Donald Trump has said Brexit will be a “great thing” as he promised to strike a trade deal between the UK and the US that will be “done quickly and done properly”.
In his first interview with UK media since his election victory, the US Presidential-elect told The Times he would be inviting Prime Minister Theresa May to meet him “right after” entering the White House and declared: “I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing.”
His comments may offer some much-needed support to May ahead of her major speech on Brexit on Tuesday where she is likely to suggest a clean break from the EU.
A preview of the speech has already seen the pound fall below $1.20 - putting sterling more than 20% lower than before the referendum.
Trump was interviewed on Friday by Tory MP Michael Gove, one of the lead Brexit-ers and a columnist for the newspaper. Asked about a US-UK trade deal, Trump told him:
“Absolutely, very quickly. I’m a big fan of the UK, we’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides. I will be meeting with (Theresa May) — in fact if you want you can see the letter, wherever the letter is, she just sent it. She’s requesting a meeting and we’ll have a meeting right after I get into the White House and ... we’re gonna get something done very quickly.”
Trump went on to say he welcomed the fall in the pound for boosting British exports, though critics have made clear imports on every day goods will become more expensive.
The Sunday Telegraph reported the Prime Minister will say in her keynote speech that the UK should make a clean break from the EU - taking Britain outside the single market and Customs Union, and therefore able to fully control immigration.
In early trading in New Zealand, the pound dropped below $1.20 for the first time since the October “flash crash”, falling as much as 1.6 percent to $1.1986 in Auckland on Monday. On that day, the pound was as low as $1.1841 - the lowest level since 1985.
In the interview, Trump - as well as damning Nato as obsolete - also makes clear he thinks the EU’s days are numbered, and blamed the refugee crisis for hastening its demise:
“People, countries, want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity. But, I do believe this, if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it ... entails, I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit. This was the final straw that broke the camel’s back ... I believe others will leave. I do think keeping it together is not gonna be as easy as a lot of people think. And I think this, if refugees keep pouring into different parts of Europe ... I think it’s gonna be very hard to keep it together because people are angry about it.”
In the interview, the US President-Elect said that the Prime Minister had written to him shortly after Christmas with a copy of Winston Churchill’s address to the Americans after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.
In her letter, she said she hoped the feeling of “unity and fraternal association” between the two countries was “as true today as it has ever been”.
Speaking to Gove, the former cabinet minister and co-leader of the Leave campaign, Trump also made clear that, unlike Mr Obama, he welcomed the result of last June’s referendum vote.
In a wide-ranging interview, Trump disclosed:
:: He wants a new arms control agreement with Russia, saying the numbers of nuclear weapons should be “reduced very substantially”.
:: Orders will be signed next Monday strengthening America’s borders which could include travel restrictions on Europeans coming to the US as well as “extreme vetting” of those entering from parts of the world known for Islamist terrorism
:: He believes chancellor Angela Merkel made a “catastrophic mistake” when she threw open Germany’s borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants.
Trump spoke warmly of how he was looking forward to visiting Britain, saying his Scottish mother was “so proud of the Queen”.
“Any time the Queen was on television, an event, my mother would be watching,” he said.
He joked that his Scottish ancestry meant he liked to “watch my pennies”, adding: “I mean I deal in big pennies, that’s the problem.”