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July 7, 2018

Trump makes Brexit deal ‘priority’ ahead of UK trip


July 7, 2018

LONDON: US President Donald Trump will meet British Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II on a long-delayed trip to Britain next week during which he will also discuss the prospects for a UK-US free trade deal after Brexit.

"The president has been very clear... he´d love to do a bilateral deal. He´ll get it done fast because I know it´s a major priority for him," US ambassador Woody Johnson said in a phone briefing.

Johnson said Brexit was "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change direction" for Britain, adding: "Britain will make a success of Brexit because the UK is loaded with talent." Johnson said officials were already working on a deal, adding: "The president is ready and able to do that as soon as possible". Despite a series of diplomatic spats with Washington since Trump´s election, the British government is keen to strike a trade deal with the United States but the visit is likely to feature major protests against the US leader.

"Trump´s visit is an important moment to recognise our close relationship," a spokeswoman for May told reporters.

Johnson said: "His mission is really to strengthen the special relationship." Trump´s trip will also take him to British wartime leader Winston Churchill´s birthplace and Scotland, his late mother´s homeland where he owns two luxury golf courses.

Trump will arrive from the NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday and will attend a black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace, a country house near Oxford where Churchill was born in 1874.

The dinner, where Trump will be accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, will be preceded by a military ceremony and guests will include British and US business leaders. The couple will then stay at Winfield House, the US ambassador´s residence on the edge of Regent´s Park in London.

Trump on Friday will visit an unnamed defence facility with May and the two will hold talks at Chequers, the 16th-century manor house outside London that serves as her official country retreat.

Asked whether Chequers had been chosen to avoid a major demonstration planned in London on the same day, May´s spokeswoman said this was not the case and the venue was better for "more informal meetings".

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