Embattled Theresa May suffered a fresh blow last night after Donald Trump criticised her handling of the Brexit negotiations.
And the US President sparked a diplomatic row by claiming the Prime Minister had invited him to make two trips to the UK this year – including a State visit in October, with all the pomp that entails.
In an interview with Piers Morgan, to be broadcast on ITV tomorrow, the President said he would have taken a much tougher stance than Mrs May towards Brussels.
Donald Trump says he would have taken a tougher stance during EU negotiations in an interview with Piers Morgan
His intervention could undermine the moves he made earlier to repair the transatlantic special relationship by singing the praises of Britain and saying how much he supported and respected Mrs May.
However, his comments to Mr Morgan were more critical. When asked if he thought the Prime Minister was ‘in a good position’ regarding Brexit talks, Mr Trump replied: ‘Would it be the way I negotiate? No, I wouldn’t negotiate it the way it’s [being] negotiated… I would have had a different attitude.’
Pressed on how his approach would have differed from that of Mrs May, he said: ‘I would have said that the European Union is not cracked up to what it’s supposed to be. I would have taken a tougher stand in getting out.’
The president, pictured with the prime minister in Davos, said the EU isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in the ITV interview
The comments will boost those calling for a ‘hard Brexit’, led by Boris Johnson.
Mr Trump claimed he was not surprised by the result of the EU referendum: ‘I said [that] because of trade, but mostly immigration, Brexit is going to be a big upset. And I was right.’
He added: ‘I know the British people and understand them. They don’t want people coming from all over the world into Britain, they don’t know anything about these people.’
However, Mrs May can draw comfort from the President’s promise of a ‘great trade deal’ between Britain and America after the UK has left the EU: ‘You have a two-year restriction because of Brexit, but when that is up we’re going to be your great trading partner.
Before the cameras started rolling, Mr Morgan asked Mr Trump if he was coming to the UK. He replied: ‘Yeah, I’ll be there. She [Mrs May] just invited me. Twice.’
Trump told Piers Morgan he was not surprised when Brexit won the EU referendum and cited trade and immigration as major driers
After checking with an aide, Mr Trump said he expected one non-State visit – probably in July after a Nato summit in Brussels – followed by a State visit in October. A White House aide said later the date had not yet been confirmed.
Mr Trump’s comments about a State visit took Downing Street and Buckingham Palace by surprise. A Whitehall source added: ‘As far as we know, nothing has been agreed about the President meeting the Queen.’
Buckingham Palace declined to comment. Mrs May’s invitation for a State visit – made shortly after Mr Trump entered the White House a year ago – had been put on ice as a result of widescale public opposition.
In the president’s first international TV interview he claimed he would have taken a tougher stance than Theresa May when negotiating with the EU
Mr Trump also cancelled a planned trip to open the new US Embassy in London next month. However, the President told Mr Morgan: ‘A lot of people in your country like what I stand for, they respect what I stand for.’
Mr Trump made it clear that he was thrilled at the way Emmanuel Macron had ‘rolled out the red carpet’ for him on a State visit to France. ‘Emmanuel is a great guy. His wife is fantastic. I like them a lot. We had dinner at the top of the Eiffel Tower and everything was closed.’
Mr Trump had reportedly refused a State visit to the UK after Mrs May criticised him for retweeting videos from British far-Right extremists.
Asked about a State visit during a joint appearance with Mrs May at the Davos economic summit on Friday, Mr Trump said: ‘We’ll talk about it.’ Mrs May nodded in approval.
No 10 said last night details of any State visit would be set out in due course.