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UK PM praises 'dearest friend' US as Trump
questions Brexit plans

UK PM praises 'dearest friend' US as Trump <br/>questions Brexit plans


REUTERS
BLENHEIM PALACE, England
Prime Minister Theresa May made a determined pitch to Donald Trump for a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States on his first trip to Britain on Thursday, just hours after the American president questioned her plans for leaving the European Union.
Invoking the spirit of Winston Churchill as she addressed Trump and business leaders at the British World War Two leader's birthplace, May praised the friendship between the two close allies, glossing over remarks from the president that he was entering a"hot spot", with Britain in turmoil over Brexit.
Outside Blenheim Palace, near Oxford to the northwest of London, a couple of thousand demonstrators lined the road and booed before Trump's arrival, one of over 100 protests police expect to take place during his four-day trip.
After arriving by helicopter, Trump stood alongside May on a red carpet on the steps of Blenheim Palace while a military band of British army guardsmen, wearing tall black bearskin hats and red jackets, performed for the two leaders and their spouses.
Within the walls of the grand 18th-century mansion, May had only warm words, calling Britain and the United States"not just the closest of allies but the dearest of friends".
"Mr President, Sir Winston Churchill once said that 'to have the United States at our side was, to me, the greatest joy'," May was to tell Trump at a black-tie dinner in his honour, attended by senior ministers and about 100 executives from firms including Blackstone group, Blackrock, Diageo and McLaren.
"The spirit of friendship and co-operation between our countries, our leaders and our people, that most special of relationships, has a long and proud history. Now, for the benefit of all our people, let us work together to build a more prosperous future," she said in excerpts released in advance.
After a NATO summit where he provoked a crisis session to force allies to raise their defence spending, Trump cast doubt on May's Brexit plans, echoing remarks earlier in the week where he described Britain as being in turmoil.
The trip coincides with a tumultuous week for May after two senior ministers resigned in protest at her plans for trade with the EU after Britain leaves the bloc next March.
"I'm going to a pretty hot spot right now, right? With a lot of resignations," Trump told a news conference before leaving for London.
May's"business-friendly" Brexit plan - which would keep Britain in a free trade zone for goods with the EU but mean it has to share some EU rules - was agreed by her cabinet only last Friday after two years of wrangling since Britons voted to leave the bloc in a 2016 referendum. Some Brexit supporters cast it as a betrayal, including lawmakers in her own deeply-divided party who have warned of a leadership challenge.
"The people voted to break it up, so I imagine that's what they'll do. But maybe they're taking a little bit of a different route, so I don't know if that's what they voted for," said Trump.
Asked about Trump's comments, May simply said she was delivering wishes of the British people.

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