President Trump in Britain on Friday skirmished with members of the press he deemed “fake news” and put on display his strong relationship with Prime Minister Theresa May.
Mr. Trump and Mrs. May held hands as they entered and exited a joint press conference and repeatedly praised each other, contradicting a bombshell report about the president criticizing her Brexit plan.
“Whatever you are going to do is OK with us,” Mr. Trump said of the Brexit plan at the press confreres, adding, “as long as you can trade with us.”
Before a meeting with Mrs. May, Mr. Trump said her plan fell short of the hard exit from the E.U. that voters wanted — and noted it could scuttle a U.S.-U.K. trade deal.
“The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on. It was not the deal that was in the referendum,” Mr. Trump told the Sun, a tabloid newspaper in London.
But Mr. Trump and Mrs. May were on the same page when they emerged from their talks at Chequers, the prime minister’s official estate in Ellesborough, about 40 miles northwest of London.
At the presser, Mr. Trump said the prime minister was doing a “fantastic job” and that Brexit was “very complicated and not an easy negotiation for sure.”
Mr. Trump also took on the newspaper’s report about him praising former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a Brexit hardliner who quit Monday over Mrs. May’s plan for a soft exit from the E.U.
The newspaper asked if Mr. Johnson would be a good leader and Mr. Trump said he would be a “great prime minister.”
Mr. Trump said he also praised Mrs. May in the interview but that was not in the headline.
“It’s called ‘fake news’ and we solve a lot of problems with the good old recording instruments,” said Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump said he apologized to Ms. May about the report but “she said, ‘Don’t worry it’s the press.’”
Mrs. May insisted she would execute a clean break with the European Union that included independent trade authority to cut deals with the U.S. and the rest of the world.
“This does deliver on the vote of the British people,” she said.
Mr. Trump said that his comments to the newspaper about trade were based on reports that the E.U. would continue to affect U.K. trade deals. He said Mrs. May convinced him that was not the case.
“We want to trade with the U.K. and the U.K. wants to trade with us,” he said.
The U.K. voted for Brexit two years ago, but the break with the E.U. has been repeatedly delayed. Mrs. May now is struggling to sell a strategy for the exit that holds together her government coalition of Brexit hardliners and moderates who fear isolation from the E.U.
The date for Britain quitting the E.U. is set for March 29, 2019.
The Trump administration has talked up the prospects of a U.S.-U.K. trade deal that for Mrs. May would be a welcome respite from the Brexit turmoil.