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.”