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Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C

Theresa May maintains Trump 'wrong' on tweets, but 'special relationship' will endure

The war of words has put a rare strain on the “special relationship” between the US and UK.

Tweet by @Donald J. Trump Donald J. Trump / Twitter Donald J. Trump / Twitter / Twitter

Updated at 6.50pm

UK PRIME MINISTER Theresa May repeated her statement that US President Donald Trump was wrong to retweet anti-Muslim videos posted by a British far-right group, after he told her to focus on her own affairs.

May’s initial condemnation prompted an extraordinary rebuke from the US leader, who told her on Twitter: “Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom.”

Speaking to reporters during a trip to Jordan, the prime minister stood her ground, defending her record on tackling extremism – including by the far right – while emphasising the strength of British-US ties.

“I’m very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do,” May said, describing the group as a “hateful” organisation that “seeks to spread division”.

But she stressed that Britain and America have “a long-term special relationship… it is an enduring relationship that is there because its is in both our nations’ interests”.

She confirmed that a state visit from Trump was still welcome: “An invitation for a state visit has been extended and has been accepted. We have yet to set a date.”

Donald Trump on Twitter PA Images PA Images

Last night, Trump rebuked May for her criticism of him sharing videos of anti-Muslim propaganda on his Twitter page.

A Downing Street spokesperson said yesterday that May felt Trump was “wrong” to promote the “hateful narratives” but Trump hit back and defended sharing the videos from a fringe far-right British group.

“Don’t focus on me,” he said, addressing May. “Focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine.”

Trump had drawn fierce condemnation at home and abroad earlier in the day for retweeting three incendiary anti-Muslim videos posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First.

DC: US President Trump holds bilateral meeting with UK Prime Minister May SIPA USA / PA Images SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

This back-on-forth constitutes a rare war of words between the heads of the two countries, as other British politicians took far more negative perspectives of what Trump did.

He has angered the likes of London Mayor Sadiq Khan before on tweets about terrorism and, yesterday, Khan described Britain First as a “vile, hate-fuelled organisation whose views should be condemned, not amplified”.

Labour MPs David Lammy and Chuka Umunna called for Trump’s invitation to visit the UK to be rescinded while Conservative Minister Sajid Javid said Trump had “endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organisation that hates me and people like me. He is wrong and I refuse to let it go and say nothing”.

Trump’s interventions in British politics have strained the so-called “special relationship” between the two countries.

The Dutch Embassy in Washington also took measures to criticise Trump, after one of the videos he shared falsely claims to show a Muslim attacking a Dutch boy in crutches.

It said on Twitter: “@realDonaldTrump Facts do matter. The perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands. He received and completed his sentence under Dutch law.”

Before Trump went on the attack against May, the White House was already scrambling to limit the fallout, saying that even if the anti-Muslim videos were misleading, the president was pointing out a real problem.

“The threat is real, and that’s what the president is talking about,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

Deputy spokesman Raj Shah also defended Trump’s actions: “It’s never the wrong time to talk about the security and safety of the American people. Those are the issues he was raising in his tweets this morning.”

- With reporting from AFP.

Read: Theresa May says Trump’s retweets of Britain First were ‘wrong’ – but he’s still welcome to visit

Read: Donald Trump has been retweeting anti-Muslim videos from a British far-right leader

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