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Trump says U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May "went the opposite way" from his Brexit advice

Last Updated Jul 13, 2018 4:22 AM EDT

President Trump said he thinks Boris Johnson would make a great prime minister, and Britain's trade relationship with the U.S. could come to an end if British Prime Minister Theresa May follows through with the so-called "soft" Brexit blueprint. The president made the comments in an interview with the British tabloid newspaper the Sun, ahead of meetings with May and Queen Elizabeth. 

Mr. Trump praised Johnson, who resigned this week as Foreign Secretary largely due to disagreements with May over Brexit, even as resignations from Johnson and another top British official this week fuel speculation over the possibility of May's ouster. The news of the interview broke in tweets from a Sun reporter while Mr. Trump was at a gala with May to commemorate his visit. 

"I'm not pitting one against the other, I'm just saying, I think he'd be a great prime minister," Mr. Trump told the Sun.

May is promoting the "soft" Brexit plan, which would keep strong economic ties with the European Union. Mr. Trump said he advised May how to manage Brexit, but she didn't listen. If Britain takes the "soft" Brexit approach, Mr. Trump said that may end future trade deals with the U.S.

"If they do a deal like that, it will most likely, because we'll be dealing with the European Union, instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal, if they do a deal like that, their trade deal with the U.S. will probably not be made," Mr. Trump said. "Because we have enough difficulty with the European Union."

"If they do that, I would say that would probably end a major trade relationship with the United States," Mr. Trump added.

Mr. Trump said British voters didn't vote for the "soft" Brexit plan in their referendum to sever ties with the EU.

"I did give, Theresa, who I like — I did give her my views on what she should do and how she should negotiate, and she didn't follow those views," Mr. Trump told the Sun. "I would actually say she probably went the opposite way."

Mr. Trump also criticized immigration in Europe, saying the continent is "losing" its "culture" as a result.

"I think what's happened to Europe is a shame. I think the immigration, allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe," Mr. Trump said. "And unless you act very quickly, it's never going to be what it was. And I don't mean that in a positive way." 

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday Mr. Trump "likes and respect" May "very much." 

"As he said in his interview with the Sun she 'is a very good person' and he 'never said anything bad about her,'" Sanders' statement said. "He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person. He is thankful for the wonderful welcome from the Prime Minister here in the U.K." 

President Trump also sharply criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a Muslim leader with whom he has previously clashed on Twitter, for having "done a very bad job on terrorism." Mr. Trump appeared to suggest that Khan had allowed crime to escalate in London by letting immigrants in, referring to "crime that is being brought in" to the city.

"I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism," Mr. Trump told the Sun. "I think he has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in."

On Friday morning, Khan, who gave the go-ahead for a giant, orange balloon depicting Mr. Trump as an angry baby to be flown over central London later Friday by a protest group, responded to the critique, saying "the idea that you can blame this (crime) on immigration from Africa is I think preposterous and we should call him out when he does so."

On his decision to allow the "Trump baby" balloon to fly, which he made after a public petition garnered thousands of signatures in favor, Khan told BBC Radio on Friday that he, "shouldn't be the arbiter, as a politician, of what's in good taste or bad taste, what's important is it to be peaceful, and for it to be safe."

"Frankly speaking, the idea that we limit the rights to protest, we limit the rights to free speech because it may cause offense to a foreign leader is a very, very slippery slope," Khan added.

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.