May tries to limit damage after Trump's Brexit attack

US President Donald Trump (left) attacked Britain Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit policy and took a swipe at British immigration policy.
US President Donald Trump (left) attacked Britain Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit policy and took a swipe at British immigration policy.PHOTO: NYTIMES

LONDON • British Prime Minister Theresa May sought to limit the damage from US President Donald Trump's outspoken attack on her Brexit policy yesterday as she met him for talks at her country retreat.

Mr Trump warned in a newspaper interview - published just after she had entertained him at a black-tie dinner - that her European Union (EU) divorce plan will likely end hopes of a British trade deal with the United States.

He also said she had failed to take his advice and took a swipe at British immigration policy, which Mrs May was in charge of before becoming prime minister.

"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," Mr Trump said in the interview in The Sun newspaper published yesterday.

He told the tabloid that it was not what Britons backed when they voted in a June 2016 referendum to quit the EU. He also said erstwhile foreign minister Boris Johnson, who resigned this week over the Brexit plan, would make "a great prime minister".

Referring to the Brexit blueprint published by the government on Thursday, which calls for close trading links with the EU after Brexit, Mr Trump said: "The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on... 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.

"I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn't agree, she didn't listen to me," he told The Sun.

 
 
 

"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."

In contrast, he praised Mr Johnson, who Mr Trump said he would like to meet during his time in Britain. "I think he has got what it takes, and I think he has got the right attitude to be a great prime minister," he said.

Mr Trump's comments undermined the British Prime Minister as she faces speculation of a leadership challenge from eurosceptics in her Conservative Party following the resignations of Mr Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis.

Britain's Junior Foreign Minister Alan Duncan sought to brush off the remarks, telling BBC Radio: "Donald Trump is a controversialist, that is his style... I don't think we see it as rude."

Mr Duncan suggested the President had not seen the details of the plan when he gave the interview on Wednesday, while also stressing that the much-vaunted special relationship was about much more than Brexit.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2018, with the headline 'May tries to limit damage after Trump's Brexit attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe