LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May has become the first foreign leader to meet Donald Trump since he was inaugurated as US president last week.
May and Trump held a brief press conference, during which they both underlined the strength of the “special relationship” between the UK and America.
Trump opened the press conference, saying there is a “great bond” between the two countries. “I am honoured to have Prime Minister Theresa May here,” he said. “Our relationship has never been stronger.”
May congratulated Trump on his “stunning election victory.” She extended an invitation from the Queen for Trump to travel to the UK later this year on a state visit. Trump has accepted.
She said: “Thank you for inviting me so soon after your inauguration and I’m delighted to be able to congratulate you on what was a stunning election victory.
“And, as you say, the invitation is an indication of the strength and importance of the special relationship that exists between our two countries, a relationship based on the bonds of history, of family, kinship, and common interests.”
The prime minister added that Trump had assured her that he is “100% behind NATO” and she said they would discuss foreign affairs including Russia and Syria. She added that a trade deal is in the interests of both nations and they hope to begin “immediate high-level talks.”
Tough question from the BBC
May was asked by BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg if she and Trump had disagreed on anything during the visit. May said: “There will be times when we disagree. The point of the special relationship is that we are able to have that open and frank discussion.”
Kuenssberg also raised some of Trump’s more “alarming” views on torture, Russia, and abortion. Kuenssberg asked how he would address concerns in the UK about him becoming the “leader of the free world.”
Trump joked: “That was your choice of a question? There goes that relationship.”
On torture, Trump said he will rely on the advice of his Secretary of Defence James Mattis, explaining that the retired general “does not necessarily believe in torture or waterboarding — I don’t necessarily agree, but he will over-ride.” On Russia, the president said his views on Vladimir Putin are neither “good, bad or indifferent.”
The president also heralded Britain’s decision to leave the European Union last year, arguing that “Brexit is going to be a wonderful thing.” He added: “Great days lie ahead for our two peoples and our two countries.”
Earlier, May and Trump posed for pictures in the Oval Office of the White House. The leaders were pictured in front of the Winston Churchill bust Trump moved back into the office in her first week.
“It’s a great honour to have Winston Churchill back,” Trump said during the photo call. May responded: “Thank you very much Mr President.”
The BBC’s @bbclaurak asks @Theresa_May & @POTUS about agreements and disagreements the two leaders have & Trump’s global reputation pic.twitter.com/QanXNDuL7e
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) January 27, 2017
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