President Donald Trump inserted himself into the UK’s fraught politics ahead of his official state visit to the nation Sunday, suggesting the government should “walk away” from a Brexit deal with the European Union if British demands are not met.
“I would walk away,” Trump said in an interview with The Sunday Times. “If you don’t get the deal you want, if you don’t get a fair deal, then you walk away.”
Trump also criticized the sum the UK must pay the EU as part of its exit, roughly $50 billion.
“If I were them, I wouldn’t pay $50 billion,” the president said. “That is a tremendous number.”
Outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated an exit deal with the European Union, but has failed to get Parliament to agree to the plan. Leaving the EU without a deal could cause the UK economic harm; President Trump, however, believes that no deal is better than a bad deal, and suggested it isn’t too late to get the EU to come back to the negotiating table — something EU officials have said they have no will to do.
Trump suggested the UK sue the EU to give the nation “ammunition” in its fight to leave, and also said the kingdom’s people would be wise to send Nigel Farage, leader of Brexit Party, to Brussels to renegotiate the separation deal. The Brexit Party recently took first place in the UK election for its European Parliament representatives, winning 29 seats.
“I like Nigel a lot,” Trump said. “He has a lot to offer, he is a very smart person. They won’t bring him in but think how well they would do if they did. They just haven’t figured that out yet.”
The US president has had many kind words for Theresa May’s rivals; earlier, Trump said Boris Johnson, Prime Minister Theresa May’s former foreign secretary and a prominent Brexit campaigner, would make a great prime minister following May’s resignation. Johnson has said the UK should leave the EU by October 31 with or without a deal.
Johnson is one of the frontrunners to become the next prime minister but, as Vox’s Jen Kirby reported, he may not want Trump’s backing given how reviled the US president is in the UK. Widespread protests are expected to greet the American delegation when it arrives Monday.
Demonstrations happened last time Trump came to the UK, complete with a Trump baby blimp. But protesters have upped the ante and are reportedly planning to unveil a 16-foot-tall robot of a texting Trump sitting on a golden toilet — a toilet that farts and says “No collusion.” (It was made in China, to add insult to injury.)
Major protests are expected on June 4 in London, though there will be other, smaller protests (including a pot-and-pan banging outside Trump’s state dinner on Monday) in London and other cities.
Trump will have a respite later Tuesday, when he hosts a dinner at the US Ambassador’s residence on Tuesday, which Prince Charles and Camilla will attend.
On Wednesday, Trump heads to Portsmouth — a major departure port for the allied naval forces in the Normandy invasion in World War II — where ceremonies will be held to commemorate D-Day. There are some worries over Trump protests there, with some fearing it may detract from the solemn ceremonies.
Trump is also facing criticism over a comment he made about the popular new duchess, Meghan Markle. Although the royal family stays away from commenting on politics, particularly foreign politics, Markle was critical of Trump during the 2016 election, back when she was a private American citizen.
When asked about Markle saying she’d move to Canada if he was elected, Trump responded, “I didn’t know she was nasty.”
The president took to Twitter to claim he’d never made that statement; however, as NBC News reports, audio seems to suggest he did, in fact, say those words about the duchess. Markle will not dine with the president along with the rest of the royal family because she’s on maternity leave.