Donald Trump said he has been waiting for Boris Johnson to become prime minister for six years as the US President insisted he would not ‘do over’ the UK in a post-Brexit trade deal.
Mr Trump, speaking as the G7 summit in Biarritz came to a close this afternoon, again lavished praise on Mr Johnson who he described as ‘very smart’ and ‘very strong’.
But the US President also expressed a note of caution over whether the new PM will be able to secure a Brexit deal with the EU as he said negotiating with Brussels is ‘very tough’.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump also took aim at Theresa May as he suggested that her decision to reject his Brexit advice ultimately led to her being ousted from Downing Street.
Mr Trump and Mr Johnson met for the first time since the latter became PM yesterday when the US President predicted the White House and Downing Street will be able to do a ‘very big’ trade deal ‘pretty quickly’ after Brexit.
Today he said of their relationship: ‘We like each other. We had a great two and a half days.
‘I have been waiting for him to be prime minister for about six years. I told him “what took you so long?”
‘I think he is going to be a great prime minister and especially after spending a lot of intense time with him over the last couple of days, he is very smart, he is very strong and he is very enthusiastic.’
Asked if he intended to ‘do over’ the UK in a post-Brexit trade deal, Mr Trump replied: ‘No, no, no. I love the UK. I own great property in the UK. I love the UK.’
He added: ‘I think this is the right time for Boris. It is the right time for Boris.’
However he stressed how difficult it could be for Mr Johnson to secure an updated Brexit deal from the EU as he said: ‘The European Union is very tough to make deals with. Just ask Theresa May.’
Speaking about Mrs May’s decision to reject his advice on Brexit he said: ‘She chose to do it her way and that did not work out so well.’
Mr Trump’s comments came after Brussels threatened to refuse to start trade talks with the UK if it fails to pay the £39 billion Brexit divorce bill in full.
Donald Trump, pictured as he addressed the media at the end of the G7 summit in Biarritz this afternoon, lavished praise on Boris Johnson
The US President said Mr Johnson is ‘very smart’ as he predicted his counterpart would be a ‘great prime minister’
Mr Johnson followed Mr Trump in addressing the media at the close of play in Biarritz this afternoon after an eventful three days in the French coastal town
Mr Johnson suggested yesterday that he would keep most of the cash if Britain crashes out of the bloc without an agreement.
The Prime Minister claimed that ‘strictly speaking’ the UK would not owe all of the money in the event of a No Deal split.
But Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, hit back today and said: ‘If the UK doesn’t pay what is due, the EU will not negotiate a trade deal.
‘After a “No Deal”, this will be a first condition of any talks. Britain is better than this.’
Today it emerged government lawyers had drawn up a ‘range of scenarios’ for the payment of the divorce settlement in a No Deal scenario with £7 billion representing the best-case for the UK while the worst suggested the full £39 billion would have to be paid.
Mr Johnson raised the issue of the divorce bill in television interviews immediately before he met Donald Tusk for showdown talks at the G7 yesterday but then reportedly failed to bring it up during the sit down.
Meanwhile, EU officials said the ‘ball is really squarely and firmly in the UK court’ if a No Deal split is to be avoided after Mr Johnson suggested that what happens on October 31 ‘depends on our EU friends and partners’.
Mr Johnson insisted during the second day of the summit in the French coastal town that the UK could ‘easily cope’ with No Deal as he dismissed concerns about potential food shortages.
He also said it was ‘touch and go’ whether a deal would be done as he claimed the chances of a fresh agreement with the EU ‘are improving’.
His comments came after he was given a Brexit boost by Mr Trump who said Mr Johnson was the ‘right man’ to take the UK out of the EU.
Mr Johnson, pictured this morning on the final day of the G7 summit in Biarritz, has faced criticism from EU figures after he said the UK would not pay the £39bn Brexit bill in full if there is a No Deal split
The Prime Minister appeared to be enjoying his first foray onto the world stage since winning the keys to Downing Street in July. He is pictured today ahead of a meeting with Shinzo Abe.
Mr Johnson sat down with the Japanese prime minister this afternoon as the G7 summit in Biarritz started to wind down
Guy Verhofstadt, pictured in Brussels on June 20, said failure to pay the bill in full would prompt the EU to refuse to start trade talks with the UK
Mr Verhofstadt said he believed ‘Britain is better’ than Mr Johnson’s suggestion that the £39bn would not be paid in full
The PM, pictured this morning meeting Egyptian president Abdel-Fatteh el-Sisi, was accused by Brussels of failing to present any new Brexit ideas when he met Donald Tusk yesterday
It has been an eventful three days for Mr Johnson, pictured today as he walked through the Bellevue Hotel in Biarritz, who has had to walk the diplomatic tightrope amid rows over trade policy between EU leaders and Donald Trump
Sources said yesterday that the UK could pay as little as £7 billion of the Brexit divorce bill in the event of a No Deal departure at the Halloween deadline.
But today it was claimed that the £7 billion is actually the best-case scenario worked up by government lawyers.
Justin Welby ‘in talks to help stop No Deal’
The Archibishop of Canterbury has reportedly been asked to chair a series of ‘citizen’s assembly’ public meetings in a bid to stop a No Deal Brexit.
The Times reported that Justin Welby is in talks with a cross-party group of MPs about becoming involved in the meetings which could be held next month.
The meetings would see members of the public come up with recommendations to be given to the government about how to break the current impasse with the EU and bring the divided UK back together.
The worst-case scenario envisages the EU pursuing the UK through the courts for the cash with all of the money ultimately having to be handed over after what would likely be a lengthy legal battle.
A source told The Times: ‘The £7 billion figure is the best-case scenario.
‘There’s a range of other scenarios where it’s far higher, including paying all of it.’
Mr Johnson said yesterday: ‘If we come out without an agreement it is certainly true that the £39 billion is no longer, strictly speaking, owed.
‘There will be very substantial sums available to our country to spend on our priorities. It’s not a threat, it’s a simple fact.’
Brexiteers are adamant that if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement then Britain should not pay any of the divorce bill.
But Brussels is equally resolute that all of the money should be handed over regardless of the terms of the UK’s departure.
The chances of a new Brexit deal being agreed appeared to increase last week after Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel put forward a plan to give the UK 30 days to come up with alternatives to the Irish border backstop.
But Mr Johnson’s meeting with Mr Tusk appeared to illustrate just how far apart the two sides remain.
An EU official told the Financial Times: ‘The ball is really squarely and firmly in the UK court.
‘They have been telling the press they have new ideas and eventually they will come up. But they didn’t come up today.
‘The brutal fact is that there is nothing. Alternative arrangements have always been part of the agreement — but we still don’t know what they look like.’
Mr Johnson, pictured as he attended a working lunch today, will fly back to the UK this evening
Mr Johnson promised at the start of the summit that world leaders would be ‘working flat out’ during their time in the south west of France. He is pictured during an extended working session on climate, biodiversity and oceans this morning.
Mr Johnson and Mr Tusk met yesterday lunchtime for crunch Brexit talks. The pair agreed to meet again next month at the United Nations General Assembly.
Mr Johnson has vowed to take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal on October 31 and yesterday he insisted the UK could ‘easily cope’ with No Deal.
‘What I can tell people, and as I said a few weeks ago on the steps of Downing Street, I think we can get through this,’ he said.
‘This is a great, great country the UK, we can easily cope with a No Deal scenario.
‘And I know that’s what people want.’
The PM also said he believed it was ‘highly unlikely’ there would be food shortages ‘of any kind’ after a chaotic split from Brussels.
Mr Johnson spent his third and final day in France discussing boosting trade links with the leaders of Japan, Australia and Egypt.
The Prime Minister also talked about the crisis in Hong Kong in his meeting with Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.
During their meeting in Biarritz, Mr Johnson and Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe committed to pursuing an ‘ambitious free trade agreement’ after Brexit, building on the existing deal with the EU.
Mr Johnson had started the summit in Biarritz on Saturday with a bilateral meeting with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and the pair sat next to each other today as they attended a working lunch
The British premier had made clear to Mr Trudeau on Saturday that he believed the UK and Canada are ‘side by side’ on every major global issue
Mr Johnson, pictured saluting people as he walked along the seafront in Biarritz today, faces a tough few weeks when he returns to London this evening with Remainer MPs poised to try to stop a No Deal Brexit
Boris Johnson sparks pork pie row
Downing Street has defended Boris Johnson after he became embroiled in a bizarre row about pork pies.
The Prime Minister claimed the UK-made meat products were sold in Thailand and Iceland but experts said this morning that simply was not the case.
UK officials then leapt to Mr Johnson’s defence and insisted they knew of at least one company which had exported the product to those two countries.
But that company, Walker and Son, then reportedly said it was ‘entirely focused on the UK market’.
The PM had used Melton Mowbray pork pies as an example of how the US needed to slash red tape if there is to be a wide-reaching trans-Atlantic post-Brexit trade deal.
He said that the products were currently ‘unable to enter the US market’ because of food restrictions but that they were ‘sold in Thailand and in Iceland’.
However, Matthew O’Callaghan, the chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, said this morning: ‘We don’t actually export to Thailand or to Iceland.’
In his meeting with Mr Morrison ‘the leaders discussed their enthusiasm for an enhanced and deep trading relationship once the UK leaves the EU’, Number 10 said.
Mr Morrison also congratulated Mr Johnson on England’s Ashes test match victory.
A Downing Street spokeswoman added: ‘The two leaders were concerned about the current situation in Hong Kong, and agreed that it was paramount for all sides to remain calm and peaceful and to maintain Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy as guaranteed by the legally binding joint declaration.’
There were more violent clashes during anti-government protests in Hong Kong over the weekend.
Mr Johnson’s meeting with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi focused on their ‘shared desire to strengthen economic, trade and security cooperation’, according to Downing Street.
The Prime Minister also met outgoing Italian premier Giuseppe Conte on Monday.
In the main business on the agenda, the leaders of the G7 nations considered measures on protecting the environment, although Mr Trump’s chair was conspicuously empty at the start of the session.
The US President is a climate change sceptic who once had claimed it is a hoax that was invented by the Chinese.
Mr Johnson used the session to highlight a pledge of £10 million to help prevent the destruction of the Amazon.
As the G7 summit drew to a close, former prime minister Gordon Brown said the club made up of some of the world’s richest democracies was ‘impotent’.
Mr Johnson’s first meeting today was with Australian PM Scott Morrison who congratulated the England cricket team on their Ashes test match victory yesterday
Mr Johnson could not resist a good-natured cricket-related jibe at the expense of his Australian counterpart after the meeting
Ahead of the summit, host Mr Macron said there would not be a final communique, an agreed statement backed by all the leaders.
The 2018 G7 summit ended in farce as Mr Trump withdrew his support for the text and Mr Macron was keen to avoid a repeat performance.
Mr Brown told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘When you have got an organisation that cannot agree on a communique, that has got no agreed agenda, that’s got no agreement even on membership, and has broken down, as far as I can see, over the weekend into small huddles of individuals doing bilateral discussions – you’ve really got a leaderless world.
‘It is rightly called by some the G Zero because the world seems to be more divided than I can remember.’