Tory minister insists Donald Trump visit a 'success' after US president attacks Theresa May Brexit plan

Posted On: 
13th July 2018

A top Tory minister has insisted Donald Trump’s trip to Britain had "most definitely" been a success - just hours after the US President laid into Theresa May’s Brexit plan.

Donald Trump holds Theresa May's hand last night at Blenheim Palace
Credit: 
PA Images

Sir Alan Duncan said America's commander-in-chief was a "controversialist" and insisted his attacks on UK government policy were not "rude".

Last night Mr Trump stunned Westminster when he said the Prime Minister had ignored his advice to go for a clean break with the EU and had therefore “probably killed” any hopes of a free trade deal between the UK and America.

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In further incendiary comments, he said Boris Johnson - who quit the Government over the Brexit plan - would make a “great Prime Minister”.

The intervention is a huge embarrassment for Mrs May, who wants to sell her Brexit white paper - which was finally published yesterday - to her warring party as well as Brussels.

Asked on Radio 4's Today programme whether President Trump's visit to the UK had been a “success” so far, Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan said: "It’s not over yet but so far most definitely. I’m very pleased it is happening."

He added: "Donald Trump is in many ways a controversialist - that’s his style, that’s the colour he brings to the world stage. And he is in that sense very unconventional - I don't think we see it as rude.”

Sir Alan said he was "very confident" the US would in fact strike a trade deal with the UK after Brexit - arguing Mr Trump was yet to see the details in the white paper.

And he added: "We will be respectful and polite to our guest. We believe in diplomatic good manners and we will show those manners and proper hospitality.

"That’s what we do. It’s called effective diplomacy and we do it rather well."

But he was contradicted within minutes as two other ministers called out the President for his remarks.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah pulled up the controversial commander-in-chief over a lack of "manners", while Digital Minister Margot James hit back at his support for Mr Johnson - who she said would make "make a terrible PM".

Plans in the Brexit white paper to maintain a "free trade area" on goods and a "common rule book" of regulations to avoid a hard border in Ireland have angered Tory MPs.

In his interview with the Sun, President Trump said: "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, then their trade deal with the US will probably not be made."

The maverick Republican's remarks echo comments he made at the end of the Nato summit in Brussels yesterday, when he said Mrs May's Brexit plans were "not what people voted for" in the EU referendum.

Hitting back at the President, Mrs May said: "We have come to an agreement at the proposal we’re putting to the European Union which absolutely delivers on the Brexit people voted for.

"They voted for us to take back control of our money, our law and our borders and that’s exactly what we will do."

Meanwhile Tory MP and arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said President Trump was telling the truth about the Brexit white paper. 

And he insisted Mr Trump was free to make the destructive comments - unlike former US president Barack Obama, who said an independent Britain would be at the "back of the queue" for a trade deal during the Brexit referendum.

Mr Rees-Mogg - who was furious in the wake of the Obama intervention - insisted on the Today programme: "That was when he came in the midst of an election campaign - it was direct interference in an election."