Theresa May has revealed that Donald Trump advised her to “sue the European Union” rather than negotiate with the 27-country bloc, in a private conversation that the US president referred to during his visit to the UK on Friday.
The prime minister was asked on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show what the “brutal” Brexit negotiating advice was that Trump had talked about in their joint press conference outside the prime minister’s Chequers country retreat.
Revealing it for the first time, May said: “He told me I should sue the EU.” After being prompted by a surprised Marr, May repeated: “Sue the EU, not go into negotiations with them, sue them.”
The prime minister smiled, and indicated she had disregarded the advice, saying “actually we’re going into negotiations with them”, in remarks that will be interpreted as a put-down of the president. Trump leaves the UK this afternoon to fly to Helsinki to meet the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
On Friday, Trump had said he gave May “a suggestion, I wouldn’t say advice” about how to handle the Brexit talks, without revealing what it was. “I think she found it maybe too brutal, and that’s OK. I gave her a suggestion, not advice. I could fully understand why she thought it was a little bit tough.”
Marr’s interview with May comes at a politically perilous moment for the prime minister, who is facing calls for a confidence vote over her leadership of the Conservative party, and the prospect of Boris Johnson spelling out the reasons for his resignation in a newspaper column on Monday.
Reports at the weekend suggested that about 40 of the 48 MPs needed had lodged no-confidence letters with the chairman of the party’s backbench 1922 Committee after May had indicated that the UK was prepared to sign up to a “common rulebook” for food and goods after Brexit.
May indicated she would seek to fight off any challenge, saying: “I want to focus people’s minds on how you ensure you achieve that prize, the benefits of leaving the European Union.”…