Trump Meets With May On UK Visit

Jun 4, 2019
Originally published on June 5, 2019 4:41 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Trump met with Prime Minister Theresa May of the U.K. at her residence today. The two leaders held a press conference and referred repeatedly to the special relationship between their countries. And both expressed confidence that the U.S. and U.K. will negotiate a bilateral free trade deal after Britain may finish Brexit, although Prime Minister May steps down in a few days and will not be able to make that happen. The president said this.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: As the U.K. makes preparations to exit the European Union, the United States is committed to a phenomenal trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K. There is tremendous potential in that trade deal.

INSKEEP: One of many things said at the news conference, and NPR's Frank Langfitt was listening.

Hi there, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: Isn't Brexit and this trade deal, huge as they would be, just one of many things that these allies had on their plate today?

LANGFITT: They are. Another one that came up that was really interesting, Steve, was the issue of Huawei, the giant Chinese telecom company. The United States is concerned that if Huawei actually helps work on the 5G network here in the United Kingdom that the Chinese government could get it to spy on the U.K. and, by extension, the U.S. President Trump said, actually, that they had good talks on this, and he's not concerned about the intelligence-sharing relationship between these two allies. This is how he put it at the press conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

TRUMP: We're going to have absolutely an agreement on Huawei and everything else. We have an incredible intelligence relationship, and we will be able to work out any differences. I think we're not going to have - but we did discuss it. I see absolutely no limitations. We've never had limitations.

INSKEEP: OK. We have to note that sounds very positive, but the president is speaking about things that are going to happen. Things that he says are going to happen do not always happen. And in this case, he's talking about his cooperation with a leader who's not going to be there. What was Theresa May hoping to accomplish in one of her final days in office?

LANGFITT: Yeah. I mean, that's a great question, Steve, because she is so on her way out, and she has almost no power left. I think some of this - frankly, analysts here would say that some of this was face-saving. She invited President Trump to come here very early in his administration. She got a lot of flak for it - the idea of doing a state visit on somebody so early on and someone who's so unpopular, particularly here in London. And I think for her to not be around for this and, frankly, not to be in office for the commemoration of the D-Day invasion would have kind of hurt. So I think that she wanted to be here and kind of see out her term, especially the visit - such an important visit of an American president.

INSKEEP: OK. So the state visit continues there. President Trump, Theresa May held their news conference earlier. And you, Frank, have been moving about London, talking with other people of interest, including the mayor of London, who has had this battle of words with the president.

LANGFITT: He has. And what actually was very interesting - at the press conference today, President Trump was asked about Mayor Khan. And they've actually had a war of words coming up on - I can't keep track of this, honestly, Steve, but it feels like close to two years or something. It's been a long time. And he was very critical of Mayor Khan.

And the reason for that is that on Sunday, Mayor Khan wrote in one of the newspapers here that the electoral tactics of Donald Trump and other leaders in Europe reminded him of some of the same that the fascists used in the 20th century - very harsh words. And this morning, I asked Mayor Khan about that. And this is what he told me.

SADIQ KHAN: When you have a leader of a country - but not just any country, of the U.S.A. - amplifying tweets from racists in the U.K., when you've got somebody who is the leader of a country that we love and revere defending white supremacists, it gives a message to people who have far-right views and makes them be emboldened. But also, my worry is they become mainstream.

INSKEEP: How did this - I don't want to call it a quarrel, but it's...

LANGFITT: It's more than a quarrel.

INSKEEP: ...Criticism back and forth for a couple of years - how'd this get started?

LANGFITT: It started, actually, early on in President Trump's term when he tried to attempt to ban immigrants from some majority-Muslim countries. Mayor Khan is of Pakistani descent. He's a Muslim. He thinks this whole concept is incredibly divisive and contrary to sort of the value - the inclusive values of this city, London. And this is what Mayor Khan - how he explained it.

KHAN: By you saying, Muslims aren't allowed to come to the U.S.A., you're feeding into a school of thought that says being a Muslim and being a Westerner are incompatible. And I, as a proud Westerner and also a proud Muslim, think they're not incompatible at all.

INSKEEP: And we should note President Trump defended himself against this criticism by saying, I'm not banning all Muslims. But actually...

LANGFITT: Of course.

INSKEEP: ...That was his original bid, his opening bid.

LANGFITT: It was. And then, I think - and that's when this began, is when Mayor Khan saw that, he responded very forcefully.

INSKEEP: Is the mayor concerned at all about damaging this relationship between these two vital allies?

LANGFITT: It's exactly what I asked him, Steve, because I think some people here would say - while many Londoners agree with the mayor - they share his values, they're not fond of Mr. Trump - there are some people, particularly on the conservative side, on the Brexiteer side who say, why are you quarrel - picking a quarrel with the leader of our most important ally, especially when they will be needing friends with Brexit? They do need a good trade deal. They're going to take a hit probably, especially if it's a no-deal Brexit - they leave the EU without any sort of solid arrangement.

And what the mayor said to me today is, you know, we're best friends, the U.S. and the U.K. We need to be blunt when we speak to each other. And his quarrel is with Mr. Trump and his values, and here's how he put it.

KHAN: Londoners, me included, people in my country, love America. We love Americans. I don't want you to think that some of the views that many of us have about your president are the same as the views we have about your country. We distinguish the current officeholder of the president of the United States of America and America.

INSKEEP: Frank, we should note, though, that the president is very unpopular in Britain. And...

LANGFITT: He is.

INSKEEP: ...People in Britain know that the United States is a democracy, and millions of people voted for him. When you talk with people in Britain, have they really not changed their overall view of the United States?

LANGFITT: I think some have. Certainly, I think the election of Donald Trump rattled people. But not just here - of course, on the European continent, people feel that President Trump doesn't espouse the kind of values that they felt the United States has, especially since World War II and these alliances we've had across the Atlantic. So they do see America quite different in some ways, and they're very interested to see what happens, of course, in 2020 election and if Mr. Trump can stay on.

INSKEEP: OK. NPR's Frank Langfitt is in London on this day when President Trump has been continuing a state visit and held a news conference with Prime Minister Theresa May.

Frank, thanks as always.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.