Trump and May to have ‘substantial talks’ but no formal one-to-one meeting

Theresa May will not have a formal one-to-one meeting with US President Donald Trump during his state visit.

The pair will be accompanied by senior officials and ministers for “substantial” talks, but the two leaders are not due to have a private meeting.

Downing Street insisted there was nothing unusual in the arrangements for the talks on Tuesday which come just days before the Prime Minister quits as Tory leader.

In a busy schedule, the pair will meet leading business figures and hold a joint press conference.

Churchill War Rooms new entrance
Churchill War Rooms new entrance

Mrs May will also treat the president to a private tour of the Churchill War Rooms, the underground bunker where Winston Churchill led the country during the Second World War.

The Prime Minister’s husband Philip May and First Lady Melania Trump will also attend a Downing Street garden party.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was “always going to be the case” that the meeting in the Cabinet Room at Number 10 would involve the delegations from the two sides rather than just the leaders and there would be “substantial bilateral discussions”.

“These are always how the discussions take place with any leader,” the spokesman said, adding there was “nothing unusual here”.

The spokesman insisted the two leaders would have time for informal private talks during Mr Trump’s visit.

“You can see the events they are at, you can see the fact she is providing him with a tour of the Churchill War Rooms, I would expect them to be having discussions with just the two of them.”

Previous occupants of Number 10 and the White House have held private one-to-one talks before – including Tony Blair and George W Bush, whose meeting at the Crawford Ranch in the run-up to the Iraq War became the subject of intense focus after the conflict.

Mrs May also risks being embarrassed by Mr Trump’s suggestion that he may seek a meeting with Boris Johnson – frontrunner in the race to replace her – although the former foreign secretary has not received any correspondence from the White House about an audience with the president.

Meanwhile, Downing Street said the US president’s spat with London Mayor Sadiq Khan was a matter for them.

And the Prime Minister’s spokesman would not be drawn on Theresa May’s response to Donald Trump’s pre-visit interviews criticising her Brexit policy, backing Boris Johnson and praising Nigel Farage.

“The president was asked a series of questions and he chose to answer them,” the spokesman said.

Asked whether Brexit Party leader Mr Farage should join the negotiations with Brussels, the spokesman said: “The next phase of Brexit negotiations will be conducted by somebody else, not by the Prime Minister.

“It will be for them to seek a way forward.”

Downing Street said Mrs May agreed with Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt who had stressed the NHS would be off limits in trade talks.

My American friends, know this: The NHS is not for sale. Yes we’d love to make it cheaper to buy your life-saving pharmaceuticals – but the NHS will not be on the table in any future trade talks.

— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) June 2, 2019

US ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson said he expected the “entire economy” – including the health service – would be part of a future deal.

Mr Hancock hit back at Mr Johnson’s comments, saying the NHS is “not for sale”.

“Yes we’d love to make it cheaper to buy your life-saving pharmaceuticals – but the NHS will not be on the table in any future trade talks,” he tweeted.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said he expected the issue of a free trade agreement (FTA) to come up in the talks between the president and Mrs May.

“One of the issues you would expect the Prime Minister to raise is our economic partnership and how we can work together to strengthen ties and support our business,” he said.

“I think you can expect us to discuss the future trading relationship – both the PM and the president have expressed their desire for an ambitious FTA onces the UK leaves the EU.”