Donald Trump has insisted the US-UK relationship is “the highest level of special”, hours after he told the Sun Theresa May’s Brexit plan would kill a trade deal between the countries.
Speaking alongside the PM, Mr Trump said Brexit was an “incredible opportunity” and “whatever” the UK did after it left the EU was “OK with me”.
Mrs May said they had discussed plans for an “ambitious” trade agreement.
Thousands of people are protesting in central London against his visit.
A large balloon, portraying the president as a baby, has been floated in Parliament Square as part of the demonstrations. Other protests are due to take place across the UK on Friday and Saturday.
At a news conference following talks at the prime minister’s country residence, Chequers, Mr Trump also said:
- He “didn’t criticise” the prime minister in the Sun and insisted he had a “lot of respect” for her
- The Sun interview was “generally fine” but missed out his positive comments about Mrs May – so amounted to “fake news”
- He had also said “this incredible woman right here is doing a fantastic job, a great job”
- The US is looking forward to finalising a “great” bilateral trade agreement with UK
- He had not given Mrs May advice on how to deal with the EU but “did give her a suggestion”
Mrs May said the US was “keen” to do a deal with the UK, adding: “We will do a trade deal with them and with others around the rest of the world”.
She maintained the government’s Brexit agreement “delivers” on the referendum vote.
Earlier, Mr Trump said they had discussed “some incredible anti-terrorism things”.
He also said he and Mrs May had spoken for an hour and a half at the black-tie dinner, which he attended with his wife Melania at Blenheim Palace on Thursday evening.
“I think we probably never developed a better relationship than last night,” he said.
Mr Trump arrived at the prime minister’s Buckinghamshire residence by helicopter after visiting the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, Berkshire, on Friday morning.
Meanwhile, First Lady Melania Trump played bowls with the PM’s husband, Philip May, at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London. She met Chelsea Pensioners and local children.
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During Thursday’s dinner, news broke that the Sun had published its interview with the president.
Mr Trump – who has been a long-time supporter of Brexit – said Mrs May had not listened to his advice on how to do a Brexit deal, saying: “I would have done it much differently.”
Mr Trump also said that former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – who disagrees with the PM on Brexit and resigned this week – would make a “great prime minister”, adding: “I think he’s got what it takes.”
And he renewed his criticism of London Mayor Sadiq Khan over last year’s terror attacks in London, saying he had done “a terrible job”.
After it was published, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the president “likes and respects Prime Minister May very much”, adding that he had “never said anything bad about her”.
Tom Newton Dunn, the Sun journalist who interviewed Mr Trump, said the US president seemed “sensitive” and knew about the “Trump baby” inflatable.
“He’s really quite stung by the criticism he’s been getting,” said Mr Newton Dunn. “He knew all about the baby blimp. I think it hurt him.”
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Extra security is in place to police protests planned for the second day of Mr Trump’s visit.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan defended his decision to allow the giant Trump baby inflatable to fly and on the president’s criticism of his response to terrorism said it was “interesting” that the mayors of other cities which have experienced attacks were not mentioned.
Meanwhile, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said the PM “should be standing up to [Mr Trump]” after he “slagged her off”, instead of holding his hand.
The president and first lady will travel to Windsor on Friday afternoon to meet the Queen, before flying to Scotland to spend the weekend at Mr Trump’s Turnberry golf resort. This part of the visit is being considered private.
Donald Trump: US-UK relationship is ‘highest level of special’