UK-U.S. Trade Deal: With A Friend Like Donald Trump, Theresa May Does Not Need Enemies
U.S. President Donald Trump with UK Prime Minister Theresa May (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

After sowing chaos at the NATO Summit in Brussels, U.S. President Donald Trump’s first announcement on his state visit to the UK was to undercut British Prime Minister Theresa May’s new approach to Brexit. Donald Trump directly criticised Theresa May's "soft Brexit" strategy, saying it could "kill" chances of a U.S.-UK trade deal. Trump made these comments in an interview with the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper The Sun.

Trump said a potential trade deal would "most likely" fail if May's strategy was implemented because the U.S. would be "dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK". "If they do that, their trade deal with the U.S. will probably not be made because we have enough difficulty with the European Union," Trump told The Sun.

Trump's comments on the ultra-sensitive issue of Brexit will boost May's Conservative opponents, who want a complete split with all EU institutions, and will undermine her claims that her plan does honor the hopes of "Leave" voters two years ago. May has taken a ‘soft exit’ approach which allows some European trade laws to remain in place on goods and agricultural products.

"The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on," Trump said in the interview, and added that he had told May to toughen up.

"I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn't agree, she didn't listen to me. She wanted to go a different route. I would actually say that she probably went the opposite way."

Trump is not the first American President to wade in to the Brexit debate. Former President Barack Obama warned in 2016 that Britain would have to get to "the back of the queue" for a trade deal with Washington if it went ahead and voted to leave the EU.

At the time, Obama faced a surge of complaints that he was interfering in an issue that was none of his business, and Brexit campaigners said he was asking Britain to cede powers to the EU that he would never allow the United States to give up.

Trump was a vocal supporter of Brexit, and he arrived in Britain in 2016 for a visit to his Scottish golf courses shortly after the referendum result was announced.