President Donald Trump has praised Theresa May, the outgoing British Prime Minister, and called the Queen a “fantastic person” in a joint press conference in London after a key meeting between the two leaders mid-way through Trump’s visit to the U.K.
Trump, who is in the U.K. to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 1944, said that the U.K. and U.S. relationship is “the greatest alliance the world has ever known.”
The mood was light at times, with Trump referring jokingly to the time he advised May to sue the E.U. “I would have sued, but that’s okay,” he said with a laugh. “I would have sued and settled, maybe, but you never know. She’s probably a better negotiator than I am.”
On Brexit, Trump said he thinks “it will happen. I believe the Prime Minister has done a very good job where something will happen in the near future.”
“I believe it would be good for the country,” he added.
Trump’s visit is one of the last major engagements scheduled for May, who announced last month that she will step down as leader of the Conservative Party on June 7, allowing a new Prime Minister to be chosen, after she failed to get her Brexit deal with the E.U. through parliament.
But Trump threw spanners into that uncertain transition Britain now faces. He appeared to endorse two candidates running to replace May: the frontrunner, Boris Johnson (“I like Boris, I always have,”) and the current Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt (“he’d do a very good job.”) And in an unexpected turn, he said he didn’t know Michael Gove, the current Environment Secretary who many expect will end up facing off against Johnson in the last round of the leadership election.
When questioned on whether the U.K.’s beloved National Health Service (NHS) would be on the table in future post-Brexit trade talks, he replied: “everything’s on the table, so NHS or anything else. A lot more than that.” (May had to whisper in his ear after he appeared to not understand the meaning of the acronym when first questioned.)
Trump said that the U.S. would not need to cut off intelligence sharing with the U.K. over its insistence to allow the Chinese telecoms firm Huawei to continue operating parts of its 5G networks, because a deal would be reached. “We’re going to absolutely have an agreement on Huawei and everything else,” he said. A U.K. government spokesperson refused to comment after the conference on what kind of deal the President was talking about.
He called Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London with whom he has an ongoing Twitter spat, a “a negative force, not a positive force.” Khan should “straighten out some of his own problems,” he said. Khan had earlier said it was “un-British” to roll out the red carpet for Trump.
At the press conference, Trump said he didn’t know of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, who was speaking at a protest against Trump’s visit at the time of the conference. “Never met him, never spoke to him.” He said Corbyn had requested to meet him, but that he had turned down the request – a fact Labour Party sources later confirmed.
Trump called the Labour leader “somewhat of a negative force,” but did not go as far as saying the so-called “special relationship” between the two countries would be affected if Corbyn were elected Prime Minister.
The President also played down the large protests outside Parliament in Central London, just yards away from the ornate hall in the U.K. Foreign Office where he was speaking. “Where are the protests? I don’t see any protests. A lot of it is fake news,” he said. “I didn’t see the protests until just a little while ago. And it was very very small protest.”
Earlier in the day, at a morning meeting with politicians and business leaders, Trump appeared to not be fully aware of Theresa May’s impending resignation as Conservative Party leader, telling her: “Stick around. Let’s do this deal.”