WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump arrives in Britain on Monday on a state visit laden with diplomatic peril, having already humiliated outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May over Brexit and challenged her to be tougher in dealing with Chinas Huawei.
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump walk to a joint news conference at Chequers, the official country residence of the Prime Minister, near Aylesbury, Britain, July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo
Trump and his wife, Melania, will be treated to a display of British royal pageantry during the June 3-5 visit: lunch with Queen Elizabeth, tea with heir Prince Charles, a banquet at Buckingham Palace and a tour of Westminster Abbey, coronation church of English monarchs for 1,000 years.
Beyond the pomp, though, the proudly unpredictable 45th U.S. president also brings demands: He has praised a more radical Brexit-supporting potential successor to May and his envoys have urged a tougher British stance towards telecoms giant Huawei.
In an interview with the Sunday Times newspaper, Trump said the next British leader should send arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage to conduct talks with the EU. Britain must leave the EU this year, Trump said.
“Theyve got to get it done,” he said. “They have got to get the deal closed.”
“If they dont get what they want, I would walk away. If you dont get a fair deal, you walk away.”
Trump repeated his backing for those candidates to succeed May who have said Britain must leave on the due date of Oct. 31 with or without a deal.
Those candidates include former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, whom Trump praised in an interview with the Sun newspaper on Friday, along with former Brexit minister Dominic Raab and interior minister Sajid Javid.
Trump said it was a mistake for the Conservatives not to involve Farage, the Brexit Party leader, in talks with Brussels after his success in European Parliament elections last month.
“I like Nigel a lot. He has a lot to offer – he is a very smart person,” Trump said. “They wont bring him in but think how well they would do if they did. They just havent figured that out yet.”
On the Brexit divorce bill, Trump said: “If I were them, I wouldnt pay 50 billion dollars. That is a tremendous number.”
A meeting with either Johnson, favourite to succeed May, or Farage, a bombastic anti-establishment campaigner, would be seen as a snub for May who is bowing out after failing to negotiate a Brexit deal that parliament could ratify.
British officials are privately concerned that Trump could heap further ignominy on May, who battled in vain to unify her ruling Conservatives behind a deal and cried while announcing the end of her premiership in Downing Street last month.
On his last visit to the United Kingdom, in July last year, Trump shocked Britains political establishment by hammering Mays Brexit negotiation for being too weak with the EU and by praising rival Johnson as a “great” potential prime minister.
Trumps national security adviser John Bolton said on Thursday the United States did not want to “get in the middle” of Brexit or a discussion of the next governments policies.
Bolton dismissed concerns about Brexit: “You know, America declared its independence once – we made out okay,” he quipped.
Brexit is the most significant geopolitical move for the United Kingdom since World War Two and if it ever happens then London will be more reliant on the United States as ties loosen with the other 27 members of the EU.
At a meeting with May, Trump will warn Britain that security cooperation could be hurt if London allows Chinas Huawei a role in building parts of the 5G network, the next generation of cellular technology.
The Trump administration has told allies not to use its 5G technology and equipment because of fears it would allow China to spy on sensitive communications and data. Huawei denies it is, or could be, a vehicle for Chinese intelligence.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Britain last month it needed to change its attitude towards China and Huawei, casting the worlds second largest economy as a threat to the West similar to that once posed by the Soviet Union.
Britains so-called special relationship with the United States is an enduring alliance, but some British voters see Trump as crude, volatile and opposed to their values on issues ranging from global warming to his treatment of women.
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