By Alisha Haridasani
President Donald Trump on Friday tried to make amends with British Prime Minister Theresa May, a day after he criticized her in an explosive interview with The Sun newspaper, further adding to the confusion swirling around his jaunt across Europe.
“I have a lot of respect for the Prime Minister,” Trump said in a joint presser with May in Buckinghamshire, UK.
A day earlier, while the president was dining with May at Blenheim Palace, The Sun tabloid newspaper published audio of an interview with him.
“I did give [May] my views on what she should do and how she should negotiate,” Trump said in that interview about the PM's Brexit deal. “She didn’t follow those views.”
He added that a soft Brexit plan would “probably kill” the chances of an independent trade deal between the UK and the United States.
“The deal that she is striking is not what the people voted on,” said Trump, publicly shaming his British counterpart and throwing the historic ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the U.S. into question.
At Friday's presser, Trump said he didn’t criticize May, dismissing the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper as “fake news,” despite the fact that the audio recording of the interview was posted on the newspaper’s website.
He also made an about-face on trade. “We want to trade with the UK, and the UK wants to trade with us,” he said. “After speaking with the Prime Minister’s people and representatives and trade experts, it will absolutely be possible.”
Trump’s interview with The Sun added to May’s political crisis at home, days after she presented her Brexit plan to her cabinet.
The deal proposes that Britain would continue to adopt Europe’s regulations for most goods, including agricultural products and manufactured goods, which is the current practice for all members of the EU’s single market. Britain's services, such as finance and banking, will not be included in the single market.
The Brexit plan was softer than many in May’s Conservative party were hoping for and led to the resignations of three ministers within 24 hours this week, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has been a vocal proponent of a clean cut from Europe.
When Trump arrived in London, her office was still reeling from the political crisis.
In his interview with The Sun, Trump took Johnson’s side. “I was very saddened to see that he was leaving government.”
“I think he would be a great Prime Minister,” said Trump.
On Friday, Trump dug in on his divisive views about immigration as well. “I think it’s been very bad for Europe...I think they better watch themselves,” he said.
May tried to distance herself from Trump's comments on immigration. "The UK has a proud history of welcoming people who are feeling persecution to our country," she said. "We have a proud history of welcoming people who want to come to our country to contribute to our economy and contribute to our society."
Trump and the first lady also met with the Queen on Friday. On Monday, the president will head to Finland for a highly contentious meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.