Donald Trump told Theresa May “there goes that relationship” - following a difficult question from the BBC about his behaviour.
Appearing at a joint press conference in the White House on Friday, Trump praised Brexit and said he thought he would “get along very well” with the prime minister.
However he bristled at a question from Laura Kuenssberg. The BBC political editor who asked him: “What do you say to our viewers at home who are worried about some of your views and worried about you becoming the leader the free world?”
Trump turned to May, who had picked Kuenssberg. “This was your choice of a question, There goes that relationship,” he joked. At least the prime minister will hope he was joking.
The president was also challenged by The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn over his personality, compared to May’s more reserved demeanor. “I’m not as brash as people think,” Trump said. “I really don’t change my position very much,” he added, having been accused of performing policy U-turns.
May has been criticsed by politicians back in the UK for cosying up to Trump - who since taking office has, abandoned global free trade deals, criticsed the Nato alliance, shut down communication about climate change, cut funding for abortion and spoken in favour of torture. The President has also devoted much of his time to whining about accurate reporting about the number of people who attended his inauguration.
During the press conference, May announced Trump has accepted an invitation to make a state visit to the UK later this year.
Earlier today, May and Trump posed for photographs in the Oval Office either side of a bust of Winston Churchill. “It’s a great honour to have Churchill back,” Trump said. “Thank you Mr President,” May told him. The presence or absence of the small statue has, for some reason, become a symbol of an American president’s commitment to the transatlantic alliance. The Washington Post explains the complicated movements of two Churchill busts in and around the White House under George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Yesterday, May addressed the Republican congressional retreat in Pennsylvania where she evoked the memory of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in an attempt to convince the US to renew its “special relationship” with the UK. May said the two countries had a “responsibility” to come together and offer leadership to the rest of the world.
Asked by reporters on her RAF plane as she flew to the US whether she would struggle, as a reserved vicar’s daughter, to strike a rapport with the brash property tycoon and reality TV star, May said: “Haven’t you heard? Sometimes opposites attract.”
The prime minister’s decision to embrace Trump has not gone down well with some EU leaders. French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron today said the UK was “becoming a vassal state” of the US.
Ed Miliband has accused May of “locking” the UK in Trump’s boot” by seeking a “Trojan horse” trade deal the US. The former Labour leader said it was a “mistake” for the her to align herself so closely with the new president.
He instead welcomed Angela Merkel’s stance after the Chancellor advocated a partnership with the US only on the condition they adhere to the same values as Germany.
In her speech yesterday, the PM did also sound notes of caution over foreign policy positions taken by Trump on the campaign trail, warning that his watchword with Vladimir Putin’s Russia should be “engage but beware”. She described the Iran nuclear deal – which Trump has threatened to tear up – as “vitally important for regional security”. And she spoke out in support of the importance of international institutions like the UN, IMF and Nato, often the target of Trump’s scorn, in maintaining global peace and prosperity.
In a sign of her determination to deepen links with the Republican establishment as well as the team around Trump, she has also held private talks with House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, as well as the Foreign Affairs Committee chairmen of the two houses of Congress, Ed Royce and Bob Corker.