The latest headlines in your inbox Donald Trump waded into the general election today by praising Boris Johnson, backing Brexit and flatly dismissing Labour’s claim that the NHS would be on the table during talks on a US-UK trade deal. The US President insisted he would “stay out” of the historic poll in just nine…
Donald Trump waded into the general election today by praising Boris Johnson, backing Brexit and flatly dismissing Labour’s claim that the NHS would be on the table during talks on a US-UK trade deal.
The US President insisted he would “stay out” of the historic poll in just nine days’ time and had refrained from any early morning Twitter outbursts. But he then put himself at the centre of the campaign during an impromptu press conference at the US ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park. “I think Boris is very capable,” he said. “I think he will do a good job.”
But amid Tory concerns over how Mr Trump’s visit could impact on the election, no one-to-one bilateral meeting between the US President and the Prime Minister had been confirmed by mid-morning.
At first Mr Trump appeared to be trying not to interfere in the UK election, telling the press conference: “I don’t want to complicate it.”
But he then stressed his support for the Tory flagship policy of quitting the European Union, saying: “You know that I was a fan of Brexit. I called it the day before.”
He suggested he could work with Jeremy Corbyn if the Labour leader gained the keys to No 10, saying: “I can work with anybody, I’m a very easy person to work with.” However, when asked if the NHS should be on the table in trade talks — one of the central issues of Labour’s election campaign — Mr Trump said: “No, not at all, I have nothing to do with it. Never even thought about it, honestly.”
Despite leaked documents of talks between US and UK trade officials mentioning the price of drugs supplied to the health service, Mr Trump insisted the NHS was not “for sale”, as claimed by Mr Corbyn.
“I don’t even know where that rumour started,” Mr Trump said. “We have absolutely nothing to do with it and we wouldn’t want to if you handed it to us on a silver platter, we want nothing to do with it.”
In the lengthy press conference at the start of a two-day Nato summit in London and Watford, Mr Trump unleashed a stinging attack on France, after President Emmanuel Macron described the military alliance as “brain-dead”.
Mr Trump branded Mr Macron’s comment “very insulting”, said the French leader was being “very disrespectful” to other alliance members and suggested France may quit Nato.
“I do see France breaking off,” he said. “I’m looking at him [Mr Macron] and I’m saying that he [France] needs protection more than anybody.”
Tearing into the French economic record, the US President added: “It is a very, very nasty statement. I think they have a very high unemployment rate in France. France is not doing well economically at all. It is a very tough statement to make when you have such difficulty in France, when you look at what is going on with the yellow vests.”
The US President also took a swipe at Germany for not contributing more funding.
Earlier Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was unable to say whether the Prime Minister would hold a one-to-one bilateral meeting with Mr Trump, sparking accusations that Mr Johnson was doing a “Donald duck” because of concerns the President could damage his hopes of winning the election.
Asked if the UK has sought any private assurances that Mr Trump would stay out of the election, Mr Raab told BBC Breakfast: “They wouldn’t be very private if we were discussing them on air.”
Mr Raab stressed there would be “absolutely no negotiation” on the NHS in future trade talks.
Mr Trump was also urged by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage to deny the “complete fib” that he wants to “buy the NHS”.
The US President is holding bilaterals with Mr Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and possibly other leaders today and tomorrow — and one is not being ruled out with Mr Johnson.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth claimed: “Boris Johnson is running scared of being seen in public with his friend Donald Trump because he wants to cover up their plot against our NHS.”
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Chuka Umunna added: “Boris Johnson has dodged TV debates, evaded scrutiny and now he’s doing a Donald duck because he is embarrassed by his association with a man who shares much of his politics.”
A senior Tory source hit back: “Sadly today we’re seeing more lies from Jeremy Corbyn as he once again attempts to distract from the main takeaway of this election campaign: that his party is unable to show any leadership and take a clear position on how they’d spend next year.” Mr Trump is due to attend a reception at Buckingham Palace this evening, where Mr Corbyn will be present, and also visit Downing Street afterwards with other Nato leaders.
Mr Trump’s comments came after France hit out at the US President’s threat to slap tariffs on £1.8 billion of imports from France including champagne, cheese and handbags in retaliation at a new digital services tax which would hit US tech firms.
French finance minister Bruno Le Maire branded the proposed punitive duties of up to 100 per cent as “unacceptable”. “In case of new American sanctions, the European Union would be ready to riposte,” he told Radio Classique. French junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told Sud Radio that France would be “pugnacious” in its dealings with Washington and that it would not back down on its digital tax plans.
Mr Trump has sparked a trade war with China and riled allies including Britain with a series of new tariffs under his “America First” policy.
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