Trump says he 'feels badly' for Theresa May despite repeatedly criticising her over Brexit

Comments come ahead of president's state visit to Britain

Andrew Buncombe
Friday 24 May 2019 13:47 BST
Trump says he 'feels badly' for Theresa May following her resignation

Donald Trump has said he "feels badly" for departing prime minister Theresa May, despite having repeatedly criticised her over the way she handled Brexit.

“I feel badly for Theresa – I like her very much. She’s a good woman, she worked very hard. She’s very strong,” he told reporters as he left the White House on his way for a visit to Japan.

“She decided to do something that some people were surprised at, some people weren’t. It’s for the good of her country.”

Mr Trump’s comments came after the prime minister, under intense pressure from elected members of the her own party, tearfully announced she will be standing down as leader on 7 June, though she will remain as premier until a successor is chosen.

As it is, Mr Trump is due to head to Britain on 3 June for a three-day official state visit, during which he will meet the prime minister.

Mr Trump’s relationship with Ms May has not always been easy, something that has put the British prime minister in the same camp as the leaders of other nations that have long been US allies, including France and Germany.

Last year, he visited her at her official country estate at Chequers, where they held a joint press conference.

“For generations, our predecessors have gathered at this stunning retreat to strengthen a bond that is like no other. The relationship between our two nations is indispensable to the cause of liberty, justice and peace,” said the president.

“The United Kingdom and the United States are bound together by a common historic heritage, language, and heroes.”

Theresa May talks about Sir Nicholas Winton's advice to her in resignation speech

But that same day, Mr Trump had been far less complementary of Ms May, telling The Sun he felt she had performed badly in her handling of Brexit.

“I would have done it much differently,” he said. “I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me. She wanted to go a different route.”

Ms May later told the BBC that Mr Trump had suggested to her that Britain “sue the EU”, rather than negotiate, something he had referred to at their press conference – without giving specifics – as a suggestion she considered “too brutal”.

“He told me I should sue the EU. Not go into negotiation, sue them,” Ms May said.

“Interestingly, what the president also said at that press conference was ‘Don’t walk away. Don’t walk away from the negotiations. Then you’re stuck’.”

In his interview with The Sun, Mr Trump also praised the former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, one of those who has constantly been at odds with Ms May and who is said be be planning a run to replace her.

“I have a lot of respect for Boris. He obviously likes me, and says very good things about me,” he said.

“I was very saddened to see he was leaving government and I hope he goes back in at some point. I think he is a great representative for your country.”

He added: “I am not pitting one against the other. I am just saying I think he would be a great prime minister. I think he’s got what it takes.”

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