Donald Trump and UK politician Nigel Farage celebrate in Trump Tower, New York, November 2016
On the eve of his visit to the UK, Donald Trump continues his 10-month promotion of Boris Johnson as the next British Prime Minister, and of the Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage as the politician to get tough with the European Union.
In two high-profile interviews this weekend, Trump praised Johnson, who resigned as Foreign Secretary last July to challenge Prime Minister Theresa May with a hard-Brexit line.
I think Boris would do a very good job. I think he would be excellent.
I like him. I have always liked him. I don’t know that he is going to be chosen, but I think he is a very good guy, a very talented person.
He has been very positive about me and our country.
Then, speaking to Tim Shipman of The Times, Trump pitched for Farage, who established himself with Trump’s camp during the 2016 Presidential campaign:
I like Nigel a lot. He has a lot to offer. He is a very smart person.
[The Conservative-led Government] won’t bring him in. Think how well they would do if they did. They just haven’t figured that out yet.
Trump, who has regularly criticized Prime Minister May for being “weak” in negotiations with the European Union, said Farage should take over the talks. He added that the UK should withdraw from a £39 billion settlement with the European Union — a sum that covers British benefits from EU membership during its transition to departure
The remarks followed Trump’s statement to reporters on the White House Lawn on Thursday elevating Johnson and Farage as “very good guys” and “very interesting people”.
May, who has failed to get a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament, has announced that she will resign on Friday.
Trump arrives in London on Monday. Most of his two days are taken up with ceremony, notably a banquet with the Queen, but he will see May on Tuesday. He then participates in a Wednesday commemoration in Portsmouth of the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
The Campaign for Boris and Nigel
Trump was careful in both interviews not to openly endorse Johnson.
But the remarks are the latest in a sustained campaign by Trump and his inner circle to get their preferred candidates at the top of UK politics, hoping to weaken the European Union and for their preferred terms in any US-UK trade deal.
On the eve of Trump’s first visit to Britain in July 2018, he welcomed Newton-Dunn — the same Sun reporter invited to the Oval Office on Friday — to chide May for her supposed weakness in dealing with the EU and to declare Johnson would “make a great Prime Minister”.
During Trump’s trip, Steve Bannon — former White House chief strategist, an informal advisor, and an activist dedicated to building up hard-right parties in Europe — maintained a London headquarters. His meetings reportedly included talks with representatives of Johnson and Farage, and he appeared on the latter’s radio show.
In March, in an article in the Telegraph, Donald Trump Jr. snapped at the Prime Minister — “Mrs May ignored advice from my father”. A passage on Brexit was almost lifted from Farage’s rhetoric:
Next Friday, March 29, is supposed to be the British people’s Independence Day. But because the elites control London from Brussels, the will of the people is likely to be ignored.
The opinion piece came days after Bannon pushed a Johnson candidacy to take over as Conservative Party leader from May, “I think Boris Johnson would make a good Prime Minister. I think Boris Johnson is a guy with big ideas.”
A Lever Against Europe
The Trump camp sees Brexit as part of the limitation and possible break-up of the European Union.
Trump’s first nominee as envoy to the EU, Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, is an advocate of the dissolution of the bloc. Malloch’s personal issues prevented his confirmation, but the contacts with Farage offered another possibility.
Farage, then the leader of the UK Independence Party, joined the Trump campaign in summer 2016 with appearances at US rallies soon after June’s Brexit referendum. He allegedly served as a contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as the organization helped Trump by posting anti-Hillary Clinton material stolen by Russian intelligence.
Breaking protocol, Farage rather than May was the first British politician welcomed by Trump after his victory in the November 2016 election.
The politician subsequently left UKIP to form the Brexit Party, which won 31% of the vote — a large part of it taken from the Conservatives — in last month’s UK elections for the European Parliament.
Trump told The Times that it is not too late for Britain to “sue” the EU for greater “ammunition” in the talks.
May rejected the advice last year, a dismissal that helped spur Trump’s intervention before his July visit.
“They gotta get it done,” Trump told The Times’ Shipman this weekend. “They have got to get the deal closed.”
In addition to supporting Johnson, Trump backed Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid, and Esther McVey, all of whom say the UK must be ready for a No Deal Brexit.
“If they don’t get what they want I would walk away,” Trump said. “If you don’t get the deal you want, if you don’t get a fair deal, then you walk away.”
Critics have said that Trump’s advisors will seek terms in a trade agreement with the UK which will stripping back UK health, safety, and environmental regulations and open up British public services to partial privatization.
But Trump declared, “One of the advantages of Brexit is the fact that now you can deal with the No 1 economy in the world by far.”