Trader Bets Bitcoin Will Exceed Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Price

This article was originally published on ETFTrends.com.

An anonymous Australian crypto trader went big on Bitcoin, placing a USD $6.3 million bet that the value of the cryptocurrency would trounce the per share price of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway by Dec. 31, 2023. Per a report from Yahoo! Finance, “an anonymous punter made this AUD$8.5 million bet on the belief that bitcoin […]

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Dividend ETFs: Capitalizing on a Trump Bump?

This article was originally published on ETFTrends.com.

President Donald Trump enacted a tax reform plan that allowed companies to repatriate billions of dollars in overseas revenue back home, driving increased demand for dividend stock ETF strategies that cover companies with a new cash infusion to pay back to investors. For example, the iShares Core Dividend Growth ETF (NYSEArca: DGRO), Schwab US Dividend […]

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Here are the biggest hurdles for Doug Ford to turn throne speech into reality

No one could accuse Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government of being unambitious in the agenda set out in its first speech from the throne. 

Lowering electricity bills. Cutting business and personal taxes. Reducing gas prices. Ensuring “long-term stable funding” for the health-care system. Adding 15,000 new, long-term care beds. Launching a commission of inquiry into government finances. Building a “world-class transit system” in the Toronto area. 

And, crossing Ontario’s final frontier: allowing the sale of beer and wine in convenience stores. 

A significant part of the Progressive Conservative agenda involves undoing things the Liberals have done over the past 15 years. Some of that is straightforward. But some of the tasks that Ford has set out for his government will prove far more easily said in a speech than done in reality. 

Take the promise about beer and wine in convenience stores. To the average Ontarian, it’s a simple move (and one that would be welcomed by many folks.) But there is one big legal hurdle: a contract between the province and Brewers Retail (a.k.a. the Beer Store) that doesn’t allow for selling beer from corner stores. It’s locked in until 2025. 

House Leader Todd Smith has admitted it will take time to keep Ford’s promise about allowing wine and beer sales in convenience stores. (CBC)

That means the Ford government will either have to renegotiate the deal, or breach it, and risk the legal consequences. While the agreement opens the door to up to 450 supermarkets to sell beer, it still leaves the Beer Store with a near-stranglehold on the retail market. Why would the company want to renegotiate?

The government’s House Leader Todd Smith admits keeping that promise will take time.

“When it comes to beer and wine in corner stores, it’s not going to be a simple thing,” Smith told CBC News at Queen’s Park on Thursday afternoon, following the speech.

“It’s not something that we re probably going to accomplish in the next few weeks. But it is something that we are committed to bringing to the people of Ontario because that’s what the people of Ontario really want.”

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner says he is not opposed to the sale of beer from corner stores, but says he is concerned it’s another example of the Ford government taking risks by not recognizing contracts. He also points to the withdrawal from the cap-and-trade market and the promised cancellation of a wind-farm project in Prince Edward County.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath speaks to reporters following the Ford government’s throne speech. (CBC)

“These things need to be done in ways that honour existing contracts so we don’t expose [the province] to financial risk,” said Schreiner in an interview after the speech.   

Even the move to scrap the sex-ed curriculum could face a legal hurdle: the Canadian Civil Liberties Association says if the government replaces the current curriculum with the 1998 version as promised, it will launch a legal challenge, arguing the move discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. 

“It’s pretty clear that this government is bent and determined to drag this province down, to take us backwards, to take us into a race to the bottom and pull us into the last century. That’s what this throne speech says to me,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told reporters on Thursday.

You can look to the throne speech for hints of which campaign promises the Ford government is most determined to fulfill. You can also see which promises they’re hedging on. 

Perhaps the most difficult one will be balancing the budget. “The era of accounting tricks and sleight of hand must end,” declares the speech. So no cooking the books to make the numbers look good. 

Without wholesale slashing, it could be a long time before Finance Minister Vic Fedeli gets rid of the deficit. The magnitude of that challenge is acknowledged, subtly, in the speech:

“Ultimately, your government intends to return Ontario to a balanced budget on a timetable that is responsible, modest and pragmatic.”

Try to find “ultimately” on any calendar. 

Ontario Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell delivers the speech from the throne. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

The speech also leaves some questions. One of the biggest: what do the PCs mean by “freeing [police] from onerous restrictions that treat those in uniform as subjects of suspicion and scorn”?

Does that mean the government will end the restrictions on carding? We don’t know, because Community Safety Minister Michael Tibollo was not available to answer questions after the speech. 

With no mention of Indigenous people, no lines spoken in French, and no acknowledgement that climate change exists, the speech was a clear departure from throne speeches during Kathleen Wynne’s run as premier.

After 15 years of Liberals, Ontario voted for a very different kind of government. You could clearly hear that difference in every single minute of this 15-minute speech.

Liberal MP asks Twitter to look at parody account she believes is spewing hate

A Liberal MP who was targeted with hate mail and death threats last year over a motion to condemn Islamophobia and systemic racism has asked Twitter to investigate a parody account she believes has crossed the line from funny to hateful.

The Iqra Khalid account is one of more than 50 parody accounts created by what appear to be critics of the Liberal government, linked online under the hashtag “parodycabinet.” The accounts exploded in late June when Twitter shut down one that veered too close to impersonating Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

While some of the accounts criticize government policy or poke fun at various ministers, the Khalid account points out her Muslim heritage and accuses her of supporting Islamic State militants or Sharia law. At least one parody account of Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, who is also Muslim, features similar sentiments.

Khalid, who represents a riding in Mississauga, Ont., said she didn’t think she would merit a parody account, since she’s not in cabinet. She’d be fine with it, she said — except for the fact this particular account goes too far.

“Everybody has the right to speak their mind, but freedoms come with responsibility and when we have the power to speak we should do it with care,” she said in an interview.

“It’s unfortunate that they are spreading fake news, and sowing fear and division.”

‘I’m not pissed off’

One post she found particularly troubling came from a Hussen parody. It included a photo of a real flyer for her MP barbecue scheduled for this weekend, but called it an “anti-Canadian pro-Islamic Halal BBQ event.”

“I’m not pissed off,” Khalid said. “I just don’t want the continual spread of misinformation.”

The account counts more than 1,000 followers, although at least 50 of them are other parody accounts. Nor will it keep her from doing her work as an MP, she added.

“This isn’t going to slow me down.”

Twitter has already suspended or eliminated several accounts that were the subject of complaints, including at least two parodies of Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

One of them was mistaken by several people for being the actual minister of environment, a violation of Twitter’s policy, triggering its demise and prompting a debate among Liberals and Conservatives alike about government interference in free speech.

Another parody account, this one focused on Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, was recently suspended briefly, then reinstated, prompting the person behind it to vent — anonymously — about freedom of speech.

“Who are you doing these favours for?” the person tweeted in reference to “vigilantes” who are reporting the accounts.

“We are not engaged in hate speech, or discrimination, so you are robbing your own children of the freedom of expression.”

What would military spending at 4% of GDP look like?

U.S. President Donald Trump is demanding Canada and other NATO allies boost their military spending to four per cent of their gross domestic product. Canada spends about 1.2 per cent.

Many politicians and analysts have dismissed the demand as outlandish or impossible. Of course Canada could spend four per cent of its GDP. It’s the how that makes it difficult.

Start with some basic math. Canada’s nominal GDP is $2.1 trillion. Four per cent of that would come in around $84 billion.

Right now Canada spends about $25 billion annually on national defence. The Liberals have promised to increase that to $32 billion. But to reach four per cent, we’re talking about an increase in military spending of about $60 billion from today’s level.

So it’s all about priorities. There’s only so much money to go around, and most of that pie goes to the social programs most Canadians feel define us. So either cut those programs or dramatically raise taxes. But something’s got to give. 

Consider where your tax dollar goes now.

The federal government’s biggest single expense is elderly benefits. This includes Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. Last year, these cost $48.1 billion, or 15 cents of every tax dollar.

The Canada Health Transfer, the Canada Social Transfer and what the government calls “other” transfer payments together make up about $90 billion or nearly 30 per cent of every tax dollar.

(Department of Finance Canada/CBC News)

To increase spending at all, let alone by as much as Trump is suggesting, you have to cut other spending, increase revenues or run a deficit. You can pick a program and cut it, but finding $84 billion out of that pie is no easy task.

“Which part of the pie do you want to want to cut up?” asks Stephen Gordon, economics professor at Laval University in Quebec. “Do you want to pay more taxes? Do you want to spend less?”

Then how would you pay for this?

Well, Gordon says the straightest path would require a tax hike. Raising an additional $55 to $60 billion would take a pretty hefty hike.

Gordon says GST revenues are $37.7 billion for 2018-19, so each percentage point of the five per cent tax is worth about $7.5 billion.

“You’re looking at a GST of roughly 15 per cent,” he says.

“We’re willing to spend lots of money on public health care and lots of money on old age pensions. If we were willing to spend lots of money on military, we would,” says Gordon. “But that would be a political choice.”

(CBC)

And that’s the heart of the matter. In a lot of ways, the public books of any government speak more clearly to intent than any campaign speech or promise following an international meeting. We are what we do, not what we say. Canada spends the vast majority of its money on a social safety net.

If we wanted to spend more money on our military, we would probably have done that by now.

Consider what an additional $60 billion would buy us: 46,000 affordable housing units or 6,500 new water-treatment plants in First Nations communities or 180 Super Hornet fighter jets. It’s all about priorities.

By the time Trump’s two-day visit to NATO wrapped up on Thursday, he was declaring victory, and his allies were seemingly intent on avoiding more confrontation.

“They agreed to pay more, and they agreed to pay it more quickly,” the U.S. president said at the session’s closing news conference.

Some disputed Trump’s account. But most sought a middle road. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would only say that Canada is going to follow through on its promise to meet the two per cent target.

“To reverse the decline in spending and increase our spending towards two per cent. That’s exactly what we are doing,” Trudeau told his news conference.

Trump’s demand may not have been mere politics. The American president is always looking to make a deal. On Thursday he was ready to help NATO countries acquire weapons from the U.S.

Trump promotes the U.S. weapons industry

“The United States makes by far the best military equipment in the world: the best jets, the best missiles, the best guns, the best everything,” said Trump.

The U.S. is, after all, the largest exporter of weapons on the planet. A Swedish report last year found the U.S. was responsible for one-third of all arms exports. American arms exports increased more than 20 per cent over the past decade.

Trump said on Thursday he was more than willing to make some deals for NATO allies looking to increase their military expenditures via the U.S.

“We are not going to finance it for them but we will make sure that they are able to get payments and various other things so they can buy,” he said.

Or here’s a quick fix

​Many of Trump’s more outlandish demands come and go like summer storms. But sometimes they stick or rotate back into the conversation months later.

Just in case they do, economist Mike Moffatt of the Ivey Business School at Western University has a novel plan.

He says Canada should simply conscript everyone over 65, claim all those elderly benefits as military spending and call it a day.

Trump says interview critical of British PM on Brexit is ‘fake news’

U.S. President Donald Trump says a U.K. tabloid published “fake news” when it “left things out” and only reported his critical comments of the U.K. prime minister’s handling of Brexit.

Trump responded to the Sun article, published on Thursday, as he and Theresa May held a joint news conference, following talks at her official country residence in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire county, England, on Friday.

The pair spoke to reporters a day after Trump arrived in the U.K. for a four-day visit, coming off a contentious NATO gathering in Brussels.

Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a joint news conference following their meeting at the U.K. leader’s official country estate, Chequers, on Friday in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire county, England. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Earlier, he spoke of having a “very, very strong” working relationship with May, and she said the U.S. is Britain’s “longest-standing and deepest security and defence partner.” She also credited Trump for pushing NATO partners to increase defence spending.

Trump had told the Sun that May’s Brexit blueprint would “probably kill” any bilateral trade deal with the U.S. At the news conference, he addressed the prime minister and said, “Whatever you do is OK with us … just make sure we can trade together.”

Trump also told the paper he felt “unwelcome” in London after learning of a huge protest that went ahead on Friday, featuring a giant balloon flying over Parliament, depicting him as an angry baby in a diaper.

“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” he said.

Demonstrators fly a blimp portraying U.S. President Donald Trump, in London’s Parliament Square, to mark the U.S. president’s visit. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

Trump, in the interview given before he left Brussels for the U.K., accused May of ruining what her country stands to gain from the Brexit vote to leave the European Union. He said her former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, would make an “excellent” prime minister, speaking just days after Johnson resigned his position in protest over May’s Brexit plans.

Trump, who has compared his own election to the June 2016 referendum in which a majority of British voters supported leaving the EU, complained, “The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on.”

He also told the tabloid that he’d shared advice with May during Britain’s negotiations with the EU and she ignored it.

Trump says Johnson would make great PM

Details from Trump’s interview with the paper became public as Trump was attending a black-tie dinner with May to welcome him to Britain with pomp and pageantry.

As for Johnson, Trump said: “I think he would be a great prime minister. I think he’s got what it takes.” He added, “I think he is a great representative for your country.”

CBC’s Margaret Evans takes a look back at some of Trump’s more contentious statements on the U.K.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement after the tabloid interview was published, saying Trump “likes and respects Prime Minister May very much.

“As he said in his interview with the Sun she ‘is a very good person’ and he ‘never said anything bad about her.’ He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person,” Sanders wrote.

Trump says he doesn’t feel welcome

On Thursday night, hundreds of demonstrators chanted outside the U.S. ambassador’s residence where Trump was staying on the outskirts of London, providing a preview of the forceful protests expected on Friday. On Friday, tens of thousands of protesters marched through London against Trump.

Trump acknowledged he didn’t feel welcome in the city, and blamed that in part on Mayor Sadiq Khan, who gave protesters permission to fly the six-metre-tall balloon depicting Trump as an angry baby.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May hosted dinner for the U.S. President Donald Trump and business leaders as part of the pair’s official visit to the U.K. As Trump was attending the dinner, details from a new Trump interview criticizing May became public. (Ben Stansall/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Trump also blamed recent terrorist attacks there on Khan, who is a Muslim. The president claimed Europe is “losing its culture” because of immigration from the Middle East and Africa.

“Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a sham,” he said. “I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.”

Warm welcome at palace

In contrast to the president’s sharp words, Trump’s first event in England was an oasis of warm greetings at an evening reception at Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Winston Churchill, the larger-than-life British leader cited by the president as a model of leadership. That was just one of several helicopter rides on the agenda for Trump, whose staff opted to keep him largely out of central London and the swarms of demonstrators who are likely to provide some of the defining images of his first official trip to the U.K.

Trump’s Marine One departure from the ambassador’s residence was met by jeers from demonstrators banging pots and pans, and another pack of protesters lined roads near the palace. Some of their signs read “Dump Trump,” `’Lock Him Up” and “There Will Be Hell Toupee.” Police worked overtime, their days off cancelled.

Trump’s visit to the U.K. has so far seen both the pomp of a black-tie dinner and large protests as critics speak out against his policy and presidency. (Hannah McKay/Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Trump was greeted at the palace by May, whose government has been rocked by resignations from ongoing tumult over Brexit.

The outdoor arrival ceremony at Blenheim — Trump wore a tuxedo and Melania Trump a butter-yellow, chiffon, off-the-shoulder gown — was a grand affair marked by a military band in bearskin hats, hundreds of business leaders in black tie and gorgeous setting sunlight.

Head-snapping pivot at NATO summit

The mood was far less jovial in Belgium earlier in the day.

During his 28 hours there, Trump had disparaged longtime NATO allies, cast doubt on his commitment to the mutual-defence organization and sent the 29-member pact into a frenzied emergency session.

Then, in a head-snapping pivot at the end, he declared the alliance a “fine-tuned machine” that had acceded to his demands to speed up increases in military spending to relieve pressure on the U.S. budget. But there was little evidence other leaders had bowed to his wishes on that front.

Trump claimed member nations had agreed to boost their defence budgets significantly and reaffirmed — after days of griping that the U.S. was being taken advantage of by its allies — that the U.S. remains faithful to the accord.

Allies dispute Trump claims

“The United States’ commitment to NATO remains very strong,” Trump told reporters at a surprise news conference following the emergency session of NATO members.

Protesters gathered outside the entrance to Blenheim Palace ahead of the scheduled dinner. (Andrew Matthews/Associated Press)

Neither Trump nor NATO offered specifics on what Trump said he had achieved. French President Emmanuel Macron quickly disputed Trump’s claim that NATO allies had agreed to boost defence spending beyond their existing goal of two per cent of gross domestic product by 2024.

“There is a communique that was published yesterday; it’s very detailed,” Macron said. “It confirms the goal of two percent by 2024. That’s all.”

Supreme Court rules B.C. doesn’t have to disclose health records to cigarette maker

British Columbia does not have to hand over the health care records of millions of patients to tobacco company Philip Morris International, says Canada’s top court.

Friday morning’s unanimous Supreme Court decision clears a hurdle in the province’s quest to sue cigarette companies for billions in health care costs.

Writing for the court, Justice Russell Brown found the health care databases Philip Morris wanted contained information about individuals whose privacy the province is obligated to protect.

The ruling is the latest chapter in B.C.’s legal fight to force cigarette makers like Philip Morris International to compensate the province for the cost of treating tobacco-related illnesses — a battle that started in the late 1990s.

Philip Morris International argued it needs access to individuals’ health data to defend itself in court.

The province’s lawyers argued that releasing individuals’ health information — even anonymously — could violate privacy laws.

B.C. pointed to a provision in its Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act that specifically covers privacy.

Last year, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s decision that agreed with the company, and ruled that to ensure a fair trial, the province needed to hand over the patient data.

The Supreme Court disagreed.

Documents can’t be shared, ruling says

B.C. was the first province to start the litigation process, but every other province has since launched similar cost-recovery cases against the tobacco industry.

Collectively, they’re seeking about $120 billion.

Brown wrote that the lower courts focused on the relevance of the databases rather than the content of the information. He said documents related to individual health care benefits cannot be shared, even if identifying information is removed.

British Columbia did offer Philip Morris access to individual-level Statistics Canada data, under strict controls, but Philip Morris refused.

Brown said Philip Morris could ask for a “statistically meaningful sample.”

Oil falls toward $73 per barrel as supply concerns ease

TOKYO/LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices fell more than 1 percent on Friday, set for a second straight week of decline as Libyan ports reopen and amid hopes that Iran will still export some crude despite U.S. sanctions.

FILE PHOTO: An oil pump is seen operating in the Permian Basin near Midland, Texas, U.S., May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Ernest Scheyder/File Photo

Brent crude LCOc1 was down $1, or 1.3 percent, at $73.45 a barrel by 0840 GMT, heading for a weekly fall of around 4 percent.

U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 lost 22 cents to $70.11, set for a weekly decline of around 5 percent.

Oil approached $80 in June and early July due to Libyan and Venezuelan supply disruptions and fears the United States would press all buyers of Iranian oil to cut imports to zero from November.

But prices weakened in recent days as OPEC member Libya reopened its ports in the east and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would consider granting waivers to some of Iran’s crude buyers.

Prices also slid amid broader market fears that a U.S.-China trade dispute could hit global economic growth.

“While the oil market could not escape the mounting trade tensions and souring sentiment in financial markets, the sell-off was more about signs of rising supplies,” Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke said.

“If Iran was blocked from the market, we believe oil prices would rise toward $90 per barrel, which would cause significant fuel inflation, weigh on consumer and business sentiment and eventually hurt the economy,” he added.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) warned on Thursday that the world was short of spare supply capacity and hence any new disruption could further elevate oil prices.

“Rising production from Middle East Gulf countries and Russia, welcome though it is, comes at the expense of the world’s spare capacity cushion, which might be stretched to the limit,” the Paris-based IEA said in its monthly report.

“This vulnerability currently underpins oil prices and seems likely to continue doing so,” the agency said.

OPEC crude supply (Source: IEA) reut.rs/2NLDrgP

CHART: U.S. oil may retest support at $69.19 bit.ly/2Nbo3sH

CHART: Brent oil may retest support at $72.56 tmsnrt.rs/2NJLFFX

Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick and Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Dale Hudson

Snarling orange ‘Trump baby’ blimp flies outside British parliament

LONDON (Reuters) – Opponents of Donald Trump flew a six-meter blimp depicting the U.S. president as an orange, snarling nappy-wearing baby just outside the British parliament on Friday.

Demonstrators float a blimp portraying U.S. President Donald Trump, next to a Union Flag above Parliament Square, during the visit by Trump and First Lady Melania Trump in London, Britain July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Trump, who arrived in Britain on Thursday, told the Sun newspaper that planned protests against him in London and other British cities made him feel unwelcome so he was avoiding the capital as much as possible.

“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” Trump told the newspaper.

Demonstrators fly a blimp portraying U.S. President Donald Trump, in Parliament Square, during the visit by Trump and First Lady Melania Trump in London, Britain July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

“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?”

Britain regards its close ties with the United States, which it calls the special relationship, as a pillar of its foreign policy and Prime Minister Theresa May has courted Trump ahead of the country’s departure from the European Union.

But some Britons see Trump as crude, volatile, unreliable and opposed to their values on a range of issues. More than 64,000 people have signed up to demonstrate in London against Trump’s visit while other protests are expected around the country.

A few hundred people gathered to watch the blimp launch in Parliament Square, with organizers of the stunt wearing red boiler suits and red baseball caps emblazoned with “TRUMP BABYSITTER”.

Slideshow (9 Images)

After counting down from 10 to 1 a cheer went up as the large balloon rose to fly around 10 meters off the ground, next to parliament and the River Thames.

Organizer Daniel Jones, a charity communications officer aged 26, said they were trying to make people laugh as well as making a serious point.

“It’s also about giving a boost to those in America resisting his policies,” he said. One man dressed as a guerilla and wore a Trump plastic mask, stood inside a large metal cage.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who was criticized by Trump in the Sun interview for failing to control crime and prevent militant attacks, gave his blessing for the blimp to be flown and rejected suggestions this showed a lack of respect to the U.S. president.

“The idea that we restrict freedom of speech, the right to assemble, the right to protest because somebody might be offended is a slippery slope,” he told BBC radio, adding that a protest to welcome Trump was also planned.

“We have a rich history in this country of having a sense of humor as well.”

Reporting by Paul Sandle and Peter Nicholls; editing Guy Faulconbridge

Trump says May’s Brexit plan kills hope of a U.S. trade deal

LONDON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump directly criticized Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, saying it had probably killed off hope of a U.S.-British trade deal and that she had failed to take his advice on how to negotiate with the European Union.

In an interview published just hours before he was due to have lunch with May and tea with Queen Elizabeth on Friday, Trump chided the “very unfortunate” results of the prime minister’s Brexit negotiation.

“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,” Trump told the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun newspaper.

“I would have done it much differently,” he told The Sun, which urged its readers to back Brexit before a referendum in June 2016. “I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t listen to me.”

After a tumultuous week for May, when her Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resigned in protest at the Brexit plan, Trump heaped praise on Johnson, saying he “would be a great prime minister”.

Such public criticism by a sitting U.S. president of a British prime minister while on a visit to the United Kingdom publicly undermines May in her party, her country and abroad.

Sterling fell half a percent to a 1-1/2 week low of $1.3131, partly on Trump’s comments.

  • Snarling orange ‘Trump baby’ blimp flies outside British parliament
  • London mayor says preposterous for Trump to blame crime on immigration
  • May and Trump will have positive trade discussion: UK finance minister Hammond

When asked about the comments, May’s spokesman said she was looking forward to sitting down with Trump to talk him through the negotiating stance.

As Britain prepares to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, supporters of Brexit have made much of the so-called special relationship with the United States and the benefits of forging closer trade ties with the world’s biggest economy.

Many have cast May’s plan as a betrayal, including lawmakers in her divided Conservative Party, who have warned that she might face a leadership challenge.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the president “likes and respects Prime Minister May very much,” adding that he said in the interview she “is a very good person” and that he “never said anything bad about her”.

TRUMP PROTESTS

For supporters, Trump and Brexit offer the prospect of breaking free from what they see as obsolete institutions and rules.

But for many British diplomats, Brexit marks the collapse of a 70-year strategy of trying to balance European integration with a U.S. alliance based on blood, trade and intelligence sharing.

Trump has frequently angered British politicians. Late last year, May criticized him for retweeting a message by a member of a British far-right group, and the speaker of parliament has said Trump would not be welcome to address the chamber.

U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the U.S. Embasssy with the ambassador to Britain, Robert Wood Johnson, London, Britain, July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

More than 64,000 people have signed up to demonstrate in London against Trump’s visit. On Friday, protesters inflated a blimp depicting the U.S. president as an orange, snarling baby just outside the British parliament.

“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” Trump told the Sun.

One of the organizers of the blimp protest said the aim of the stunt was to make people laugh.

“It’s also about giving a boost to those in America resisting his policies,” said Daniel Jones, 26, who wore a red boiler suit and baseball cap emblazoned with “TRUMP BABYSITTER”.

On Thursday, May invoked World War Two leader Winston Churchill as she addressed Trump and business leaders at a black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace, the 18th century country house where Churchill was born.

“Mr. President, Sir Winston Churchill once said that ‘to have the United States at our side was, to me, the greatest joy’,” May told Trump, according to a text of her speech.

“The spirit of friendship and cooperation between our countries, our leaders and our people, that most special of relationships, has a long and proud history,” she said, adding that the United States was “not just the closest of allies but the dearest of friends”.

Outside the mansion, northwest of London, a couple of thousand booing demonstrators lined the road. It was one of more than a hundred protests police expected during Trump’s four-day trip.

Slideshow (5 Images)

“I think it’s a travesty of British values. How can we roll out the red carpet for someone who stands for everything we stand against?” said academic Emily Jones, 40, one of those protesting outside Blenheim Palace.

While Trump’s trip was not the full state visit he was originally promised, he was heralded by military bands on his arrival in the country and at Blenheim, and he is scheduled to take the tea with Queen Elizabeth.

Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden, editing by Larry King and Kevin Liffey