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‘Opposites attract’: May signals strong relationship with Trump | Politics | The Guardian

theguardian.com – ‘Opposites attract’: May signals strong relationship with Trump.  UK prime minister launches charm offensive on arrival in Philadelphia, suggesting she will get on well with US president in Philadelphia and in Washington

video: Theresa May addresses US Republican leaders in Philadelphia

Theresa May has said she believed she could a forge a strong personal relationship with Donald Trump, arguing that “sometimes, opposites attract”, as she set out how post-Brexit Britain could work with his country to shape the world.

Theresa May opens Trump visit by attacking past foreign policy failures

On the eve of a much-anticipated visit to the Oval Office, the prime minister used a speech to Republican leaders in Philadelphia to pledge that the two countries “have a joint responsibility to lead”, but not as they did before.

May argued that a new “special relationship” would be nothing like the one between Tony Blair and George W Bush, which saw the pair collaborate in invading Iraq and Afghanistan. “The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are decisively over.”

Theresa May must stand up to Donald Trump. Britain doesn’t need a poodle

Despite the growing controversy in the UK and worldwide about Trump’s remarks on the use of torture, as well as a series of other policies including the border wall with Mexico, May said she was determined to “deepen” links. She added: “It is in our interests – those of Britain and America together – to stand strong together to defend our values, our interests and the very ideas in which we believe.”

Speaking to journalists on the plane to Philadelphia, the prime minister was asked about the contrast in temperaments between the brash billionaire and a vicar’s daughter, when she meets Trump in the White House on Friday. “Haven’t you ever noticed, sometimes opposites attract?” she replied.

However, she also signalled that she would be prepared to deliver tough messages to the US president where their views differed, including on torture. On Wednesday, Trump had used his first TV interview as president to say he believed torture “absolutely” works and that the US should “fight fire with fire”.

Responding, May said: “We have a very clear view: we condemn the use of torture, and my view on that won’t change, whether I’m talking to you, or talking to president Trump.” She also insisted Britain’s policy on refusing to use intelligence gained through illegal methods remained unchanged.

The prime minister has arrived in the US with the Trump administration less than a week old and proving to be more chaotic and unpredictable than any in modern US history. Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, cancelled a scheduled visit to Washington next week to meet Trump, after the US president signed an executive order to move forward on construction of a border wall and repeated his claim that Mexico would be forced to pay for it.

Theresa May steps off from her plane at Andrews air force base near Washington DC where she will meet Donald Trump on Friday.
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Theresa May steps off her plane at Andrews air force base near Washington DC on Thursday night. She will meet Donald Trump on Friday at the White House. Photograph: Jose Luis Magana/AP

May used the wide-ranging foreign policy speech to Republicans to underline the importance of Nato, which Trump has sometimes expressed scepticism about; and of standing up for allies, including those countries in Russia’s sphere of influence.

“When it comes to Russia, as so often it is wise to turn to the example of President Reagan who – during negotiations with his opposite number Mikhail Gorbachev – used to abide by the adage ‘trust but verify’. With President Putin, my advice is to ‘engage but beware’, she warned.

She added: “We should build the relationships, systems and processes that make cooperation more likely than conflict – and that, particularly after the illegal annexation of Crimea, give assurance to Russia’s neighbouring states that their security is not in question. We should not jeopardise the freedoms that President Reagan and Mrs Thatcher brought to Eastern Europe by accepting President Putin’s claim that it is now in his sphere of influence.”

That will be read as a strong message to Trump, who has been accused of being too close to Vladimir Putin, with the FBI even suggesting Russia may have used cyber-warfare in a bid to influence the election result

‘Sometimes opposites attract’ – May explains how she can work with Trump – as it happened

May also pointed to the need to “reduce Iran’s malign influence in the Middle East” as a key foreign policy priority, saying Britain would “support our allies in the Gulf States to push back against Iran’s aggressive efforts to build an arc of influence from Tehran through to the Mediterranean”. That appeared to be a significant strengthening of language since Britain reopened diplomatic relations with Tehran in 2015.

The prime minister also had warm words for Trump’s Republicans, telling them she was speaking, “as dawn breaks on a new era of American renewal”, and addressing them “not just as prime minister of the United Kingdom, but as a fellow Conservative who believes in the same principles that underpin the agenda of your party – the value of liberty, the dignity of work, the principles of nationhood, family, economic prudence, patriotism – and putting power in the hands of the people”.

May’s visit is the culmination of a series of contacts between London and Washington since Trump won the election in November. Her two closest advisers, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, met members of his team in December. The British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson also visited Washington earlier this month to discuss laying the groundwork for a potential bilateral trade deal that the UK hopes could be signed as soon as possible after Brexit.

It came as the prime minister faced growing pressure to warn Trump that the British government considers his comments about torture to be unacceptable.

Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader and a member of parliament’s intelligence and security committee, asked: “How can the UK claim the relationship is special when it potentially involves torture?

“Theresa May must raise this with President Trump and explain the extremely damaging consequences that this policy would have on intelligence cooperation between allies.”

His comments came alongside similar pleas from Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, his predecessor, Ed Miliband, and the Lib Dems’ Tim Farron.

And there were outspoken interventions by Conservatives, including select committee chairs Andrew Tyrie and Sarah Wollaston. Wollaston argued that May’s suggesting the UK and US should “lead together” on a global stage was questionable when Trump was “advocating torture, disgusting racial stereotyping and turning back the clock on women’s rights worldwide”.

Trump has suggested he is keen to do a deal with the UK following the Brexit vote, in contrast to his predecessor, Barack Obama, who warned during the referendum campaign that London would be at the back of the queue”. But sceptics point out that Trump is an avowed protectionist, who has already torn up the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal with countries including Japan, and said he wants to put “America first”.

In his own speech at the Republicans’ retreat in Philadelphia, Trump joked that with Congress so far refusing to confirm his candidate for commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, he would have to discuss trade with May himself. “I don’t have my commerce secretary; they want to talk trade; so I have got to handle it myself,” he said.

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Trump: I will have to handle UK trade deal myself

Asked whether she would be willing to offer US companies access to the NHS as the price of a deal, May said that it was only the “start of the process” of talking about a trade deal but added: “As regards the NHS, we’re very clear as a government that we’re committed to an NHS that is free at the point of use.”

Trump, with record-low approval ratings for a new president, has mounted sustained attacks on the press and staged abortive efforts to mend his relationship with the intelligence agencies, while his administration faces congressional and reported intelligence service investigations into the extent of collusion between his campaign and Moscow.


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Sorgente: ‘Opposites attract’: May signals strong relationship with Trump | Politics | The Guardian

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