May to discuss U.S. deal, EU in Trump meeting, FT reports
Prime Minister Theresa May will discuss maintaining European unity and a U.K.-U.S. trade deal when she becomes the first foreign leader to meet President Donald Trump as soon as next week, according to reports in U.K. newspapers.
May said in an interview with the Financial Times she expects to have “very frank” talks with the new U.S. president in Washington. May told the FT she’ll stress her desire for a strong Europe and for continued co-operation between Britain and its continental partners on issues such as defense and security.
Her comments follow remarks by Trump earlier this month that the European Union is an instrument of German domination designed to beat the U.S. in international trade and that he’s fairly indifferent about whether the bloc stays together. Trump has also said leaving the 28-nation EU would be good for Britain and that he’ll offer the U.K. a quick and “fair” trade deal.
May also said she is sure Trump “recognizes the importance and significance of NATO,” according to the FT. In an interview with the German newspaper Bild before his inauguration, Trump said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is obsolete and urged more nations to pay their fair share toward the alliance’s costs.
May told the FT she hopes to discuss the trade deal with Trump and consider removing some barriers to the free movement of goods and services. The U.K., which plans to start two years of negotiations to leave the EU by the end of March, can’t strike new trade accords until it has left or at least left the bloc’s customs union.
Under a secret U.K. plan agreed with the White House, May will be the first state leader to meet with Trump and could fly to Washington on Thursday, the Telegraph reported, without saying where it got the information. Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, proposed an earlier trip than had been initially planned, the paper reported.
A Downing Street spokesman said reports May will visit Trump next week are “speculation” and that the dates of the trip have yet to be confirmed.
(Updates with Downing Street comment.)
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