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Special Relationship persists despite pre-election Rhetoric

In a major victory for No 10 she will be the first world leader to visit President Trump in the White House and they will meet less than a week after his inauguration.

January 22

0:00
2017

London , United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland - 22 Jan 2017 - Foreign Ministry

In a major victory for No 10 she will be the first world leader to visit President Trump in the White House and they will meet less than a week after his inauguration. The PM, who has publicly criticised the billionaire in the past, insisted she 'won't be afraid' to challenge his 'unacceptable' views, but said the focus of the meeting in Washington will be on trade, NATO and Syria.

The Prime Minister said her visit to Washington this week would be focused on building the “special relationship”. Mrs May is showing the kind of political leadership that has been seen all too rarely in recent years. Theresa May said she remains "confident" a trade deal with the United States can be signed, in the wake of Donald Trump's inauguration speech that signalled a return to protectionism and trade deals that would only benefit America.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mrs May said: "I'm confident we can look at areas even in advance of being able to sign a formal trade deal.

She said she looks forward to welcoming Mr Trump to Britain 'sometime this year' but said invitations for state visits are decided by Buckingham Palace.

'Whenever there is something that I find unacceptable I won't be afraid to say that to President Trump,' she added.

She said she will use Friday's meeting with Mr Trump as an 'opportunity to talk about trade, world challenges, defeating terrorism and conflict in Syria'.

The Prime Minister, who was the tenth world leader to be phoned by Mr Trump after his election, was due to meet him in February but will now fly out this week. "I think that the new president has made it very clear that he wants to put Britain at the front of the line for a new trade deal and obviously that's extremely exciting and important," he said.

The pair are expected to discuss a new deal for Britain as it prepares to exit the EU and Mr Trump hopes their co-operation will match the friendship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

It was revealed that Mr Trump refers to Mrs May as 'my new Maggie'.

Mr Trump will also invite Mrs May to unveil a statue of Sir Winston Churchill which he has returned to the Oval Office after Barack Obama removed it.

The PM has said she is 'confident' of striking a deal and has suggested the UK and US could even reduce barriers to trade before being able to sign a formal agreement after Brexit.

She insisted Mr Trump was looking for 'early' talks on a UK-US free trade deal despite his 'America first' strategy sparking concerns that he would not be willing to reach an agreement.

'He and people around him have also spoken of the importance of a trade arrangement with the United Kingdom and that is something they are looking to talk to us about at an early stage, and I would expect to be able to talk to him about that alongside the other issues I will be discussing with him when I am in Washington,' she said.

Mrs May has also spoken of reducing barriers to trade before a formal deal can be reached after Brexit, amid reports of potential moves to set up a 'passporting' system for transatlantic banking. One of the items said to be on the agenda is a possible 'passporting deal' which would allow British and American firms to set up and trade in each other's countries with minimum regulatory hurdles. 

And Mrs May defended Mr Trump's widely criticised 'America first' message: 'If you think about it, any leader, any government, as we do here in the United Kingdom when we look at any issue, we ensure that we're putting the UK's interests and the interests of British people first.' 

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