British Prime Minister Theresa May told BBC television Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump advised her to sue the European Union as part of her Brexit strategy, a piece of advice she told the broadcaster she ignored.
“He told me I should sue the EU,” May told BBC television. “Sue the EU. Not go into negotiations – sue them.”
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May said that Trump, who had been in Britain for a visit, had noted that since she’s already entered negotiations, she should not walk away.
“I want us to be able to sit down to negotiate the best deal for Britain,” May said.
Trump said in an interview published in Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper on Friday that May had not taken his advice on Brexit, which was just one of many comments made by the president about her exit plans. The president then used a news conference with May to walk back his previous comments, saying he understood that the advice he gave her was “a little bit tough.”
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Trump added that May is an “incredible woman” who is doing a “fantastic job” and that the United States and Britain could secure a “great” post-Brexit trade deal.
Asked to rate U.S.-U.K. relations, Trump called them the “highest level of special.” He added it was up to May how to handle Brexit, as long as the U.S. “can trade and we don’t have any restrictions” on commerce with the United Kingdom.
Britons voted to leave the European Union in a June 2016 referendum, and the issue has dominated the political landscape since.
With less than nine months to go before the country is due to break from the EU next March, the political elite and business leaders remain deeply divided over what form Brexit should take.
Trump left Britain on Sunday after visiting with May, though his criticism of her plans seemed to overshadow attempts to secure a post-Brexit bilateral relationship. In addition, his visit heralded a wave of protests across the U.K., from London to Scotland.
The British government has recently published much-anticipated Brexit plans, which proposes that Britain continues its free-market relationship with the EU when it comes to goods, but distancing from each other when it comes to services.
In addition to criticizing May’s handling of Brexit negotiations, Trump has gone after many of his European NATO allies for relying on the U.S. for trade and defence spending, and called the EU a trade “foe” in an interview with CBS on Saturday.
-With files from Reuters and the Associated Press.