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Trump's comments cast shadow over visit

By Earle Gale in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-06-02 18:50

US president makes his views known on several issues ahead of trip to UK

United States President Donald Trump prepared for his state visit to the United Kingdom by unleashing a torrent of advice and criticism that will surely have embarrassed outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May at the start of one of her last major assignments as the UK's leader.

Before touching down in the British Isles, Trump, who has never been shy about sharing his opinions in apparently undiplomatic outbursts, told the Sunday Times newspaper that the British government's Brexit negotiations had left the European Union "with all the cards". And he said May's nemesis, Nigel Farage, the man who led the charge to persuade the UK's voters to want to leave the EU, should now be involved in the UK government's negotiations. He added that, if the UK doesn't get everything it wants from divorce talks, it should be prepared to leave the bloc without a deal — the so-called no-deal Brexit that May has been cautioning against for the past three years.

"Think how well they would do if they did," Trump said of such a strategy.

And he rubbed salt into May's wounds by saying in an interview with Britain's tabloid Sun newspaper that former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, one of those who engineered her ousting from office, would make a great replacement prime minister.

"I think Boris would do a very good job," he said. "I think he would be excellent."

In the same interview, he described US citizen Meghan, the duchess of Sussex, as "nasty", something that is likely to enrage the large section of the British public that dotes on the new royal.

Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to deny he had insulted Meghan.

"I never called Meghan Markle 'nasty.' Made up by the Fake News Media, and they got caught cold!"  he tweeted.

Even before Trump's comments, the trip was shaping up to be far from smooth.

With May heading for the door of 10 Downing Street, builders renovating Buckingham Palace, a ban on addressing Parliament imposed by the speaker of the House of Commons, and UK citizens more interested in the nation's relationship with the EU, the visit, which runs from Monday to Wednesday, was likely to be difficult. When you add in the fact that the duchess of Sussex was not expected to meet the president, having recently given birth to the queen's newest great-grandchild, it had more than its fair share of challenges.

Meghan described Trump in a 2016 interview with a US television station as "misogynistic" and "divisive" and is believed to have a low opinion of him, so some will see her anticipated absence as a snub, especially in light of Trump apparently responding with the "nasty" comment.

Thousands of anti-Trump protesters are likely to follow him wherever he goes, just as they did when he visited in 2018 for a normal official visit. On that occasion, they unveiled a 6-meter inflatable effigy of him as an angry, orange, nappy-wearing baby, something that is understood to have infuriated him.

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