US President Donald Trump criticised Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of Brexit negotiations, but restated his desire to strike a trade deal with the UK in a press conference today.
He also came out against a second referendum and suggested there would have to be an extension of Article 50 while speaking at the White House with visiting Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
“I think it could have been negotiated in a different manner”, Trump said of Brexit. “I’m surprised at how badly it’s all gone from the standpoint of a negotiation but I gave the Prime Minister my ideas on how to negotiate it and I think you would have been successful. She didn’t listen.”
The president also argued against a second referendum. He said: “I don’t think another vote would be possible because it would be very unfair to the people that won. They’d say, what do you mean you're going to take another vote?”
Despite criticising May, Trump said: “We’re talking to them about trade. We can do a very big trade deal with the UK.”
He had earlier taken to Twitter to express a desire to negotiate a “large scale” trade deal with Britain.
This morning he tweeted: “My Administration looks forward to negotiating a large scale Trade Deal with the United Kingdom. The potential is unlimited!”
My Administration looks forward to negotiating a large scale Trade Deal with the United Kingdom. The potential is unlimited!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2019
Regarding the possible extension of Article 50, the legal mechanism by which member countries depart the bloc, which will be voted on by MPs tonight, Trump said: “I think they’re probably gonna have to do something because right now they’re in the midst of a very short period of time, the end of the month, and they’re not gonna to be able to do that.”
On trade, Trump had harsh words for the EU, warning the organisation that if it did not cooperate with the US's demands “we’re gonna do something that’s gonna be pretty severe economically."
“We’re gonna tariff a lot of their products coming in because the European Union treats us very, very unfairly”, he said.
Trump’s comments on a UK trade deal mark a change in sentiment for the president. In November, while visiting the UK, Trump said Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal with the EU meant “they may not be able to trade with us” and said the proposed agreement “sounds like a great deal for the EU.”
There have been doubts hanging over a trade deal due to differences in regulatory standards between the two countries.
Earlier this month, the US ambassador to Britain Woody Johnson said the UK should not jeapordise a trade deal over concerns about American farming standards.
Opponents of Brexit have argued that a deal would force the UK to lower its standards and accept produce such as chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef.
Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph that such claims were “a smear campaign from people with their own protectionist agenda.”