U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to criticise Theresa May’s handling of Brexit ahead of his state visit to the United Kingdom, saying she left the EU with “all the cards” — and criticising her for not involving Nigel Farage in the negotiations.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, the American leader lamented the British government’s failure to deliver Brexit, telling the newspaper “they gotta get it done” and indicating that, if the European Union maintains its uncompromising stance, a clean, No Deal Brexit would be the best course of action.
“If they don’t get what they want, I would walk away,” he said bluntly.
“Yes, I would walk away. If you don’t get the deal you want, if you don’t get a fair deal, then you walk away.”
He also indicated that, were he in the position of a British prime minister in such a situation, he would not be handing over the estimated £39 billion the EU is demanding from the United Kingdom as the price of Brexit.
“If I were them, I wouldn’t pay 50 billion dollars,” he said.
“That is a big number. I wouldn’t pay 50 billion dollars. That is me. I would not pay — that is a tremendous number.”
The President was also critical of the Tory government’s refusal to involve Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage — “a terrific person” — in the negotiations, suggesting that they might have had a more positive outcome if he had been involved.
“I think it is a mistake. He has a lot to offer. He is a very smart person,” he said.
“They won’t bring him in. Think how well they would do if they did. They just haven’t figured that out yet.”
Mr Trump also congratulated Farage on the lightning success of his new Brexit Party in the EU Parliament elections, saying, “I hear he has done very well. I think he has got a lot to offer. Obviously a lot of people agree with me because I saw his numbers and they were very good.”
As for Theresa May, who will formally resign as Prime Minister shortly after Mr Trump’s state visit concludes, the President said she was “a professional” but had left the EU with “all the cards” going into negotiations, and had failed to put them under pressure.
“I just think it is very hard for the UK to get a good deal when you go into negotiation that way,” the famous deal-maker explained.
“I can’t blame the European Union [for their actions] because they had very little to lose. They had no downside. That is why they were… willing to give so little,” he added.
Mr Trump was particularly critical of the terms of Mrs May’s proposed deal with the European as they related to trade, saying he thought the “two-year moratorium” on Britain being able to negotiate new trade deals in the so-called “transition period” was “very bad… a tremendous penalty”.
“We have the potential to be an incredible trade partner with the UK,” he suggested.
“We’re doing relatively little compared to what we could be doing with UK… I think much bigger than European Union,” he offered.
In fact, a deal like the one Mrs May negotiated could make it impossible to negotiate meaningful trade deals outside the EU even after a “transition” moratorium, as its terms entailed permanent submission to Brussels with respect to customs, competition rules, and regulatory policy.