Trump Walks Back Threat to Kill U.S.-U.K. Trade Deal

July 13, 2018

President Donald Trump on Friday walked back recent comments he made in which he questioned the possibility of a trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. if British Prime Minister Theresa May continues with a so-called "soft" exit from the European Union.

In an interview with The Sun published Thursday, Trump warned that a soft Brexit strategy, under which the U.K. maintains close ties with the EU, would make a lucrative trade deal with the U.S. unlikely.

"If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal," Trump said. "If they do that, then their trade deal with the U.S. will probably not be made."

During that interview, Trump also said that May "didn't listen" to his advice on how to approach Brexit.

Trump had a different tone at Friday's joint press conference with May, indicating that he will support whatever the U.K. decides as long as the two countries can trade together.

"I want to thank Prime Minister May for pursuing fair and reciprocal trade with the United States," Trump said. "Once the Brexit process is concluded, and perhaps the U.K. has left the EU, I don't know what they're going to do, but whatever you do is OK with me. That's your decision. Just make sure we can trade together; that's all that matters."

Trump went on to praise the Brexit decision and repeatedly compliment May, despite criticizing her in The Sun interview.

"We continue a long tradition of friendship, collaboration, and affection between ourselves and also between our people," Trump said.

During the press conference, BBC reporter Laura Kuenssberg asked Trump what made him change his attitude on trade with the U.K.

"I didn't criticize the prime minister, I have a lot of respect for the prime minister," Trump said.

The president said that, while the story was "generally fine," it excluded positive comments he made about May, adding that thankfully he records interviews with reporters to prevent fake news.

Some journalists, however, have already heard a recording of the interview and describe the article in The Sun as accurate.