U.S. and U.K. could agree to 'phenomenal' post-Brexit trade deal, Trump says in London
But British PM May says 2 countries differ on climate change, Iran
Moving from pageantry to policy during his state visit, President Donald Trump said the United States and the United Kingdom could agree to a "phenomenal" post-Brexit trade deal.
"As the U.K. makes preparations to exit the European Union, the United States is committed to a phenomenal trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K.," Trump told a news conference on Tuesday during his state visit to London.
"There is tremendous potential in that trade deal — I say probably two and even three times of what we are doing right now."
Speaking alongside Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May praised the "precious and profound" British-U.S. special relationship, but acknowledged differences with Trump on issues including climate change and Iran.
CBC's Renée Filippone discusses Trump and other topics with Daily Telegraph reporter Camilla Tominey:
Making nice at the end, Trump eased up on his frequent criticism of May over her handling of the tortured Brexit deal, declaring that history will remember her fondly if the U.K. can successfully leave the European Union.
The president's unexpected compliments for May come just days before she was set to resign the leadership of her party after failing to secure a Brexit deal. She will depart as prime minister once her successor has been chosen.
"I have greatly enjoyed working with you. You are a tremendous professional and a person who loves her country very much," Trump told May. But he couldn't resist a slight dig, evoking the two years of broadsides he had lobbed at her by recalling that he urged her to sue the EU rather than try to negotiate a departure.
Trump said he would have "sued and settled, maybe, but you never know. She's probably a better negotiator than I am." And he added that the deal May came away with was a good one and "perhaps you won't be given the credit you deserve."
May, who fought back tears when she announced her resignation last month, voiced hope her successor will be able to achieve Brexit.
"I still believe — I personally believe — that it is in the best interest of the U.K. to leave the European Union with a deal. I believe there is a good deal on the table," she said. "Obviously, it will be whoever succeeds me as prime minister to take this issue forward. What is paramount, I believe, is delivering on Brexit for the British people."
May mentioned the U.K.'s continued support for the Paris agreement on climate change, which Trump has repudiated. And she said the U.S. and Britain differ on how to limit the threat from Iran.
The U.K. still supports an international agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions, but Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the deal.
May also told the president that "co-operation and compromise are the basis of strong alliances."
Return of the baby blimp
Trump described the thousands of people who demonstrated in London against his visit to Britain as a "small protest." He said he only saw a small demonstration and media reports of the much larger protest amounted to "fake news."
A giant inflatable blimp depicting Trump as a pouting baby in a diaper flew outside Parliament in London ahead of a major protest.
"We're trying to remind the president how unwelcome he is in this country," said Leo Murray, 42, the co-creator of the six-metre-high blimp.
"We're also, in a lighthearted way, trying to articulate the strength of feeling against Donald Trump and his politics of hate," he said. "We want to put a smile on people's faces as well as make a serious point."
The blimp, which was first used during Trump's visit to London last year, rose a few metres off the ground.
In central London, the leader of the U.K.'s opposition Labour Party joined tens of thousands of protesters in a "Carnival of Resistance" to voice their opposition to the president.
Jeremy Corbyn, who spoke at the rally after snubbing Monday night's banquet at Buckingham Palace, said it was an "opportunity to stand in solidarity with those he's attacked in America, around the world and in our own country."
Among those taking part will be environmental activists, anti-racism campaigners and women's rights protesters.
Trump called Corbyn a "negative force," and used the same term for London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Trump said Khan has not been a good mayor and should focus on his job.
Khan said he was not interested in having a "childish playground fight" with Trump.
The U.S. president met with the prime minister and corporate executives from the United States and United Kingdom as part of a day of negotiations ahead of a news conference on Trump's second day on British soil. The leaders' top priority is a possible bilateral trade deal to take effect once — or if — the U.K. leaves the EU.
Trump later met May at 10 Downing Street for additional talks.
Trump calls Boris Johnson
The U.K. is scheduled to leave the EU on Oct. 31 unless both sides agree to an extension. Its position is in flux because May is stepping down as party leader Friday, setting in motion a race to succeed her as prime minister.
It is traditional for U.S. and other world leaders to not weigh in on another's domestic politics. But Trump hasn't let that stop him. Trump told the Sunday Times in an interview that Britain should "walk away" from talks and refuse to pay a $49 billion US divorce bill if it doesn't get better terms from the EU.
The president also said Brexit party leader Nigel Farage, an outspoken advocate of leaving the EU without a deal, should be given a role in the negotiations.
Trump also took the unusual step of saying that Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson would make an "excellent" leader for Britain.
Trump on Tuesday called Johnson and offered a one-to-one meeting. Johnson declined the invitation as he had to focus on meeting Conservative Party lawmakers who will vote on who they want to be the next prime minister, a source told Reuters.
The president understood the situation and said he looked forward to catching up at a later date, the source said. Their call lasted for around 20 minutes, the source added.
The meeting with business leaders at St. James's Palace brought together 10 leading companies — five from the U.K. and five from the United States. They explored where co-operation could benefit both sides.
With files from Reuters