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Trump vows 'great' trade deal with UK, abruptly changing tack on May's Brexit plan

Reuters  |  WINDSOR CASTLE, England 

By Jeff Mason

CASTLE, England (Reuters) - said on Friday the and Britain could secure a "great" post-Brexit trade deal, lavishing praise on and contradicting his own withering assessment of her strategy publicised hours earlier.

Fresh from sending NATO into crisis talks and ahead of a summit with Vladimir Putin, Trump shocked Britain's political establishment when he criticised May's plans for ties with the after Britain leaves in March.

In a newspaper interview published just hours before holding talks with May, Trump said her Brexit strategy would "kill" any chance of a trade deal with the U.S. and said she had not listened to his advice on how to negotiate with the EU.

But, as the two leaders stood together for a press conference in the garden of May's grand 16th-century official residence Chequers, Trump said the British leader was doing a "fantastic job", added it was up to her how to conduct Brexit, and that a free trade deal was very much on the table.

Relations had never been more special, he said, and any criticism was "fake news".

"Once the Brexit process is concluded and perhaps the UK has left the EU, I don't know what they're going to do but whatever you do is OK with me, that's your decision," Trump said.

"Whatever you do is OK with us, just make sure we can trade together, that's all that matters. The looks forward to finalising a great bilateral trade agreement with the This is an incredible opportunity for our two countries and we will seize it fully," he said.

At the same location a week ago, May finally won agreement for her Brexit plans from her cabinet after two years of internal wrangling, but within days, two senior ministers had quit, departures which Trump said earlier in the week had left Britain in "turmoil".

Some lawmakers in her deeply divided have cast May's "business-friendly" Brexit plan as a betrayal that would leave Britain too close to the EU and warned that she might face a leadership challenge.

May's formal proposals were published on Thursday, but hours later the Sun newspaper published an interview with Trump where he appeared to side with the prime minister's critics.

"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," he told the Sun. "I would have done it much differently. I actually told how to do it, but she didn't listen to me."

Asked about that interview, Trump said he had not criticised May, lavishing praise on "a terrific woman", who was smart, tough and capable.

"This incredible woman right here is doing a fantastic job, a great job," he said. "She's a total professional because when I saw her this morning, I said: 'I want to apologise, because I said such good things about you'. She said: 'Don't worry, it's only the press'."


May, likewise, glossed over the comments in the Sun, saying her deal provided a platform for an ambitious free trade deal.

Trump's remarks to the Sun were the most biting any U.S. has ever made on visit to Britain. However, under the blue skies of the Chequers' garden, he said their relationship was "the highest level of special".

However, while Trump and May exchanged warm words, tens of thousands of protesters marched against the U.S. through central London, bringing much of the British capital to a standstill. It was one of the more than 100 demonstrations planned across the country during his four-day stay.

"The message we came here to give today is that Trump is not welcome in Britain," said Grish Gregoran, 58, who took the day off to attend. "We wanted to embarrass him and I think we have done that today.

Trump has also frequently angered British politicians and has been involved in with London's Muslim who Trump said had "done a very bad job on terrorism".

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

After leaving Chequers, Trump travelled to Castle to have tea with He was heralded by military bands on his arrival at the 92-year-old monarch's home where her grandson married U.S. in May.

He later flew to where he is staying at his The protests reached him there, when a paraglider bearing the logo of environmental campaign group swooped within some few hundred yards of the president as he stood outside the golf course's hotel, television pictures showed.

He will stay in until Sunday when he heads to for talks with Russia's Putin. Trump said he would bring up the issue of nuclear disarmament with Putin.

However his trip to meet Putin is set to be overshadowed by that a U.S. federal grand jury has indicted 12 Russian military intelligence officers on charges of hacking the computer networks of 2016 and the

"We have this stupidity going on, pure stupidity, but it makes it very hard to do something with because, anything you do, it's like: 'Russia, oh he loves Russia'," Trump said at the press conference before of the indictment.

"I love the but I love getting along with and and other countries."

(Writing by and Michael Holden; Additional reporting by William James, Kate Holton, Andrew MacAskill, and Paul Sandle; editing by Larry King, Kevin Liffey, David Stamp, William Maclean)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, July 14 2018. 03:06 IST