The British prime minister, Theresa May, is set to be the first European leader to meet with Donald Trump following his inauguration as president of the United States, Downing Street has announced.
A senior source at No. 10 has told Sky News that Mrs. May will travel to Washington D.C. to meet with Mr. Trump “after the President’s inauguration”, due to take place on January 20th. It is believed that she will travel in early February, although there has been no official confirmation of a date.
However, according to Euractiv, neither Berlin nor Paris have indicated that their leaders are in line to visit with Mr. Trump, nor have any other of the European Union (EU) member state administrations, meaning that Britain is paving the way in Europe for forging links with the Trump administration.
Although Mrs. May was widely panned in Britain for being tenth in line to talk to Mr. Trump by telephone following his election victory – a position which was all the more embarrassing as her political rival, UKIP leader Nigel Farage, met with Mr. Trump in person within days of the results being announced – relations between the UK and the U.S. look decidedly friendly compared to that with other EU member nations.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel did not talk to Mr. Trump by phone initially at all, preferring to issue a statement referencing “values” instead.
It stated: “Germany and America are bound by common values — democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law and the dignity of each and every person, regardless of their origin, skin colour, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or political views. It is based on these values that I wish to offer close cooperation, both with me personally and between our countries’ governments.”
However, Mr. Trump has made warmer overtures to Hungary’s President Viktor Orbán, calling the people of Hungary “brave freedom fighters” during a telephone conversation between the two men in November.
Mr. Orbán told local news that he had been invited to Washington D.C. during that conversation, but, as of yet, no date appears to have been set.
It is understood that the meeting between Mrs. May and Mr. Trump was scheduled following a secret visit to the states by May’s joint chiefs of staff Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy in mid-December 2016.
The pair met with members of his team in an attempt to repair relations between the parties, which had been damaged by comments made by both Hill and Timothy in the months before his election.
Mr. Timothy tweeted that he didn’t want anyone “reaching out” to Mr. Trump, while Ms. Hill tweeted: “Donald Trump is a chump.”
In the days after his election, Mr. Trump suggested that Mr. Farage might be best placed to act as a go-between for the two administrations, an idea which Downing Street firmly rejected.
“The Prime Minister suggested it would be a good idea for key staff from both teams to meet. President-elect Trump agreed this would be useful,” the Downing Street source said.
“We are pleased to have been able to make that happen and the Prime Minister looks forward to visiting the new president in the spring.”
Commenting on the planned visit, former justice secretary Michael Gove told Sky News: “It’s entirely appropriate for the British Prime Minister and the American President, whoever they are, whichever parties they are, to have a good working relationship.
“That doesn’t mean that they have to be figures in a romance.
“It simply means they need to manage the relationships, which are deep and enduring between these two countries, in the best interests of both countries.”
He added: “I suspect that that meeting will concentrate on making sure that the relationship between our two countries stays in a business-like fashion.”