US President Donald Trump blasted British Prime Minister Theresa May, said her recently resigned foreign minister would make a great replacement, and criticized the mayor of London as being “bad on terror,” in comments published as he made his first trip to the UK Thursday.
In an interview with The Sun tabloid published as Trump was attending a gala with May, Trump accused her of ruining what the UK stood to gain from Brexit and said her “soft” blueprint for the UK’s future dealings with the European Union would probably “kill” any future trade deals with the United States.
May was hosting Trump at a black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Britain’s World War II prime minister Winston Churchill — the leader who coined the term “special relationship” for the trans-Atlantic bond.
The Sun said the interview was conducted Thursday in Brussels, before Trump traveled to Britain. His remarks on Brexit came the same day May’s government published long-awaited proposals for Britain’s relations with the EU after it leaves the bloc next year.
The long-awaited document proposes keeping Britain and the EU in a free market for goods, with a more distant relationship for services.
The plan has infuriated fervent Brexit supporters, who think it would limit Britain’s ability to strike new trade deals around the world. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis both quit the government this week in protest.
Trump came down firmly on the side of the Brexiteers, saying what May proposed would hurt the chances of a future trade deal between the UK and the United States.
“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,” he said.
The open attack on his host during a visit expected to be marked by loud and massive protests was likely to cast a heavy shadow over a planned Friday meeting between Trump and May in London, further chilling an already frosty relationship.
Trump, who has compared the June 2016 referendum in which a majority of British voters supported leaving the EU to his own election that year, accused May of abandoning British voters with her Brexit plans.
“The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on,” he said.
He also told the tabloid that he had shared advice with May during Britain’s negotiations with the EU, but said May ignored his advice.
“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 said.
While Trump allowed that May was “a nice person,” he heaped praise on former foreign secretary Johnson, who quit this week as part of a cabinet shakeup over Brexit, and said he would make “a great prime minister.”
Added Trump: “I think he’s got what it takes.”
Asked directly whether he thought Johnson might someday replace May, he declined to comment, saying he wasn’t interested in “pitting one against the other.”
“I have a lot of respect for Boris. He obviously likes me, and says very good things about me,” he said.
Trump also said that he was “very saddened” to see Johnson was leaving government and said he hoped “he goes back in at some point.
“I think he is a great representative for your country,” he said.
Trump said he would be spending little time in London because of protests against him planned there, which an include a blimp made to look like an infant version of the president.
“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London. 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?”
On Thursday night, several protesters gathered outside Winfield House, where Trump is staying, banging pots and blowing vuvuzelas in the hopes of keeping him awake.
— j.d. durkin (@jiveDurkey) July 12, 2018
Trump blamed London Mayor Sadiq Khan for allowing the protests and blasted the city’s first Muslim leader as weak on terror and crime.
“Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place. Look at what is going on in London. I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism,” he said.
Khan in the past has publicly feuded with Trump after the president criticized him over the city’s response to a terror attack.
“I think he has not been hospitable to a government that is very important. Now he might not like the current president, but I represent the United States,” Trump said.
Trump blamed the city’s woes on immigration, and said it was a “shame” Europe was letting in so many migrants.
“I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad,” he said. “I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.”