US President Donald Trump has promised a “phenomenal trade deal” with the UK after Brexit - but asked if it would need to include access to NHS contracts for US companies, he said “everything will be on the table”.
Speaking at the press conference after a business meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May, President Trump said the United States was committed to a “phenomenal” trade deal with Britain as it prepares to leave the European Union.
Buit he refused to rule out the controversial prospect of private American healthcare firms being given control of NHS services under a futuire trade deal.
“I think everything with a trade deal is on the table,” he sdaid. “When you’re dealing in trade everything is on the table so NHS or anything else, a lot more than that, but everything will be on the table, absolutely.”
Health Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful Matt Hancock, responding to Mr Trump’s suggestion that the health service will be “on the table”. tweeted: “Dear Mr President. The NHS isn’t on the table in trade talks - and never will be. Not on my watch.”
Fellow Tory leadership contender Sam Gyimah also hit back at Mr Trump’s suggestion.
He tweeted: “Let me state unambiguously that the NHS should not be used as a bargaining chip in any future trade talks.”
And Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: “Theresa May stood next to @realDonaldTrump as he said the NHS will be ‘on the table’ in a US trade deal. And that’s what Tory leadership contenders and Farage are lining up for the No Deal disaster capitalism plans they have. They all need to understand: our NHS is not for sale.”
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Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage could also meet Mr Trump privately this evening, before a banquet at the US Ambassador’s residence at Winfield House.
The President also claimed Mr Corbyn had asked for a meeting but was turned down.
Mr Corbyn, who boycotted last night’s state dinner with the President, spoke at a demonstration in Trafalgar Square as Mr Trump met the Prime Minister for talks in Downing Street.
The Labour leader was only confirmed as a speaker at the protest yesterday evening.
The US President told a joint press conference with Mrs May that Mr Corbyn had asked for a meeting, but had been turned down because he is a “negative force”.
The President also told the assembled media that Boris Johnson would “a great job” as Prime Minister, after it was reported that the two spoke on Tuesday.
Drawing laughter, he also said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt - who was sat in the front row - would do “a great job”, but appeared not to know who Michael Gove was, despite the Environment Secretary having interviewed him in 2017.
Mr Trump asked the Foreign Secretary: “Would he do a good job?”
During an hour of talks in Downing Street, Mrs May and the President discussed trade, counterterrorism and defence cooperation, and the issue of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, which the US wants to be banned from working on the UK’s telecoms network.
Mr Trump struck a relaxed tone on the issue, saying it would be resolved through talks.
Mrs May said the UK and US should “cherish” their relationship and it is “one we should build on”, and said: “But the point in making trade deals is of course that both sides negotiate and come to an agreement about what should or should not be in that trade deal for the future.”
And President Trump said the UK-US relationship was “extraordinary” and the “greatest alliance the world has ever known”.
He said: “Our nations have more than 1 trillion dollars invested in each other’s economics...
“As the UK makes preparations to exit the EU the US is committed to a phenomenal trade deal between the US and the UK.
“There is tremendous potential in that trade deal, I say probably two and even three times what we’re doing right now.”
Mrs May has been dogged by her failure to achieve Brexit and is stepping down this week as head of her Conservative Party but will remain as prime minister until her successor is chosen. It will be the new prime minister’s responsibility to achieve Brexit and any bilateral trade deal with the U.S.
Mr Trump referred to his contacts with Tory leadership hopefuls Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, as well as with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt who was at the press conference.
“I know Boris. I like him. I have liked him for a long time. I think he would do a very good job. I know Jeremy, I think he would do a very good job.” he said.
“I don’t know Michael - would he do a good job Jeremy?”
Mrs May praised the “precious and profound” US-UK special relationship but acknowledged differences with PresidentTrump on issues including climate change and Iran.
Speaking alongside Trump, Mrs May mentioned Britain’s continued support for the Paris agreement on climate change, which Trump has repudiated. And she says the two nations differ on how to limit the threat from Iran.
The UK still supports an international agreement to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but Trump has withdrawn the US from the deal.
And he said the development of nuclear weapons was the greatest threat to the world.
“Among the pressing threats facing our nations is the development and spread of nuclear weapons - perhaps that’s our greatest threat.”
May also told the president that “cooperation and compromise are the basis of strong alliances.”
Trump predicted the US and UK would reach agreement over how to deal with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, saying the two countries would work out any differences and continue to share intelligence.
Asked if the US could impose limits on intelligence sharing if the UK used Huawei infrastructure, Mr Trump said: “No because we’re gonna have absolutely an agreement on Huawei and everything else. We have an incredible intelligence relationship and we will be able to work out any differences.
“We did discuss it - I see absolutely no limitations, we’ve never had limitations. This is a truly great ally and partner and we’ll have no problem with that.”
Mrs May said: “As with our predecessors when we have faced threats to our security of our citizens and our allies we have stood together and acted together.”
Trump also said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was addressing an anti-Trump protyest in London, wanted to meet with him on his trip to the UK.
Asked about Mr Corbyn speaking at protests against his official visit, Mr Trump says he thinks the leader of the opposition is a “negative force”.
Mr Trump told a news conference he hadn’t seen any protests, saying: “I heard that there were protests, I said, ‘where are the protests, I don’t see any protests’.
“I did see a small protest today when I came, very small. So a lot of it is fake news.”
And Trump continued his criticism of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
He said: “I think he has been a not very good mayor from what I understand.
“He has done a poor job, crime is up, a lot of problems, and I don’t think he should be criticising a representative of the US that can do so much good for the UK...
“He should be positive not negative - he is a negative force not a positive force.
“If you look at what he said, he hurts the people of this great country and I think he should actually focus on his job, it would be a lot better if he did that - he could straighten out some of the problems that he has caused.”
Labour spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn proposed a meeting with Donald Trump during the President’s visit.
“Jeremy is ready to engage with the President on a range of issues, including the climate emergency, threats to peace and the refugee crisis.”
At an earlier round-table business event attended by executives from leading US and UK companies, the President praised the Prime Minister for having done a “fantastic job”.
However, in a sign that Mr Trump’s focus is on courting Mrs May’s potential successors, sources close to Michael Gove were reported to have confirmed a request for a private meeting from the President’s team.
Mrs May will attend the banquet this evening, but critics claimed she had been “snubbed” after the schedule for Mr Trump’s three-day state visit failed to include any time for a one-to-one meeting between the two leaders.
Mrs May will officially stand down as Conservative Party leader on Friday, starting the clock on her departure from Downing Street.
Addressing the Prime Minister at this morning’s business event, Mr Trump said: “I think we’ll have a very substantial trade deal, it’ll be a fair deal.
“I think this is something your folks want to do, my folks want to do… and we’re going to get it done.”
He added: “I’d just like to congratulate you on having done a fantastic job on behalf of the people of the United States and it’s an honour to have worked with you.
“I don’t know exactly what your timing is, but stick around and let’s do this deal.
Mrs May said the US-UK relationship was “a great partnership, but I think a partnership we can take even further,” adding: "Of course that is with a good bilateral trade deal."
The bilateral meeting is set to include Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Chancellor Philip Hammond. Protests are already taking place in Parliament Square and Trafalgar Square ahead of Mr Trump's arrival in Downing Street, and will be addressed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford.
Tonight’s dinner at Winfield House will also be attended by Charles and Camilla, who will represent the Queen.