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Relationship with UK's May is strong, says Trump after damning her Brexit plan

Reuters  |  CHEQUERS, England 

By Jeff and William James

CHEQUERS, England (Reuters) - said on Friday he had a very strong relationship with British Theresa May, having earlier scorned her strategy, which he said had probably killed off hope for a future U.S.-British trade deal.

In an interview published just hours before he was due to have lunch with May and tea with on Friday, Trump chided the "very unfortunate" results of the prime minister's strategy for negotiating Britain's departure from the

"If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal," Trump told the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun newspaper.

"I would have done it much differently," he told The Sun, which urged its readers to back before a referendum in June 2016. "I actually told how to do it, but she didn't listen to me."

Trump also heaped praise on Boris Johnson, who resigned as this week along with in protest at May's strategy. Johnson, the said, "would be a great prime minister".

No sitting U.S. has ever made such biting public criticism of a British while visiting, and his comments undermined May in her party, her country and abroad.

But, as the leaders met for talks at May's country residence Chequers, both tried to play down the president's intervention, made a few hours after the formal publication of May's plan, in the Brexit debate.

"We really have a very good relationship," Trump said. "Today we are talking trade and we are talking military."

Asked by a U.S. if he regretted his comments to the Sun, Trump looked away and shook his head.

"We've got a lot to discuss," May said, adding they would talk about the British-U.S. "special relationship" and opportunities for a trade deal.

POUND DROPS

Sterling fell half a percent to a 1 1/2-week low of $1.3131, partly on Trump's comments in the newspaper interview.

"Where are your manners, Mr President?" asked Sam Gyimah, a in May's government.

As Britain prepares to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, supporters of Brexit have made much of the so-called special relationship with the and the benefits of forging closer trade ties with the world's biggest economy.

Many have cast May's plan as a betrayal, including lawmakers in her deeply divided Conservative Party, who have warned that she might face a leadership challenge.

On a visit to two months before the 2016 Brexit referendum, former said Britain would be at the "back of the queue" for a trade deal if it departed the EU, an intervention condemned by those backing the 'Leave' campaign such as

However, - a leading Conservative Brexiteer and considered a potential by some - said it was perfectly reasonable for Trump to make such comments, adding that May now had an opportunity to change her mind on her Brexit plan.

Still, Trump's comments upset even some who were in favour of the visit. "What he has done, and in particular for me the condescending nature of his comments towards the ... are unacceptable, undiplomatic and counterproductive," Simon Fraser, a former top at the UK Foreign Office, told

TRUMP PROTESTS

For supporters, Trump and Brexit offer the prospect of breaking free from what they see as obsolete institutions and rules. But for many British diplomats, Brexit marks the collapse of a 70-year strategy of trying to balance European integration with a U.S. alliance based on blood, trade and intelligence sharing.

Trump has frequently angered British politicians. Late last year, May criticised him for retweeting a message by a member of a British far-right group, and the of parliament has said Trump would not be welcome to address the chamber.

Thousands of protesters massed in central for a noisy demonstration against Trump, one of the more than 100 rallies expected during his four-day visit. Protesters flew a blimp depicting the as an orange, snarling baby outside the

"It's embarrassing how much our government is falling over themselves to try to appease someone who has no interest in any sort of give-and-take in the UK-U.S. relationship at all," said protester Nicola Tanner, 33, from Bristol,

On Thursday, May invoked World War Two leader as she addressed Trump and business leaders at a lavish dinner in his honour at Blenheim Palace, the 18th century country house where Churchill was born.

"Mr. President, Sir once said that 'to have the at our side was, to me, the greatest joy'," May told Trump, according to a text of her speech. She said the was "not just the closest of allies but the dearest of friends".

While Trump's trip was not a full state visit, he has been given red carpet treatment including marching military bands. He is scheduled to have tea with at where her grandson married U.S. in May.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden, editing by Larry King, and David Stamp)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, July 13 2018. 18:13 IST
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