Trump Praises May's Likely Successors, Says He Would Have Sued EU Over Brexit
Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET
President Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May discussed Brexit, business ties and the relationship between the U.S. and U.K. during a summit Tuesday, marking something of a final hurrah for May, who is resigning on Friday after failing to secure a Brexit deal.
Trump called the relationship between the U.S. and U.K. "the greatest alliance the world has ever known." At a news conference, Trump also praised the men who want to succeed May as prime minister.
While Trump's arrival Monday was marked by ceremony and spectacle, he and May focused on the road ahead, as the U.K. prepares to leave the European Union. In the past, the thorny Brexit issue has fueled awkward interactions between Trump and May: Last summer, Trump sharply criticized May's failure to make a deal, saying she hadn't listened to his advice.
At the time, Trump also said May's top Conservative rival, Boris Johnson, would "make a great prime minister." And he repeated that sentiment Tuesday.
In a joint news conference at the U.K. Foreign Office, May reiterated that she believes the EU exit plan her government has negotiated is a good deal. As for whether she should have taken Trump's advice, she recalled that he had suggested she sue the EU — and she said that by not taking that step, she had landed a good deal.
"I would have sued, but that's OK," Trump said, shrugging his shoulders as the audience chuckled.
Saying May is probably a better negotiator than him, Trump said a Brexit deal is "teed up." Turning to May, he added, "Perhaps you won't be given the credit that you deserve, if they do something. But I think you deserve a lot of credit. I really do."
Trump said he had correctly predicted the outcome of the U.K.'s watershed 2016 vote to leave the EU. He later added, "I think it will happen, and I believe the prime minister has brought it to a really good point, where something will take place in the not-too-distant future."
Another question for Trump touched on a phone call he had with Boris Johnson during this state visit. Media outlets have reported that Trump sought a meeting with Johnson — who said he was tied up with other matters.
"I know Boris. I like him, I've liked him for a long time. He's — I think he would do a very good job."
Acknowledging one of Johnson's rivals for the post, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in the front row, Trump continued, "I know Jeremy, I think he'd do a very good job."
As for Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Trump said, "I don't know Michael. But — would he do a good job, Jeremy? Tell me," he said, as the audience laughed.
The first question of the news conference touched on London Mayor Sadiq Khan — who reignited his feud with Trump on Sunday, in an essay criticizing the U.S. president. Trump responded by calling Khan a "stone cold loser."
"He should be positive, not negative," Trump said of Khan. "He's a negative force, not a positive force."
Trump was also asked about Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party who spoke out against Trump during a large protest in Trafalgar Square.
"He wanted to meet with me and I told him no," Trump said of Corbyn. He added, "I decided that I would not do that. I think that he is, from where I come from, somewhat of a negative force. I think that people should look to do things correctly, as opposed to criticize. I really don't like critics as much as I like and respect people that get things done."
Standing alongside May, Trump was also asked about the U.S. threat to withhold intelligence from any allies who use the Chinese electronics giant Huawei to build their 5G networks — and if the U.S. is prepared to keep some secrets away from its British allies.
"No, because we're going to have absolutely an agreement on Huawei and everything else. We have an incredible intelligence relationship," Trump said. There would be "absolutely no limitations," he added.
Trump also said he hadn't seen the street protests against his visit, saying that instead of angry demonstrators and signs, he had seen thousands of people cheering, including some who waved American flags.
"I didn't see the protests until just a little while ago, and it was a very, very small group of people, put in for political reasons. So, it was fake news."
Down the street from the prime minister's compound, protesters had gathered to demonstrate against the U.S. president's policies, climate change, the complicated mess of Brexit — or some combination of all of the above. As happened during Trump's visit last summer, the demonstration included a small blimp depicting Trump as a baby.
After the news conference, the Trumps and Mays left to visit the Churchill War Rooms. On Tuesday night, the Trumps will host a dinner at Winfield House, the U.S. ambassador's residence, where the guests of honor will include Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall.
In addition to a lunchtime visit to the prime minister's official residence, the two leaders held a larger discussion at St James's Palace in London, with Ivanka Trump and other administration officials sharing a large table with the CEOs of large British companies such as Barclays and the drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline.
At the morning business summit, Trump said he's optimistic about reaching a bilateral trade agreement with the U.K.
"I think we'll have a very, very substantial trade deal," Trump said. "It'll be a very fair deal, and I think that this is something that your folks want to do, my folks want to do, and we want to do, and we're going to get it done."
Opening the meeting, May emphasized the substantial business relationship between the U.S. and U.K.
"Our trade between our nations last year worth almost $240 billion," May said. She later added, "British companies employ a million citizens in the U.S. And every morning, a million people here in the U.K. go to work for American companies."
May also noted that many world leaders are converging on the U.K. this week, as part of celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of the Allies' pivotal D-Day invasion of World War II. Trump will take part in a D-Day ceremony in Portsmouth, England, on Wednesday, before flying to France for a brief visit with French President Emmanuel Macron.
The U.S.-U.K. summit comes just three days before May is slated to leave office, having announced her resignation last month. In an apparent nod to her exit, Trump praised her on Tuesday.
"I'd just like to congratulate you on having done a fantastic job on behalf of the people of the United States and it's an honor to have worked with you," Trump told May. "I don't know exactly what your timing is, but stick around. Let's do this deal, OK?"
First lady Melania Trump accompanied the president on the short trip from the palace discussion to 10 Downing Street, where a red carpet was rolled out to greet them.
The Trumps posed for photos with May and her husband, Philip, before going on a tour of the famous residence. At one point, the two world leaders paused to look at a copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, from the time of the former British colony's national founding.
"It's a fascinating document, we think it has been in the U.K. for about 200 years," May said, according to a pool report.
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