Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

Donald Trump turned down meeting with UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn

Praising Theresa May, the President says the US will strike a 'phenomenal' trade deal after Brexit

US President Donald Trump rejected a meeting with British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn during his three-day state visit to Britain this week as concerns grow over the prospect of a Labour-led UK government.

Trade deals and business links between the US and Britain were at the forefront of Mr Trump’s meetings on Tuesday, after a state dinner at Buckingham Palace the previous evening.

He said Washington’s relationship with London was “the greatest alliance the world has ever known" and predicted they could strike a “phenomenal” trade deal after Britain left the EU.

Mr Trump was gracious in praising the dedication of departing Prime Minister Theresa May, even suggesting she could be a better negotiator than himself on the fraught issue of Brexit.

The warmth stopped when it came to critics of his UK trip, especially Mr Corbyn, who addressed an anti-Trump rally, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who he has frequently blasted on Twitter.

"I really don't like critics as much as I like and respect people who get things done, so I decided not to meet,” he said, revealing he had spurned Mr Corbyn’s request for a discussion.

He added another broadside to Mr Khan after calling him a "stone-cold loser" as Air Force One touched down in Britain on Monday.

"I don't think he should be criticising a representative of the United States who can do so much good for the United Kingdom,” Mr Trump said. “He's a negative force, not a positive force."

He and the US delegation held talks at Downing Street with Mrs May and senior British ministers.

“I think we will have a very, very substantial trade deal," Mr Trump said later. "This is something you want to do and my folks want to do."

He praised Mrs May’s efforts to secure an exit from the EU with a formal agreement that has been rejected by Parliament.

"I would have sued and settled maybe, but you never know," Mr Trump said. "She's probably a better negotiator that I am.

"I think it will happen and I believe the Prime Minister's brought it to a very good point where something will take place in the not-too-distant future, I think she's done a very good job."

He was joined at the talks by his daughter Ivanka and members of his administration, including National Security Adviser John Bolton and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The two delegations discussed climate change, Iran, Huawei and Britain's exit from the EU.

Mr Trump was also keen to assess Conservative Party contenders for Mrs May’s job after the prime minister announced her intention to resign on Friday, June 7.

He called Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, and said Jeremy Hunt, his successor, had impressed him during the trip.

There was speculation that the US leader would also meet a third candidate, Michael Gove,

Mr Trump held talks with Brexit Party leader and "friend" Nigel Farage.

Mr Farage said the two talked about the UK's coming departure from the EU, with a focus on a future trade deal.

"He is very interested as to who the next Conservative leader and prime minister is," he told LBC radio.

Mr Trump also met the former Conservative Party leader and Brexiteer, lain Smith.

Neither the president or the prime minister's teams backed away from acknowledged differences in the relationship.

Mrs May said there had been no change in the British stance on Iran.

“The UK continues to stand by the nuclear deal,” she said. “It is clear that we both want to reach the same goal.

"It is important that Iran meets its obligations and we do everything to prevent escalation, which is in no one's interests.”

A "Baby Trump" balloon floats during an anti-Trump protest in London, Britain, June 4, 2019. REUTERS
A "Baby Trump" balloon floats during an anti-Trump protest in London, Britain, June 4, 2019. REUTERS

Mr Trump predicted a separate stand-off over the involvement of Chinese telecoms company Huawei, which Washington accuses of being an intelligence tool of Beijing, would be resolved without damaging a close intelligence partnership.

“We're going to have absolutely an agreement on Huawei. We'll have no problem with that,” he said.

Mr Trump also claimed only a small group of people protested against his state visit to the UK, despite thousands taking part in a demonstration in London.

Protesters raised a blimp depicting the president as a baby into the air. It was last seen during Mr Trump's visit in 2018, although early estimates said the number of demonstrators out on the streets was down on last year.

Mr Trump said he had seen "thousands of people" cheering for him and waving American flags on both days of his visit.

“I heard that there were protests," he said. "I said, 'Where are the protests? I don’t see any protests'.

"It was a very small group of people put in for political reasons."

Updated: June 5, 2019 01:01 PM

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