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Tuesday, June 04, 2019, 21:02
Trump turns from pomp to business in UK visit
By Associated Press
Tuesday, June 04, 2019, 21:02 By Associated Press

US President Donald Trump, center left, and British Prime Minister Theresa May, center right, attend a business roundtable event at St James's Palace, London, June 4, 2019. (TIM IRELAND / AP)

LONDON — Moving from pageantry to policy during his state visit to Britain, US President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged embattled Prime Minister Theresa May to "stick around" to complete a US-UK trade deal, adding to this recent chapter of uncertainty in the allies' storied relationship.

I think we'll have a very, very substantial trade deal. I think that this is something we both want to do ... we're going to get it done

Donald Trump, USPresident

The president, whose praise for May comes after spending days touting her possible successors, met with the prime minister and corporate executives from the United States and United Kingdom as part of a day of negotiations ahead of a news conference on Trump's second day on British soil. The leaders' top priority is a possible bilateral trade deal to take effect once — or if — the UK leaves the European Union.

May has been dogged by her failure to secure Brexit. She plans to resign Friday, days after Trump departs England, as head of the Conservative Party but remain as prime minister until her successor is chosen. It will be the new prime minister's responsibility to negotiate Brexit and a trade deal Trump wants for the US and UK. Trump has been sharply critical of May in the past but only had warm words for her Tuesday as he jokingly urged her to stay to "get this deal done."

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"I think we'll have a very, very substantial trade deal," said Trump, extolling its virtues for both nations. "I think that this is something we both want to do ... we're going to get it done."

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May greets US President Donald Trump outside 10 Downing Street in central London, June 4, 2019. (KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH / AP)

After Trump suggested May stay on, most in the room chuckled. The two leaders later warmly chatted during a tour of 10 Downing St., the prime minister's office, as May pointed out a copy of the American Declaration of Independence. They also planned a joint news conference.

Traditionally, US presidents avoid interjecting themselves in the domestic politics of other nations. But Trump is far from traditional.

Trump told the Sunday Times in an interview ahead of his visit that Britain should "walk away" from talks and refuse to pay a 39 billion-pound (US$49 billion) divorce bill if it doesn't get better terms from the EU.

US President Donald Trump, left and Queen Elizabeth II toast, during the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace, in London, June 3, 2019. (DOMINIC LIPINSKI / POOL PHOTO / AP)

That move, known as a "hard Brexit," could have a devastating impact on the UK economy, according to many experts, and stands in contrast to a previous White House position that the departure should be done as painlessly as possible. Others in the UK are urging for a second referendum that could keep the EU intact.

The president has also opined that Brexit party leader Nigel Farage, an outspoken advocate of leaving the EU without a deal, should be given a role in the negotiations. Farage, a divisive figure in Britain, has long been a Trump supporter. And while Trump has avoided criticizing May on this visit, unlike a year ago when he blistered in her in an email just before landing in London, the president has also touted her rival, Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson, as an "excellent" leader for the UK.

The economic meeting at St. James's Palace brought together 10 leading companies — five from the UK and five from the United States. CEOs and senior representatives from BAE Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, National Grid, Barclays, Reckitt Benckiser, JP Morgan, Lockheed Martin, Goldman Sachs International, Bechtel and Splunk were listed as attending.

While the business leaders gathered, protesters began to assemble across London, some of whom had the now-infamous Trump baby balloon bobbing in the air near Parliament Square. Leaders of Britain's main opposition party are due to join demonstrators at a rally in Trafalgar Square, just up the street from May's Downing Street office. Also in Trafalgar Square: a 16-foot robotic likeness of Trump seated on a golden toilet.

A woman posing as statue of liberty stands next to the 'Trump Baby' blimp as people gather to demonstrate against the state visit of US President Donald Trump in Parliament Square, central London, June 4, 2019. (MATT DUNHAM / AP)

The US president arrived in London at a precarious moment, amid a fresh round of impeachment fervor back home and uncertainty on this side of the Atlantic. The day of meetings with May comes after a whirlwind of pomp, circumstance and protest for Trump, who had lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and tea with Prince Charles before a grand state dinner at Buckingham Palace.

The queen used her toast to emphasize the importance of international institutions created by Britain, the United States and other allies after World War II, a subtle rebuttal to Trump, a critic of NATO and the UN.

But most of the talk and the colorful images were just what the White House wanted to showcase Trump as a statesman while, back home, the race to succeed him — and talk of impeaching him — heated up. Yet Trump, forever a counter-puncher, immediately roiled diplomatic docility by tearing into London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

And as so often happens when Trump travels overseas, norms were shattered, including when the president complained about his television viewing options in the foreign capital and urged people to punish CNN by boycotting its parent company, AT&T.

People hand out Donald Trump toilet paper in central London as people start to gather to demonstrate against the state visit of US President Donald Trump, June 4, 2019. (MATT DUNHAM / AP)

Following Tuesday's focus on business and trade, Trump will use the next two days to mark the 75th anniversary of the June 6, 1944, D-Day landing, likely the last significant commemoration most veterans of the battle will see. The events will begin in Portsmouth, England, where the invasion was launched, and then move across the Channel to France, where Allied forces began to recapture Western Europe from the Nazis.

READ MORE: Trump in Britain for first visit as US president 

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to use the 75th anniversary of the World War II battle that turned the tide on the Western Front to call for strengthening multinational ties the US president has frayed.

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