AYLESBURY: US Presi­dent Donald Trump on Friday played down his extraordinary attack on Britain’s plans for Brexit, praising Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership and insisting ties between the two countries “have never been stronger”.

Trump’s first official visit to Britain was overshadowed by his scathing criticism of May’s plans for leaving the European Union, which risks encouraging a revolt among eurosceptics in her party.

“Whatever you do is okay with us, just make sure we can trade together, that’s all that matters,” Trump told May after talks at her country retreat of Chequers, as a colourful protest of tens of thousands including an inflatable “Trump Baby” marched through the streets of London.

At a press conference in the grounds of the 16th-century manor house, he repeatedly praised May’s leadership, saying she was a “terrific woman” and admitting that Brexit was a “tough situation”.

They met just hours after an interview with The Sun tabloid was published, in which Trump said May’s plans for close future ties with the EU would “probably kill” her hopes for a US trade deal.

He suggested this was not what voters wanted, saying he had advised May to take another path. He added that Boris Johnson, who quit as foreign minister over the plan, would make “a great prime minister”.

Trump denied on Friday that he had criticised May, suggesting that there was an element of “fake news” in the report — even though The Sun released audio recordings confirming his words.

His interview drew outrage among British politicians, who accused him of being “determined to insult” May after 18 months of testy relations between the two. It also fired up demonstrators in London.

Chanting “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!”, they flew a huge balloon of the president depicted as a crying baby outside the Houses of Parliament.

Some protesters banged on pots and pans, others blew on trumpets and many held up orange “Stop Trump” balloons. “Donald Trump is misogynistic, chauvinistic, homophobic, xenophobic, promotes bigotry... and has tiny little hands,” said one of the participants, 42-year-old Georgina Rose.

Even Londoners not protesting and stopping to take in the mass of people, placards and sloganeering seemed supportive of the demonstrations.

“He brings it on himself — it’s like having a juvenile in charge of a superpower,” said construction worker Dan Kelly, 47.

Less than nine months before it intends to leave the EU, the British government published its blueprint on Thursday calling for close trade ties with the bloc, outraging those who want a cleaner break.

In The Sun interview conducted on Wednesday, Trump said he had advised May on the way forward but she had ignored him, adding that “it is too bad what is going on”. “The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on,” in the 2016 EU referendum, he told the paper.

He warned staying close to the bloc “will probably kill” hopes of a British trade deal with the US.

But Trump said on Friday that after speaking to May’s officials and trade experts he felt confident that a deal between the two countries “will be possible”, adding that Brexit presented an “incredible opportunity”.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2018