Donald Trump has insisted he did not attack Theresa May in his bombshell newspaper interview, branding it “fake news”.
Speaking alongside her at Chequers, the president said: “I didn’t criticise the prime minister, I have a lot of respect for the prime minister.”
Mr Trump also stepped back from his warning, in The Sun, that her Brexit plan would “kill” any trade deal – as long as there were no “restrictions”.
Ms May herself ducked a question about the president’s savaging of her Brexit strategy, while insisting: “This does deliver on the vote of the British people.”
However, to her discomfort, Mr Trump confirmed he had given her a “suggestion” on how to pursue Brexit – while rejecting the word “advice” – saying: “I think she found it too brutal.”
In a comment certain to be leapt on by Brexiteer MPs, he added: “I can fully understand why she thought it was a little bit tough” – even suggesting she might yet adopt it, if her own plan failed.
Frustratingly, Mr Trump refused to reveal his “suggestion”, but denied it was to collapse the talks if necessary, saying: “You can’t walk away because, if she walks away, that means she’s stuck.”
Bizarrely, he also claimed he had visited Britain the day before the 2016 referendum and correctly predicted the Leave vote – even though he arrived a day later.
He then claimed he had told the prime minister: “I want to apologise,” – prompting her to reply: “Don’t worry, it’s only the press.”
Overnight, Mr Trump had tossed a hand grenade into Ms May’s hopes for her Brexit white paper, warning it would “probably kill” hopes of a US-UK trade deal, by keeping Britain tied to the EU.
And he added: “I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me.
“She should negotiate the best way she knows how. But it is too bad what is going on.”
But, at the joint press conference, he rowed back, saying: “Whatever you do is okay with us, just make sure we can trade together, that’s all that matters.”
He added: “The only thing I ask of Theresa is that we make sure we can trade and we don’t have any restrictions because we want to trade with the UK and the UK wants to trade with us.
“If they go in a slightly different route – and I know they do want independence, it’s going to be independence, it’s just your definition – if they are going to go in a certain route I just said that I hope you are going to be able to trade with the United States.
“I read reports where that won’t be possible, but I believe after speaking with the Prime Minister’s people and representatives and trade experts it will absolutely be possible.”
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