Donald Trump and Theresa May: what they said – and what they really meant

Our Chief Political Commentator tries to read between the lines of the news conference held by the US president and UK prime minister

John Rentoul
Friday 13 July 2018 16:35
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Trump calls US-UK relationship 'the highest level of special'

What she said: I heard the turn of phrase the president used. Let me be very clear about this, we will be leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019 and we will be delivering on what people voted for.

What she meant: I’ve heard the recording of Donald Trump saying I’d done Brexit all wrong.

What he said: It’s called fake news and we solve a lot of problems with the good old recording instrument.

What he meant: The good old recording instrument will show that I said what The Sun said I said, but who’s going to check?

What she said: We will do a trade deal with them and with others around the rest of the world.

What she meant: It takes years to do a trade deal and he won’t be president for ever.

What he said: Boris Johnson, I think, would be a great prime minister. He’s been very nice to me. He’s been saying very good things about me as president. I think he thinks I’m doing a great job. I am doing a great job, I can tell you, just in case you haven’t noticed.

What he meant: You be nice to me and I’ll be nice to you. I’m actually very thin-skinned, in case you haven’t noticed. Now Theresa May has been nice to me for a whole day just watch me unleash an embarrassing gush of praise for her so I hope everyone will forget the Boris nonsense.

What she said: From the outset President Trump has been clear about how he sees the challenges we face, and, on many, we agree.

What she meant: He will agree if he sticks to the script my people and his people have worked on.

What he said: I have gotten to know her better than ever. She is a terrific woman, she is doing a terrific job. The only thing I ask is that she work it out so we can have a fair deal on trade.

What he meant: Be nice to her and get her onside for America First. That’s what my staff told me to do. I may have laid it on a bit thick. But Theresa agrees with me that the world is unfair to me and to America, so she’s all right.

What she said: It is all of our responsibility to ensure that transatlantic unity endures. For it has been fundamental to the protection and projection of our interests and values for generations.

What she meant: I don’t know why I bother.

Trump says he will ask Putin about meddling, but there won't be any 'got ya' revelations

What he said: You can’t walk away but you can do other things. My suggestion was respectfully submitted.

What he meant: I have got a magic solution to how she should have done Brexit, but you wouldn’t understand it even if I did want to explain it to you, which I don’t.

What she said: Lots of people give me advice about dealing with the European Union. My job is actually getting out there and doing it.

What she meant: I pay no more attention to what Donald Trump says about Brexit than I do to Nigel Farage or Jacob Rees-Mogg.

What he said: I have taken over a lot of bad hands and I am fixing them one by one, and I know how to fix them.

What he meant: I blame Barack Obama.

What she said: I am confident that this transatlantic alliance will continue to be the bedrock of our shared security and prosperity for years to come.

What she meant: I wish you were Barack Obama. Presidents come and go, but the UK-US relationship endures.

What he said: I know it’s politically not necessarily correct to say that, but I’ll say it loud. Immigration has been very bad for Europe, it’s changing the culture, it’s very negative. That’s what I think.

What he meant: Anti-immigration talk means votes back home, especially if I have a go at “political correctness” at the same time. The thing about political correctness is that you can’t say what you think. That’s what I think.

What she said: The UK has a proud history of welcoming people who are fleeing persecution. Over the years immigration has been good for the UK.

What she meant: I’m not going to go the full Hugh Grant, but I can do a bit of dignified defence of liberal values, especially as my voters know that I want to be tough on immigration. Win-win.

What he said: I said I want to apologise. She said: “Don’t worry, it’s only the press.”

What he meant: Yeah, it’s me saying sorry. I can do it, ok? But I’ve got to wrap it up with an attack on the lying liberal media.

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