Trump praises ‘extraordinary’ US-UK alliance on state visit

Media captionTheresa May: “Unity of purpose will preserve deep-rooted ties” with US

US President Donald Trump has said the US and UK have the “greatest alliance the world has ever known”.

In a news conference with Theresa May, he promised a “phenomenal” trade deal after the UK leaves the European Union, but added that “everything is on the table” – including the NHS.

Mrs May said the scope of trade talks had to be agreed by both countries.

Mr Trump also said he turned down a meeting with Jeremy Corbyn, who addressed protesters in Westminster.

The US president met Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage at the US ambassador’s residence, Winfield House.

Mr Farage tweeted that it was a “good meeting” and Mr Trump “really believes in Brexit”.

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‘Negative force’

The Labour leader had proposed talks with Mr Trump, saying he was ready to engage with the US president on issues such as climate change, threats to peace and the refugee crisis.

When asked about Mr Corbyn, the US president said he did “not know him, never met him, never spoke to him”, adding: “He wanted to meet today or tomorrow and I decided I would not do that.”

Mr Trump, who is on day two of his three-day state visit, said Mr Corbyn was a “negative force”.

“I really don’t like critics as much as I like and respect people who get things done,” he said.

As the prime minister and US president paid tribute to the “special relationship”, Mr Trump said there was “tremendous potential” in a trade deal after the UK leaves the EU, suggesting it could double or treble trade.

Asked if the NHS would be included in post-Brexit trade talks, Mr Trump said “everything is on the table”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was among several Conservative leadership candidates hoping to replace Theresa May who said they would not allow the NHS to become part of any trade talks. “Not on my watch,” he tweeted.

Mrs May said any trade agreement would follow talks about “what should or should not be in that trade deal for the future”.

After speaking of the US and UK’s “great relationship”, she also said they had also “openly” discussed their differences, such as on climate change, Iran and China.

Media captionThe US President promises a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK “two or three times as big as now”

Analysis: What would a US-UK trade deal mean for the NHS?

By Hugh Pym, BBC health editor

There is nothing to stop American or any other foreign firms bidding for NHS contracts under current rules, as long as they have a subsidiary in the EU.

The health reforms in England in 2012 required local commissioners to put large contracts out to tender.

A subsidiary of the US company United Health, along with British firms like Virgin and Circle, is among private groups which has won such contracts.

Around 7% of the English health budget goes to private providers.

There are different contracting arrangements in other parts of the UK.

The head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has called for new legislation to drop the requirement for health commissioners to put contracts out to tender.

But if the government decides to do this it’s not clear whether that might be overridden by the sort of trade deal with the US mentioned today by Mr Trump.

That’s the suspicion of those who argue the NHS is vulnerable to covert privatisation.

At the news conference, Mr Trump also said:

  • Mrs May had done “a very good job” in getting the Brexit negotiations to this point and said “she’s probably a better negotiator than I am”
  • Brexit “will happen and it probably should happen” because the UK is “a great, great country and it wants its own identity”
  • Protests against him were “very small” and “fake news”
  • Both the US and UK are “determined to ensure that Iran never develops nuclear weapons and stops supporting and engaging in terrorism”
  • The two countries would reach an agreement to protect intelligence sharing, despite their disagreement over Huawei – the mobile internet infrastructure company which the US says is a risk to national security
  • Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson would do “a very good job”, as would Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, but he “did not know” Michael Gove
Media captionThe US president arrives for talks with Mrs May at Downing Street

During his visit, the US president is set to hold talks with Mr Gove, according to a source close to the environment secretary.

The source told the Press Association “nothing has been fixed yet”, but added: “Mr Gove was asked last night by Mr Trump’s team if he would be able to meet the president today.

“He said ‘yes’.”

His leadership rival Mr Johnson, who was also praised by Mr Trump before the visit, had a 20-minute telephone call with the president during the state visit.

Mr Hunt is also due to have a meeting with the US president tomorrow as he seeks the Tory party leadership.

Analysis: The ‘end of an era’ for May

By James Landale, BBC diplomatic correspondent

Theresa May’s news conference with Donald Trump had an “end of era” feel to it.

Only days before she stands down as the Conservatives’ leader, the prime minister set out clear positions she hoped may survive her premiership.

On Iran, the UK and US agree on the threat but disagree on the solution, and the US must “do everything to avoid escalation which is in no-one’s interest”.

On China, she said both sides cannot ignore the threat to their interests, but they must also recognise the country’s “economic significance” – a clear warning against a lasting US trade war with Beijing.

On the transatlantic relationship, she emphasised she and the president were only “the latest guardians of this precious and profound friendship”. In other words, she is going and so one day will he, and the relationship will endure.

Read more from our diplomatic correspondent

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Image caption

Mr Trump and the first lady were taken to Downing Street in a limousine known as the Beast

‘Inappropriate’ visit

Meanwhile, protesters in central London voiced their opposition to President Trump’s visit.

Police said more than 3,000 officers have been deployed for the president’s visit.

Mr Corbyn – who boycotted the state dinner – was joined at the rally by members of other political parties, including the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.

But he criticised the US president’s attack on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. “I am proud that our city has a Muslim mayor, that we can chase down Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, any form of racism within our society,” he said.

Media captionAnti-Trump protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square, as the US president meets the PM

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Protesters against the presidential visit have launched a Trump baby blimp on Parliament Square

Mr Khan defended his party leader Mr Corbyn’s decision to boycott the state dinner at the palace.

He said he felt he and Mr Corbyn shared the view that a “close relationship” with the US president was important.

But he added: “What shouldn’t happen is a state banquet and a state visit with the red carpet rolled out. I think it’s inappropriate. I think those visits should be reserved for leaders who have done something and deserve that. I think it sends the wrong message to be seen to condone some of the things this president has said and done.”

Demonstrations were also planned in Birmingham, Sheffield, Glasgow, Chester, Leicester, Oxford and Exeter.

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At the protest

By Marie Jackson, BBC News

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The whistling and whooping ramps up as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn takes to the stage in Whitehall.

The rainy streets are now packed with cagoule-clad protesters holding aloft umbrellas and placards saying “Dump Trump”.

Some have their faces covered with #trumpstinks masks, others wear badges saying “another nasty woman against Trump”.

There are mums with small children in buggies who have given up a day in the park to make their young voices heard, alongside seasoned protesters and US expats.

A little further up the street, police officers are dealing with a disturbance by the English Defence League.

The rain’s holding off for the moment but Mr Corbyn has a message for the visiting president.

“Think on, please, about a world that is aiming for peace and disarmament, that defeats racism and misogyny.”

The crowd roars cheers of support.

On Monday Mr Trump was welcomed by the Queen and had lunch at Buckingham Palace with senior royals. He also visited Westminster Abbey and had tea at Clarence House with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

He attended a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in the evening, at which Mr Trump praised the “eternal friendship” between the UK and US.

The Queen said the countries were celebrating an alliance which had ensured the “safety and prosperity of both our peoples for decades”.

The president’s visit coincides with the commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, which the Queen, Mr Trump and other heads of state will attend at Portsmouth on Wednesday.

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