Donald Trump has updated his position on a US-UK trade deal in a press conference with Theresa May, saying that he now believes unrestricted trade with the UK is possible following a soft Brexit.
He made the comments in response to a question regarding an interview published today in The Sun, where he said a soft Brexit “will probably kill the deal”.
“If they’re going a slightly different route – and I know they do want independence, it’s going to be independence, it’s just your definition – but if they’re going to go a certain route I just said that I hope you’re going to be able to trade with the United States,” he said.
“I read reports where that won’t be possible, but I believe after speaking with the Prime Minister’s people and representatives and trade experts it will absolutely be possible.”
Describing The Sun’s selective use of quotes from his interview as “fake news”, Trump sought to clarify his comments in the explosive interview.
“I didn’t criticise the Prime Minister, I have a lot of respect for the Prime Minister, and unfortunately there was a story that was done which was, you know, generally fine, but it didn’t put in what I said about the Prime Minister, and I said tremendous things,” he said.
May: “An ambitious US-UK free trade agreement”
Outlining the UK’s plans for trade with the US following Brexit, Theresa May described the plans as “ambitious”.
“With mutual investment between us already over $1tn, we want to go further,” she said.
“We agreed today that as the UK leaves the European Union, we will pursue an ambitious US-UK free trade agreement.
“The Chequers agreement reached last week provides the platform for Donald and me to agree an ambitious deal that works for both countries, right across our economies. A deal that builds on the UK’s independent trade policy, reducing tariffs delivering a gold standard in financial services cooperation and, as two of the world’s most advanced economies, seizing the opportunity of new technology.
“All of this will further our economic cooperation, creating new jobs and prosperity for our people for generations to come.”
Trump: “Whatever you do is ok with us”
The prospect of a soft Brexit was frequently alluded to by Trump during his speech, and in response to questions by journalists.
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“Once the Brexit process is concluded, and perhaps the UK has left the EU, I don’t know what they’re going to do, but whatever you do is ok with me, that’s your decision,” he said, during the speech.
“Whatever you’re going to do is ok with us, just make sure we can trade together, that’s all that matters.
“The United States looks forwards to finalising a great bilateral trade agreement with the United Kingdom. This is an incredible opportunity for our two countries and we will seize it fully.
“We support the decision of the British people to realise full self-government, and we will see how that goes. Very complicated negotiation and not an easy negotiation, that’s for sure.”
However, the question of restrictions did emerge during questions.
“She’s going to make a decision about what she’s going to do,” he said of the British Prime Minister.
“The only thing I ask of Theresa is that we make sure we can trade, that we don’t have any restrictions, because we want to trade with the UK and the UK wants to trade with US. We’re by far their biggest trading partner, and we have a tremendous opportunity to double, triple, quadruple that. “
Trump-May press conference: a stiff affair
The press conference is the first jointly held by Trump and May since January 2017. While then the atmosphere was positive, today has been a somewhat stiffer affair.
The pair emerged from behind a garden wall at Chequers, with Trump looking stiff and distracted before gripping May’s hand to help her down the stairs towards the joint podiums.
Trump employed his usual off-script bluster, whilst May adopted a semi-jovial but not altogether convincing air with the US president.