Theresa May fights to save face after Donald Trump slams Brexit and praises 'PM Boris'

Theresa May‘s attempts to woo Donald Trump collapsed in disarray today as government ministers broke ranks to attack the “rude” US president. 

The Prime Minister was struggling to save face after her guest savaged her Brexit plans, saying they would “kill” any prospect of a major trade deal with the US.

Education minister Sam Gyimah tweeted: “Where are your manners, Mr President?”

He told the Evening Standard: “Whatever your point of view, manners and civility matter.

President Donald Trump greeted by Prime Minister Theresa May at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

“It’s not just about how we Brits do things, it’s about common decency and respect.

Follow the latest on Donald Trump’s UK visit LIVE

Melania Trump helps a schoolgirl with a poppy during her visit to the Royal Hospital Chelsea (AP)

“The US president has fallen far short of that standard on his visit.”

Another minister, Margot James, attacked Mr Trump for praising former foreign secretary Boris Johnson in an interview with The Sun, saying he would make “a great prime minister”, just days after he walked out of Mrs May’s Cabinet criticising her EU policy. Ms James, the creative industries minister, said: “No Mr President, Boris Johnson would make a terrible PM.”

Commentary: Why it can only be advantage Mr Putin after the great disrupter’s Nato blast in Brussels

The Nato alliance has survived the Trump whirlwind, more or less intact. But the show ain’t over just yet — there could be a big sting in the tail in  Helsinki on Monday.

The Brussels performance by the Great Disrupter shows Trump’s natural allergy to allies and alliances. We saw this before when he quit the G7 summit in Canada, rejecting the final  communiqué. This time he threatened — albeit behind closed doors —  US withdrawal unless the Europeans upped their defence funding.

He’s much happier with potential or actual foes… in schmoozing them, he can show he is the great deal-maker, the master of transactional rather than rules-based diplomacy. After threatening war on Kim Jong-un, Trump offered a real concession in cutting back US-led military exercises in the Korean region. In return he got a soft pledge on a nuclear freeze, which no one seems to know how to monitor let alone  implement.

The same pattern now seems on the cards in Monday’s one-on-one talks with Vladimir Putin, of whom he is a long-standing fan. There are signs that Trump will want to pull back Nato deployments and exercises in eastern Europe and the Baltic. 

He has also spoken of getting Russia back into the G7/G8 gatherings. Most serious is a suggestion that sanctions, imposed since the annexation of  Crimea and tension in Ukraine, would be lifted by the US.

This would be a big headache for most of the European allies. They are in  difficulty anyway, because no sooner had they agreed to increase defence spending than powers like Italy, Spain and even Germany said they weren’t going to pay the amounts suggested by Trump. Which leaves the UK in a dilemma. The Government knows it has to spend more just to maintain present defence capability and commitments, but it doesn’t know how.

This was to be resolved by a new defence modernisation plan, due  yesterday but now postponed. While the Nato summit was on,  Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, head of the RAF, warned that extra defence cash was needed  “or we’ll have to cut back.”

By accident or design, Trump has caused more turmoil among the  Western allies than any of its leaders in 70 years. Given the confusion now reigning in Europe, this can only mean: advantage Putin.

It was left to Sir Alan Duncan, the Foreign Office minister, to try to paper over the cracks in US-UK relations by laughing off Mr Trump’s wrecking ball remarks, saying: “That’s his style, that’s the colour he brings to the world stage.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond seemed to excuse Mr Trump by saying: “The president hasn’t yet had a chance to discuss with the prime minister the white paper … I’m sure there will be a very positive discussion.”

But US network CNN called it “an astonishing political knifing of the British prime minister” by the president. 

The Washington Post said Mr Trump had “blasted” his hosts, despite a red carpet welcome at Blenheim Palace last night and tea with the Queen today at Windsor.

An unrepentant Mr Trump left Winfield House, the US Ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park, shortly after 9am, doing his trademark fist pump before boarding his Marine One presidential helicopter.

He was due to attend a joint US-UK special forces military demonstration at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst before talks at Chequers. First Lady Melania Trump was meeting Chelsea pensioners at the Royal Hospital Chelsea and London schoolchildren with Philip May, the PM’s husband.

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston said Mr Trump was “determined to insult” Mrs May. She added: “The divisive, dog-whistle rhetoric in his @TheSun interview is repulsive. If signing up to the #Trump world view is the price of a deal, it’s not worth paying.”

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told ITV it was “extraordinarily rude of Donald Trump to behave like this. She is his host. What did his mother teach him? This is not the way you behave.” 

Former Tory minister Nick Boles said: “The President of the United States must always be welcome in Britain. But I would no more take advice from Donald Trump on negotiating Brexit than I would on staying married or choosing a good hair dye.”

Former Business Minister Anna Soubry tweeted: “The more @realDonaldTrump insults and undermines @theresa-may, the more he enhances her credibility. Trump is a guest in #UK because we respect the great office he holds. Yet again he diminishes the standing of the great country he is meant to lead.”

Sir Alan brushed over the row but  contradicted the president over the prospects for a US trade deal, insisting “there is absolutely no reason, legally and practically” why it cannot happen.  “And I think that actually both sides do want it to happen,” he added.

Labour MP Wes Streeting called for Mr Trump’s tea with the Queen to be cancelled. “Given his remarks about  the Prime Minister and the Mayor  of London, this would be the right moment to cancel Trump’s tea with  the Queen. He doesn’t deserve it —  and the Queen certainly doesn’t deserve it!”

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