Updated Jul 13th 2018, 2:25 PM
US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump has denied criticising British Prime Minister Theresa May, dismissing as “fake news” an interview with The Sun in which he attacked her Brexit strategy.
“I didn’t criticise the Prime Minister, I’ve a lot of respect for the Prime Minister and unfortunately there was a story that was done, which was generally fine, but it didn’t put in what I said about the Prime Minister and I said tremendous things,” Trump told reporters this afternoon during a press conference with May.
“Fortunately we tend to record stories now so we have it for your enjoyment if you like it,” he said.
“But we record when we deal with reporters, it’s called fake news and we solve a lot of problems with the good old recording instrument.”
Their meeting came just hours after an interview was published in which Trump said May’s plans for close future ties with the European Union would “probably kill” her hopes for a US trade deal.
He suggested this was not what voters wanted, said he had advised May to take another path and added that Boris Johnson, who quit as foreign minister over the plan, would make “a great prime minister”.
Trump’s comments saw the value of the pound plunge on currency markets.
Earlier today, Trump said that at a gala dinner at Blenheim Palace the night before he and May spoke for almost 90 minutes and had “probably never developed a better relationship”.
The prime minister smiled and said there was “a lot to discuss”, including “the special relationship, which is great, between the UK and US”.
She said they would discuss “the real opportunities” on a US trade deal, as well as foreign, defence and security issues “where we work really closely together”.
Trump’s interview with The Sun came before he flew into Britain yesterday from Brussels, where he subjected NATO allies to a roasting over their defence spending.
Junior foreign minister Alan Duncan sought to brush off the remarks, telling the BBC: “Donald Trump is a controversialist, that’s his style… I don’t think we see it as rude.”
Tens of thousands of protesters have been demonstrating in London on Friday against Trump’s visit.
“#DumpTrump”, “This is the carnival of resistance” and “My mum doesn’t like you! And she likes everyone” read some of the signs held up by protesters as they marched down Oxford Street towards Trafalgar Square.
“No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!”, the protesters chanted.
Campaigners elsewhere in London flew a “Baby Trump” balloon, an act of protest approved by London mayor Sadiq Khan which has proved particularly contentious for Trump and his supporters.
Trump, a long-time supporter of Brexit, told The Sun he had advised May on her strategy to leave the EU but was ignored.
“She wanted to go a different route. I would actually say that she probably went the opposite way. And that is fine,” he said.
“She should negotiate the best way she knows how. But it is too bad what is going on.”
The government published its blueprint yesterday calling for close trade ties with the EU after it leaves the bloc next March.
“The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on,” in the 2016 EU referendum, Trump said.
Tea with the queen
Trump and May watched a display of military special forces today before their formal talks which were due to include Russia, ahead of a summit in Finland on Monday between Trump and President Vladimir Putin.
Trump will later Friday take tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, before spending the weekend in Scotland on a private visit that will likely take in 18 holes at one of the property magnate’s golf courses, where more protesters await him.
He will not attend any high-profile events in London, where the big demonstrations are planned but would have heard protesters outside the ambassador’s residence where he and his wife stayed yesterday.
Melania Trump visited veterans today at London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea where she also met local school children, accompanied by May’s husband Philip.
- © AFP, 2018 with reporting by Hayley Halpin