UK Prime Minister Theresa May is in no hurry to meet with Donald Trump after his latest verbal barrage at her Brexit strategy.
May hasn’t requested a meeting with the US president at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires this week, her spokesman, James Slack, told reporters on Tuesday. The reason? "We’ve met the president a number of times in recent months," according to Slack.
While the UK holds dear its so-called "special relationship" with the US, the truth is May and Trump’s interactions have been less than special, and they’ve fallen out on several occasions.
The president’s latest undiplomatic language saw him criticise the Brexit deal May struck at the weekend with the European Union, saying it may leave Britain unable to trade with the US. The verbal bombshell undermines her approach, because she’s held up striking a trade deal with the world’s biggest economy as one of the big prizes of leaving the EU.
Trump called the agreement “a great deal for the EU” and urged May to reopen talks with Brussels. The prime minister’s office pushed back in a statement, saying the deal allows for the UK to strike its own trade deals and it remains committed to getting one with the US.
The two leaders are due to attend the G20 summit on Friday and Saturday in the Argentinian capital, May’s first opportunity to sell in person the deal to leaders outside the EU as she seeks lucrative trade accords around the world.
Trump also criticised May’s Brexit strategy in an interview with The Sun newspaper just before meeting with the prime minister at her country retreat in July. That time, he spent an hour-long news conference trying to patch up relations. But May was unable to resist a dig back after he’d left, laughing as she revealed that the president’s advice to her had been “sue the EU”.
Their first meeting, when May visited the White House in January 2017, went well, with the prime minister and president even holding hands, but then Trump announced a controversial immigration policy while she was en route back to Europe, and May came under pressure to condemn it on landing.
Since then, the two have repeatedly clashed in public: over intelligence leaks after a terrorist attack in Manchester, the Iran nuclear deal, and most dramatically, after the president tweeted a message from a British far-right anti-Muslim campaigner.
May’s office has also slapped down Trump when he tweeted that former UK Independence Party Leader Nigel Farage should be made US ambassador; and after Trump criticised London Mayor Sadiq Khan in the wake of a terror attack on London just days before the June 2017 general election, the premier was forced to defend the opposition Labour Party politician.
With Britain due to leave the EU in March, a US trade deal remains a target. "We’re working with the US very closely," Slack said.
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