President Donald Trump continued his international travel after this week’s NATO summit in Belgium, arriving in the United Kingdom for a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Prior to a joint press conference on Friday, though, a bombshell interview with the U.K. Sun revealed Trump’s harsh assessment of May’s negotiation of her nation’s Brexit campaign.
Apparently concluding that the recently unveiled strategy for Britain’s exit from the European Union was too weak, he claimed that May “didn’t listen” to his input on the matter prior to releasing a document outlining the Brexit approach.
“We are cracking down right now on the European Union because they have not treated the United States fairly on trading,” he said. “No, if they would do that I would say that that would probably end a major trade relationship with the United States.”
“I would have done it much differently,” he continued. “I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me.”
Though some British commentators saw Trump’s remarks as a blow to the strong unified front the U.S. and U.K. have consistently displayed for generations, others dismissed the rhetoric as further evidence of the president’s unorthodox style.
“Donald Trump is in many ways a controversialist,” said Tory Member of Parliament Alan Duncan. “That’s his style, that’s the color he brings to the world stage. He is that sense very unconventional. I don’t think we see it as rude.”
The controversy did not end with Trump’s comments on May’s Brexit strategy. Though he was not entirely critical of the prime minister’s performance, he did offer some praise for former U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
Shortly after May released her plan, Johnson, who was a major proponent of Britain’s effort to leave the E.U., was one of several officials who chose to resign.
Trump referred to Johnson as a rising leader in the U.K. and said he would have performed well in May’s position.
“Well I am not pitting one against the other,” he told The Sun. “I am just saying that he would be a great prime minister. I think he’s got what it takes.”
Against a backdrop of major protests against Trump’s visit to the U.K., Friday’s press conference belied any perceived hostility uncovered in the recent interview.
Trump downplayed his quotes and told one reporter that he did not give May “advice” about the Brexit strategy.
“I did give her a suggestion,” he said. “I wouldn’t say advice. And I think she found it maybe too brutal.”
Though neither leader revealed the details of Trump’s suggestion, he said he could “fully understand why she thought it was a little bit tough.”
Nevertheless, Trump predicted that if the current strategy stalls or fails, May might still consider the harsher approach.
“Maybe someday she will do that,” he said. “If they don’t make the right deal she might very well do what I suggested that she might want to do. But it is not an easy thing.”
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