US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May reaffirmed their countries' special bond and pledged to deepen commercial ties with a post-Brexit free trade agreement, during a joint news conference on Friday.
Their message of unity came just a day after British tabloid The Sun published an interview with Trump, in which he criticized May's "soft" Brexit plan, saying that she had not listened to his advice. He also warned that May's current Brexit plan would spell the end of any trade deal with the US.
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Brexit must not endanger free trade with US
A trade agreement between both nations was front and center, with Trump and May both committing to the idea. On Brexit, the US president dialed back on the criticism that he had leveled in The Sun, striking a more conciliatory tone.
"Whatever you do is okay with us, we just want to trade," Trump said about the possibility of a soft or hard Brexit. He said that he supported the British people's decision to "realize full self-government," adding that a strong UK is "truly a blessing on the world."
May told reporters that the Brexit agreement she had put forth will deliver what voters wanted from Brexit and that it would not limit the possibility of doing trade deals with other countries. May took the opportunity to reaffirm that the UK was still planning to leave the EU.
'Highest level' of closeness between UK and US
During the press conference, Trump showered May with praise, telling reporters that he had truly gotten to know her on this special visit, adding that May was a "terrific woman."
The US president said their countries shared "a bond like no other," due to their shared heritage. May echoed the sentiment saying that the bilateral relationship was the "broadest, deepest and most advanced cooperation between two countries in the world."
Trump highlighted a range of shared priorities, such as stopping nuclear proliferation, ensuring that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons, stopping terrorism and strengthening cooperation of armed forces to handle what he deemed as "severe" global threats.
Trump dismisses tabloid interview
When asked about the interview with The Sun, Trump rejected the notion that he had criticized May, saying that it was missing information and that he had apologized to May. He said May told him to not worry about it and that "it's only the press."
"Unfortunately, there was a story that was done which was generally fine, but it didn't put in what I said about the prime minister and I said a tremendous thing." Trump emphasized. "It's called fake news," he added.
May deflected questions about the interview and Trump's comments, insisting that she received advice from many people regarding Brexit and deferring to Trump each time journalists brought up the topic.
Criticism of Germany
Speaking on the recent NATO summit, Trump noted that the UK was one of the five out of 29 nations in the alliance that are currently meeting the minimum spending commitment. Trump said that the alliance was stronger than ever, primarily thanks to his negotiating prowess. He reminded reporters that "NATO helps Europe more than it helps the US."
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When asked about his comments on immigration in the interview with The Sun, he doubled down and singled out Germany.
He told reporters that immigration had been "very bad" for Europe. Trump insisted that despite his "great relationship" with Chancellor Angela Merkel, immigration had very much hurt Germany and warned that "they better watch themselves." Through immigration "you are changing culture" and engendering a "very sad situation."
Trump brought up the controversial Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, which he told reporters was "a horrific thing" and a horrible thing that Germany is doing.
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"How can you be working for peace and working from strength when someone has that kind of power over your country?" the president asked, repeating his claim that Germany would rely on Russia for up to 70 percent of its energy, if it agreed to the pipeline.
Tea with the Queen
Trump later met Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle. The president and first lady Melania Trump were delivered by a chauffeured Range Rover early Friday evening to the courtyard of Windsor Castle, where they spent about 45 minutes getting acquainted over tea inside the castle.
Trump arrived in the UK on Thursday for a four-day visit that includes two days at his Scottish golf resort in Turnberry and a property in Aberdeen.
jcg/aw (AP, Reuters)