Trump ‘wrong’ on tweets but US-UK relations will endure: May

Mr Donald Trump met Mrs Theresa May in January. She stood her ground after a rebuke from the US leader over her condemnation of his actions, saying that his retweeting of anti-Muslim videos was wrong.
Mr Donald Trump met Mrs Theresa May in January. She stood her ground after a rebuke from the US leader over her condemnation of his actions, saying that his retweeting of anti-Muslim videos was wrong. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

British PM stresses strength of bilateral ties, but defends her record on fighting extremism

LONDON • Prime Minister Theresa May again said that US President Donald Trump was wrong to retweet anti-Muslim videos posted by a British far-right group, after he told her to focus on her own affairs, but stressed that the US-UK relationship would endure.

Mrs May’s initial condemnation prompted an extraordinary rebuke from the US leader, who told her on Twitter: “Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom.”

Speaking to reporters during a trip to Jordan, Mrs May stood her ground, defending her record on tackling extremism – including by the far right – while emphasising the strength of British-US ties.

“I’m very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do,” she said, describing the group as a “hateful” organisation that “seeks to spread division”.

But she stressed that Britain and America have “a long-term special relationship... It is an enduring relationship that is there because it is in both our nations’ interests”.

Mr Trump’s retweets of a group known for its aggressively anti-Muslim stance have drawn condemnation in the US and in Britain, where there were renewed calls for his planned state visit to be cancelled.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has himself been involved in a string of spats with Mr Trump, said the President’s actions were “a betrayal of the special relationship between our two countries”.

Mrs May was the first foreign leader to visit Mr Trump following his inauguration in January, where she offered him a prestigious state visit to Britain including a welcome by Queen Elizabeth II.

WRONG THING TO DO

The fact that we work together does not mean we’re afraid to say when we think the US has got it wrong and we’re very clear with them. I’m very clear that retweeting Britain First was the wrong thing to do.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY, rebutting Mr Trump's criticisms.

The videos Mr Trump retweeted, purporting to show assaults by Muslims, were posted by Britain First’s deputy leader Jayda Fransen, who has been convicted of a hate crime and faces new charges in a trial starting this month.

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt added that Mr Trump’s tweets were “alarming and despairing”, while angry opposition MPs called Interior Minister Amber Rudd to make an emergency statement to the House of Commons.

Addressing lawmakers, Ms Rudd asked them to “look at the wider picture”, saying UK-US intelligence sharing had “undoubtedly saved British lives”.

But while she too emphasised the importance of bilateral ties, Mrs May rejected Mr Trump’s criticism that she was not focused on tackling extremism, following a string of attacks in Britain this year.

“As Prime Minister, I am very clear about the priority that I give to dealing with the challenge of the threat of terrorism,” she said.Before Mr Trump’s latest missive, the White House had scrambled to limit the fallout, saying that even if the videos were misleading, “the threat is real”.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2017, with the headline 'Trump ‘wrong’ on tweets but US-UK relations will endure: May'. Print Edition | Subscribe