U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he looked forward to finalizing a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain, striking a contrasting tone to a newspaper interview when he said Prime Minister Theresa May's strategy would kill such an agreement.
"We want to trade with the UK and the UK wants to trade with us," Trump said at a press conference with May in the garden of her official country residence Chequers.
Trump labeled the interview with the British tabloid the Sun as "fake news" for suggesting he was critical of May, and said he could prove that because he had his own recording of the interview. He offered the recording to anyone interested in listening to it.
May is an "incredible woman" who is "doing a fantastic job" as the British prime minister, Trump insisted. He said he got to know May much better over several days of meetings and socializing this week. "I think she's a terrific woman."
Last week, May finally won agreement for her Brexit strategy from her cabinet but within days, two senior ministers quit, which Trump said earlier in the week had left Britain in turmoil.
In an interview published just hours before the two leaders held talks, Trump chided the "very unfortunate" results of the prime minister's strategy for negotiating Britain's departure from the European Union.
"If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal," Trump told the Sun. "I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn't listen to me."
May likewise glossed over the comments in the Sun.
"We agreed today that as the UK leaves the European Union we will pursue an ambitious U.S.-UK free trade agreement," she said. "The Chequers agreement reached last week provides the platform for Donald and me to pursue an ambitious deal that works for both countries right across our economies."
As they spoke, thousands of protesters marched against Trump through central London, one of more than 100 demonstrations planned against the president during his four-day visit.
While Trump's trip was not a full state visit, he has been given red carpet treatment and is scheduled to have tea later with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle, where her grandson Prince Harry married U.S. actress Meghan Markle in May.
Trump was also questioned by reporters about his Monday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump said he had been "far tougher on Russia than anybody... We have been extremely tough on Russia."
Material from Reuters, AFP, and The Associated Press was used in preparing this report.
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