Boris Johnson delays plans for US visit after angry phone call with Trump

PM had been expected to travel to Washington in the spring

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Friday 14 February 2020 16:16 GMT
Boris Johnson arrives at Downing Street amid Cabinet reshuffle

Boris Johnson is understood to have cancelled plans for a spring visit to the US amid tensions with Donald Trump about the decision to allow Chinese firm Huawei to play a role in the UK’s 5G network.

Downing Street denied that the prime minister had been forced to delay the trip because of the Huawei decision, which reportedly sent Mr Trump into a furious rage during a telephone call with Mr Johnson.

The prime minister was expected to travel to Washington at the beginning of the year for a high-profile meeting with the president as focus shifts to securing a lucrative post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

But the trip is understood to have been pushed back to June to coincide with a meeting of G7 leaders at Camp David in Maryland.

The US president was said to be “apoplectic” with rage over Mr Johnson’s refusal to ban Huawei, which Washington believes could pose a security threat due to the firm’s relationship with the Chinese government. Huawei has strongly denied the allegations.

Tensions also remain over Washington’s refusal to extradite the wife of a US diplomat, Anne Sacoolas, who is accused of involvement in the death of British teenager Harry Dunne.

Downing Street insisted the prime minister was focused on delivering his domestic agenda, with sources saying he had asked for foreign travel to be reduced.

Using a Lord of the Rings analogy, a senior Downing Street figure told The Sun: “Levelling up the country, making the streets safe and sorting out the NHS is why the PM won the election.

“When the Eye of Sauron is off the Whitehall machine, things stop working.”

Asked if the visit had been delayed due to the Huawei decision, a spokesperson for the prime minister said: “The PM looks forward to visiting the US and will remain in touch with the administration.

“I will add, he is currently focused on driving through the government’s ambitious domestic agenda and on levelling up across the country to deliver for the people of Britain.”

The spokesperson said the UK “continues to have an excellent relationship with the US”, when asked if the prime minister was not welcome in Washington.

Asked what a delay meant for US-UK trade talks, the spokesperson said: “Both we and the US have been clear of our intention to secure a free trade deal. Work on that – as we’ve set out in the house a week or so ago – is ready and can start.”

One official who was briefed on the contents of the call between the prime minister and president, which took place on 28 January, told the Financial Times that Mr Trump was “apoplectic” with rage.

Another said the call was “very difficult” and the president’s tone had taken British officials aback.

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