Theresa May has slapped down Donald Trump over his claims on immigration, dismissing the idea it has “damaged the cultural fabric” of Europe.
At a joint press conference at the Prime Minister’s Chequers residence in Buckinghamshire on Friday, the President was pressed by reporters on comments he made about migrants contributing to an erosion of British and European identity.
Quick to link immigration to recent terror attacks, Trump said: “I think it has been very bad for Europe. I think that what has happened is very tough. It’s a very tough situation.
“I mean, you see the same terror attacks that I do. We see them a lot.
“I just think it’s changing the culture. It’s a very negative thing for Europe. I think it’s very negative.”
But the Prime Minister disagreed, in something of a ‘Love Actually’ moment of defiance that people earlier in the day had been calling for.
Telling British and American reporters gathered in the garden at her countryside residence that the UK “has a proud history of welcoming people” and that immigration has been good for the country.
Earlier on Friday, the PM’s spokeswoman stressed the positive contribution made by those who have moved to Britain, but made clear freedom of movement will end when the UK leaves the EU in March next year.
“On immigration, we have always said that people from all over the world have come here and made this country what it is and we welcome their contribution,” she said.
“Britain is one of the best countries in the world to come and live – but at the same time we want to put in place a system which ensures we have control of our borders and that is what we are going to do later this year.
“But let’s be clear, this is a country where people come from all over the world and make a fantastic contribution.”
But despite the strong anti-immigration language, more reminiscent of far-right protesters than a sitting president, Trump supporters in London for the ‘carnival of resistance’ said the President was right to voice concerns.
One 20-year-old man from Hungary, who said he was in London to support Trump, told HuffPost UK: “I think that he is absolutely correct, because the thing is millions of refugees flooding in to Europe is only going to be bad for European people.
He went on to say: “They have vastly different cultures than ours. In some of their cultures – not all of their cultures – it is common for a woman to be stoned to death for adultery.”
Nick Harris, 20, from Sheffield, said he believed Trump was “standing up for his country” and supporting the UK “in getting out of the EU and getting our country back”.
He added: “All I think he’s trying to do is stand up for American culture, as I think the British government should be standing up for British culture, and I think having national cultures in each country is important.
“I think any form of immigration into this country, people should be signing up to British values when they come over.”
He said he believed a “small minority” of immigrants do not support British values, but that immigration had had “a positive impact on this country overall”.
“I don’t think you can deny that, but I think when immigration is mass and uncontrolled we will have a problem,” he added.
“What we need is a fair Australia-style points-based system which will make immigration fairer and controlled.”
In an interview with The Sun newspaper on Thursday, Trump singled out London Mayor Sadiq Khan for critcisim, claiming he “has done a very bad job on terrorism”.
Khan said on Friday that he was “trying to rise above” the jibe, but when asked if the door of City Hall would be open to Trump if he wanted a face-to-face meeting, he added: “I’m happy to meet President Trump and to explain to him, in a respectful, courteous manner where I think he’s wrong on a number of issues, to hear him out, see what his explanation is for holding me responsible for the attacks we saw in London last year.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the way the President treats London and Khan was “without precedent and quite unreasonable”.
He went on: “When a terrible incident happened… then surely you should recognise that the police and community have a job to do and what Sadiq has sought to do is bring people together in unity to keep London together, just as happened after 7/7 all those years ago.
“The statement by Donald Trump condemning the mayor and then going on with a general condemnation of Muslim migration into the United States is not helpful, in fact is very dangerous to community relations, and I think the statement that Sadiq has made in response is very good.”