How Trump-May Twitter spat will affect the special relationship
PM repeats that the President was wrong to retweet far-right videos - but says the state visit is still on
Theresa May today repeated her criticism of Donald Trump’s decision to retweet videos posted by a British far-right group but insisted that Britain’s invitation for a presidential state visit remained open.
“Retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Jordan, during a three-day tour of the country and its neighbour Saudi Arabia.
She also said that “an invitation for a state visit has been extended and accepted”, but added: “We have yet to set a date.”
May avoided responding when asked about Trump’s criticism of her handling of the UK terrorist threat.
Sky News journalist Tom Rayner interpreted the PM’s stance as an attempt to de-escalate the transatlantic spat while kicking the issue of the state visit into the long grass by failing to confirm the timings.
“Read between the lines... and what she’s saying is, ‘I’m not going to get dragged into a long-running diplomatic spat based on that tweet last night,’” Rayner said.
The Daily Telegraph characterised May’s comments as a “stinging rebuke” to Trump over the far-right retweets, while The Guardian reports that she received a round of applause but “seemed anxious to change the subject as quickly as possible”.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna accused Trump of “normalising hatred” after the US president shared the anti-Muslim videos yesterday.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd today urged MPs to see “the bigger picture”, as anger over Trump’s “racist” tweets grows. Rudd told Parliament that intelligence-sharing between the two countries has “undoubtedly saved British lives”.
“It’s a wholly unnecessary controversy, but the international consequences could be all too real,” the BBC says.
With the UK set to leave the EU in 2019, May has tried to forge a strong trade partnership with the US - but The Guardian’s Julian Borger suggests that even before this week’s row, UK-US relations had deteriorated under Trump.
“What can May do to limit the damage? She can be stern or she can try to laugh it off,” says Borger. “But whichever mode she adopts, she will have to distance herself from Trump in the short term while sending reassuring noises that all will be fine in the long term.”