Downing Street admits Trump won't hold private talks with Theresa May amid report White House cancelled meeting

No 10 insists 'nothing unusual' about absence of one-to-one meeting - but UK and US leaders have found time in the past

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 03 June 2019 13:15
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Anti-Trump protester and president supporter clash outside Buckingham Palace

Theresa May will not hold private talks with Donald Trump during his State Visit, but Downing Street has denied that the White House axed a meeting.

At least one cabinet minister will join “a delegation” that will meet with the White House team in No 10, alongside a “range of officials”, it has emerged.

The prime minister’s spokesman rejected a BBC report that White House removed a one-to-one meeting from a schedule it circulated – insisting there was “nothing unusual” about the set up.

Nevertheless, the absence of private talks will be seen as evidence that Mr Trump views Ms May as a lame duck leader about to leave office, amid suggestions he could find time to meet Boris Johnson.

The two leaders did meet one-to-one when she rushed to Washington within days of his inauguration in 2017 – as did Barack Obama and David Cameron, when they met.

Asked if he believed Mr Trump did not want a private meeting, the prime minister’s spokesman replied: “I’m sure the answer to that is no.”

And he insisted there was no break with protocol, saying: “This is how discussions take place with any leader – there’s nothing unusual.”

The spokesman pointed out Ms May will give Mr Trump a private tour of the Churchill war rooms on Tuesday, adding: “I would expect there to be discussions between them.”

He was also put on the spot about weekend interviews, in which Mr Trump called for Nigel Farage to join the Brexit negotiating team – and his ambassador said the NHS would be “on the table” in any trade talks.

Both Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, had made clear the NHS would not for sale, the spokesman said, making clear Ms May agreed.

And, on Mr Farage’s position, he said: “The next phase of Brexit negotiations will be conducted by somebody else, not by the prime minister. It will be for them to seek a way forward.”

Downing Street also refused to criticise Mr Trump’s extraordinary attack on Sadiq Khan as a “stone cold loser”, who had “done a terrible job as Mayor of London”.

“It’s a matter for them, they can both speak for themselves,” the spokesman said.

The “delegation” joining the No 10 talks tomorrow will include Mr Hunt, although Downing Street could not rule out other ministers being present.

Ms May and Mr Trump will also meet leading business figures and hold a joint press conference on Tuesday.

Philip May, the prime minister's husband, and Melania Trump, the First Lady, will also attend a Downing Street garden party.

Ms May will be embarrassed if Mr Trump follows through on his suggestion of a meeting with Mr Johnson – the frontrunner in the race to replace her.

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