Trump UK visit: Foreign minister ridiculed for saying US president hasn't been 'rude' to Theresa May

Sir Alan Duncan rules out the prime minister hitting back at the president – even after he buried her Brexit plan and warned it would 'probably kill' off a trade deal

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Friday 13 July 2018 14:44 BST
Sir Alan Duncan suggests Donald Trump did not understand the plan because he has not seen the white paper

A foreign office minister has been ridiculed after denying Donald Trump has been “rude” to Theresa May and insisting his visit is already a “success”.

Sir Alan Duncan also ruled out the prime minister hitting back at the president – after he buried her Brexit plan and warned it would “probably kill” her hopes of a trade deal with the US

Instead, Sir Alan suggested Mr Trump did not understand the plan because he had not seen yesterday’s white paper when he spoke out, claiming: “Events have moved on”.

“There is no reason practically or legally why a trade deal between us and the US cannot happen,” he insisted, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Describing Mr Trump as “unconventional”, Sir Alan said: “I don't think we see it as rude. And I think the atmosphere last night at the Blenheim dinner was very, very special actually.”

Asked if the visit was “a success”, he replied: “So far, most definitely,” – and, asked if Ms May would “come out fighting”, said: “We will be respectful and polite to our guest.”

Sir Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, accused the minister of burying his head in the sand, telling The Independent: “These Conservatives don’t even know when they’re being insulted.

“Either that, or they lack the backbone to stand up for themselves and instead throw up their hands and claim ‘nothing has changed’.”

And Luciana Berger, a Labour supporter of the People's Vote campaign, said: “It is nothing short of embarrassing for our government to return Donald Trump’s insults to our country with bowing and scraping.

"The Government's disastrous week just keeps getting worse - the Brexit White Paper is a shambles that satisfies no-one, and now Trump is openly mocking Theresa May's negotiating strategy.”

Sir Alan’s denial was immediately undermined by Sam Gyimah, the universities minister, who tweeted: “Where are your manners, Mr President?”

And another Conservative minister, Margot James, also hit out at Mr Trump’s warm endorsement of Boris Johnson, tweeting: “No Mr President. Boris Johnson would make a terrible PM.”

And Simon Fraser, a former head of the foreign office said he had reversed his view that Ms May had been right to invite Mr Trump’s visit after his “patronising putdown” of her, which was “wholly outrageous”.

Overnight, Mr Trump threw a hand grenade into Ms May’s hopes for the visit when he publicly attacked her Brexit strategy in an interview for The Sun.

“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal. If they do that, their trade deal with the US will probably not be made,” he warned.

And he added: “I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me.

“She should negotiate the best way she knows how. But it is too bad what is going on.”

There are suspicions that the president was given a briefing on what was agreed at Chequers by Nigel Farage, or Tory opponents of the proposals.

On the BBC’s This Week programme, asked if he had been “winding him up on Brexit”, the former Ukip leader replied: “We’ve had the odd chat about it,” adding Mr Trump was even more anti-EU than him.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in