He obviously likes me, and says very good things about me. I was very saddened to see he was leaving government and I hope he goes back in at some point. I think he is a great representative for your country.”
Asked if Johnson could be in No 10, Downing Street one day, he replied: “Well I am not pitting one against the other. I am just saying I think he would be a great Prime Minister. I think he’s got what it takes.”>
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