President Donald Trump criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of Brexit on Thursday, telling The Sun newspaper that her plan was “very unfortunate” and would “probably” kill any possible trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K.
The comments could be seen as a body blow to May’s government, which is struggling to steady itself after two key Cabinet members — including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson — resigned in protest earlier this week at her plan to keep Britain and the European Union in a free market for goods, with a more distant relationship for services.
When asked about the ongoing negotiations between May’s government and the EU over the terms of their divorce, Trump told The Sun: “I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me. She wanted to go a different route. I would actually say that she probably went the opposite way. And that is fine, she should negotiate the best way she knows how. But it is too bad what is going on.”
Trump threw cold water on that prospect in his Sun interview, saying: “If they do a deal like [May’s plan], we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal … We have enough difficulty with the European Union. We are cracking down right now on the European Union because they have not treated the United States fairly on trading.”
Trump even went so far as to question whether May’s plan constituted a true exit from the European Union: “The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on. It was not the deal that was in the referendum.”
In response to the interview, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump “likes and respects Prime Minister May very much. As he said in his interview with the Sun she ‘is a very good person’ and he ‘never said anything bad about her’. He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person.”