London/BRUSSELS – United States President Donald Trump flies into “hot spot” Britain on Thursday hours after casting doubt on Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for leaving the European Union.
Protests are planned across the country where the president says the people like him a lot.
After a NATO summit where he provoked a crisis session to force allies to up their defense spending, Trump arrives in Britain having described the closest U.S. ally in Europe as being in turmoil over Brexit.
May hopes Trump’s trip will help forge a future free trade deal, but instead Trump’s views on Brexit have cast a shadow over the visit.
The trip coincides with a tumultuous week for May after two senior ministers resigned in protest at her plans for trade with the EU after Britain leaves next March.
That business-friendly Brexit proposal was only agreed by her cabinet last Friday after two years of wrangling since Britons voted to leave the bloc in a 2016 referendum.
“I’m going to a pretty hot spot right now, right? With a lot of resignations,” Trump told a news conference at the NATO summit in Brussels.
“The people voted to break it up, so I imagine that’s what they’ll do. But maybe they’re taking a little bit of a different route, so I don’t know if that’s what they voted for.”
Asked about Trump’s comments, May said: “We’re delivering on the vote of the British people to take back control of our money, our laws and our borders.”
Trump has long been a Brexit supporter and has expressed enthusiasm for a wide-ranging trade deal with Britain after Brexit, something heralded by eurosceptics as being one of the great benefits of exiting the bloc.
He has also said he might speak to Boris Johnson, who quit as foreign secretary over May’s plans.
May is trying to unify her deeply divided Conservative Party behind her Brexit plans with some of her own lawmakers openly speaking of a leadership challenge.
In a statement ahead of Trump’s arrival, she said the visit would focus on trade and strengthening defence and security ties, saying there was no stronger alliance than Britain’s “special relationship with the U.S.”
“There will be no alliance more important in the years ahead,” she said.