Trump changes tack on deal with UK

He says he looks for­ward to post-Brexit pact, in strik­ing con­trast to re­marks in ear­lier bomb­shell in­ter­view

The Straits Times - - TOPOF THE NEWS -

CHE­QUERS (Bri­tain) British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump worked yes­ter­day to re­pair the dam­age af­ter she was left with a deep­en­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis and a diplo­matic em­bar­rass­ment by a bomb­shell in­ter­view with The Sun pub­lished yes­ter­day.

Mr Trump said he looked for­ward to fi­nal­is­ing a post-Brexit trade deal with Bri­tain, strik­ing a con­trast­ing tone to the news­pa­per in­ter­view in which he said Mrs May’s strat­egy would kill such an agree­ment.

“We want to trade with the UK, and the UK wants to trade with us,” Mr Trump said at a press con­fer­ence with Mrs May in the gar­den of her of­fi­cial coun­try res­i­dence, Che­quers. “The United States looks for­ward to fi­nal­is­ing a great bi­lat­eral trade agree­ment with the United King­dom. This is an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity for our two coun­tries, and we will seize it fully.”

Asked about the in­ter­view, Mr Trump said he did not crit­i­cise the Prime Min­is­ter, and he had a lot of re­spect for her. “Un­for­tu­nately, there was a story that was done which was gen­er­ally fine, but it didn’t put in what I said about the Prime Min­is­ter, and I said a tremen­dous thing. We record when we deal with re­porters – it is called fake news,” he said. He did not elab­o­rate.

With the “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship” thrown into doubt by the in­ter­view, Mr Trump said ties be­tween the two were at the “high­est level of spe­cial”, and said “this in­cred­i­ble woman right here is do­ing a fan­tas­tic job”.

“Once the Brexit process is con­cluded and per­haps the UK has left the EU, I don’t know what they are go­ing to do, but what­ever you do is okay with me, that is your de­ci­sion,” Mr Trump said.

Mrs May like­wise glossed over the com­ments in The Sun. She ac­cen­tu­ated the pos­i­tive, say­ing that “no two coun­tries do more to­gether than ours to keep their peo­ple safe and pros­per­ous”, and gave no hint of anger about the in­ter­view that se­ri­ously un­der­mined her.

“We agreed to­day that as the UK leaves the Euro­pean Union, we will pur­sue an am­bi­tious US-UK free trade agree­ment,” she said.

“The Che­quers agree­ment reached last week pro­vides the plat­form for Don­ald and me to pur­sue an am­bi­tious deal that works for both coun­tries right across our economies,” she added.

Mrs May said at the press con­fer­ence that Bri­tain and the US have agreed that Rus­sia should be en­gaged with “strength and unity”.

Mr Trump will head to Helsinki on Mon­day for meet­ings with Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin of Rus­sia, and he said he would raise the ques­tion of elec­tion med­dling, but he also seemed to sug­gest that there would be lit­tle to learn.

Mr Trump caused tur­moil at a Nato sum­mit a day ear­lier, com­plain­ing about the mil­i­tary spend­ing com­mit­ments of al­liance mem­bers, and he specif­i­cally cited Mrs May’s sup­port in that area yes­ter­day. “The Prime Min­is­ter was right there with me,” he said.

Elab­o­rat­ing on the two lead­ers’ dis­cus­sions on Iran and North Korea, Mr Trump said: “We dis­cussed a range of pri­or­i­ties, in­clud­ing stop­ping nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion. I thanked (Mrs May) for her part­ner­ship in our pur­suit of a nu­clear-free North Korea. We both agreed that Iran must never pos­sess a nu­clear weapon.”

As they spoke, thou­sands of protesters marched against Mr Trump through Cen­tral Lon­don, one of more than 100 demon­stra­tions planned against the Pres­i­dent dur­ing his four-day visit.

“#DumpTrump”, “This is t he car­ni­val of re­sis­tance” and “My mum doesn’t like you! And she likes ev­ery­one”, read some of the signs held up by protesters as they marched down Ox­ford Street to­wards Trafal­gar Square.

“No Trump, no KKK, no fas­cist USA!”, the protesters chanted.

Some protesters banged on pots and pans, oth­ers blew on trum­pets and many held up or­ange “Stop Trump” bal­loons.

Cam­paign­ers else­where in Lon­don flew a “Baby Trump” bal­loon, an act of protest ap­proved by Lon­don Mayor Sadiq Khan, which has proved par­tic­u­larly con­tentious for Mr Trump and his sup­port­ers.

While Mr Trump’s trip was not a full state visit, he has been given red­car­pet treat­ment and was sched­uled to have tea later in the day with Queen El­iz­a­beth at Wind­sor Cas­tle.

PHOTO: EPA-EFE

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May at the start of their bi­lat­eral meet­ings yes­ter­day at Che­quers, the of­fi­cial coun­try res­i­dence of the Prime Min­is­ter. Among those present were US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton (far left) and British For­eign Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt (third from right).

PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Protesters gath­er­ing around a gi­ant bal­loon de­pict­ing US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as an or­ange baby dur­ing a demon­stra­tion against his visit to Bri­tain at Par­lia­ment Square in Lon­don yes­ter­day.

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