— U.S. President Donald Trump began talks Friday with British Prime Minister Theresa May at her retreat in Chequers, after a rather frank interview he gave to a newspaper that renounced her Brexit plan.
Trump held nothing back during the interview with Britain’s The Sun, saying a new trade deal with the United States was unlikely because of May’s Brexit negotiation tactics.
In the piece, Trump gave May advice on how to handle the exit from the European Union and said he “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. She wanted to go a different route,” he told the paper.
Trump also said former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who quit this week over May’s Brexit plan, would make a “great prime minister.”
“I think he’s got what it takes.”
“I have a lot of respect for Boris. He obviously likes me and says very good things about me,” he added. “I was very saddened to see he was leaving government, and I hope he goes back in at some point.”
The interview was so surprising, Trump’s press officer Sarah Sanders issued a statement overnight Thursday to clarify the president’s attitude toward May.
“The president 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,” Sanders said. “He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person. He is thankful for the wonderful welcome from the Prime Minister here in the U.K.”
Trump first met May Thursday night and the pair spoke for about 90 minutes and attended a state dinner. Trump said the discussion “was really something.” Friday, the two held more talks on more issues.
“Today we’re talking trade, we’re talking military, we just moved some incredible anti terrorism things. …The relationship is very, very strong,” Trump told reporters. “Right now we’re going to be talking about some things taking place in the Middle East and elsewhere.”
Trump’s visit to Britain followed two days of a NATO summit in Belgium, where the U.S. president shook up the conference with rhetoric about other members failing to meet fiscal defense requirements, the possibility that he could end the United States’ 70-year membership in the alliance and Germany being “captive” to Russian energy.
In the Sun story, Trump also criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the city’s first Muslim mayor who’s been highly critical of Trump’s immigration policies. Trump said Khan has done a “very bad job on crime” and a “very bad job on terrorism.”
Journalist Tom Newton Dunn, Trump’s interviewer, said the president seemed “sensitive” about the inflatable “Trump baby” being flown over London and its accompanying protests, set for Friday.
“He’s really quite stung by the criticism he’s been getting,” Dunn said.
Thursday, Trump had said, “I think they like me a lot in the U.K.”
May’s office said it would not comment on The Sun article during a greeting when Trump met May at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst to review a military exercise.
After Trump’s meeting with May in Chequers, he will head to Windsor Castle for tea with Queen Elizabeth II. Trump will spend the weekend at his Turnberry golf resort in Scotland before flying to Helsinki, Finland, for a summit Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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