Trump trips up May as she sells Brexit deal

London, Tuesday

US President Donald Trump warned the Brexit deal could undermine UK-US trade just as the British prime minister launched a nationwide tour to whip up support Tuesday for an agreement that has divided Britain.

Theresa May headed to Wales and Northern Ireland, hours after Trump said it seemed like a “great deal” for the EU that could block Britain from striking its own trade agreement with the United States.

May has two weeks to convince the public, and, crucially, a divided parliament, before a vote in the House of Commons on December 11 that risks ending in a humiliating defeat and sinking the deal.

Trump warned the terms of the deal might block a future trade deal between London and Washington and suggested May had made a mistake.

“Sounds like a great deal for the EU,” he said at the White House, adding: “we have to take a look at seriously whether or not the UK is allowed to trade”.

“As the deal stands, they may not be able to trade with the US and I don’t think they want that at all. That would be a very big negative for the deal,” said the president, who is close to leading Brexiteers in the UK.

“I don’t think that the prime minister meant that and hopefully she’ll be able to do something about that.” May’s Downing Street office hit back at Trump’s comments, saying that Britain would be free to strike its own trade agreements outside the bloc.

“We will have an independent trade policy so that the UK can sign trade deals with countries around the world—including with the United States,” a spokesman said. “We have already been laying the groundwork for an ambitious agreement with the US.”

May on Sunday closed 17 months of complex talks with Brussels by sealing Brexit arrangements with the 27 other EU heads of state and government. But this tortuous chapter on ending Britain’s 45-year involvement in the European project was just the beginning. – AFP

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