Theresa May congratulates Donald Trump for his 'stunning election victory'

The British prime minister was the first foreign leader to visit Mr Trump

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Friday 27 January 2017 19:15
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Theresa May congratulates Donald Trump on 'stunning election victory'

There was one occasion when a British Prime Minister spoke some stern words to a bullying US president.

“I think his has become a bad relationship, where the president gets what he wants and casually ignores those things that really matter to Britain,” the prime minister adds.

Fortunately or unfortunately, that scene only exists in the fictional celluloid world of Love Actually. In truth, every time a British leader meets with a US president, that do so as a very junior partner, desperate to cling onto the idea that a “special relationship” still exists.

British prime minister tend to go along with what US presidents say

On Thursday, Theresa May’s visit to the US was no different, and her meeting with Donald Trump par for course with previous encounters, with the British visitor keen for a smooth visit. Last week, Ms May admitted she would not raise Mr Trump's controversial and demeaning comments about women, despite terming them them as unacceptable. At a time when Britain is more desperate than ever to lock down trade deals with the US, the Prime Minister was going to play by the script.

“I thank you for inviting me so soon after your inauguration, and I’m delighted to be able to congratulate you on your stunning election victory,” she said.

She added: “Today’s talks, I think, are a significant moment for President Trump and I to build our relationship.”

Mr Trump, perhaps aware that half the world was watching the press conference, was oddly calm and restrained, and almost presidential.

“We pledge our lasting support to this most special relationship,” he said. “Together, America and the United Kingdom are a beacon for prosperity and the rule of law.”

He added: “The special relationship between our two countries has been one of the great forces in history.”

Ms May said that while Britain and the US were close allies, sometimes it was appropriate for close friends to point out things they disagreed on. But from the news conference at the White House, at least, they seemed largely on the same page.

Ms May said early on that Mr Trump had reaffirmed the US’s “unshakeable commitment” to the NATO military alliance, an issue on which he had sparked controversy by suggesting the group was “obsolete” and that the United States may not not come to the aid of countries that did not meet targets for their own defence spending.

The issue of Russia is one area where the two leaders probably have most disagreements. On Thursday, she urged the US not to be fooled by Vladimir Putin amid reports that Mr Trump was considering lifting sanctions.

Mr Trump said on Friday that it was “very early to be talking about that”. He did say the US wanted to have a great relationship with all countries, including Russia.

Another thing that will have pleased Ms May, were Mr Trump’s comments on Brexit, something he had supported.

“The respects the sovereignty of the British people and their right of self-determination,” he said. “Both countries understand that governments must be responsive to everyday working people.”

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