Donald Trump says he wants UK trade deal agreed "very quickly"
Trump insists the plummeting value of the pound since the referendum was “great” news for British businesses
Donald Trump - credit: Molly Riley/AP/Press Association
US President-elect Donald Trump has said he wants to conclude a trade deal with the UK “very quickly” when he takes power at the end of this week.
Speaking in his first interview with a UK newspaper since winning the election, Trump renewed his criticism of Nato, attacked the European Union as a “vehicle for Germany” that other nations would leave, and said he would start off his presidency trusting Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel and would “see how long that lasts”.
He also insisted that the plummeting value of the pound since the referendum was “great” news for British businesses.
A trade deal with the US was held up by Brexit campaigners as one of the major prizes awaiting the UK outside the European Union, and Trump said he wanted to reach an agreement soon after he takes office.
“Absolutely, very quickly,” he told the Times.
“I’m a big fan of the UK, we’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides.”
When Gove asked whether Britain was now at the “front of the queue” – a reference to President Obama’s intervention during the referendum to say that the US would prioritise a deal with the European Union over the UK – he replied: “I think you’re doing great.”
He added that a meeting with Theresa May was going to happen “right after” he moves into the White House.
The UK is not allowed to sign trade deals until it has formally left the European Union – something that is not expected to happen before 2019.
Trump revealed to Gove that the Prime Minister had sent him at Christmas a gift of a speech by Winston Churchill in 1941 to Americans after the Pearl Harbour attacks, along with a note saying she hoped the “sentiment he expressed – of a sense of unity and fraternal association between the United Kingdom and United States – is just as true today as it has ever been”.
Gove becomes the second high-profile British politician – and high-profile Brexit advocate – to go to New York to meet Trump.
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage was the first, and Trump referred to him as “our Nigel” in The Times interview and said he was a “great guy”.
He was less complimentary about Merkel, who he said had made a “catastrophic mistake” in granting asylum to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees – whom he described as “illegals”.
And he claimed that the refugee crisis was the deciding factor in last June’s referendum.
“People, countries, want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity,” the businessman said.
“But, I do believe this, if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it... entails, I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit. This was the final straw that broke the camel’s back... I believe others will leave.”
“I do think keeping it together is not gonna be as easy as a lot of people think. And I think this, if refugees keep pouring into different parts of Europe... I think it’s gonna be very hard to keep it together because people are angry about it.”
He also restated his attack on the “obsolete” Nato alliance, and hit out at those members who were failing to meet their targets on defence spending.
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