May set to meet Trump to discuss trade deal, defence

London/Washington: British Prime Minister Theresa May laid a wreath at Arlington cemetery in Virginia ahead of face-to-face talks with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Friday.

The pair will spend about an hour together in the first visit by a foreign leader to the White House since Trump was sworn in last week, the Telegraph reported. The meeting comes after May told US Republicans that Britain and US could not return to “failed” military interventions “to remake the world in our own image”.

However Sir Michael Fallon, the British defence secretary, said on Friday that this did not mean that Britain would unilaterally shy away from intervening militarily overseas.

May will join Trump for his first news conference as President at 1 pm ET (11.30 pm IST) on Friday. Both the leaders will seek to find common ground on trade and lay the groundwork for a new deal after Britain leaves the European Union in 2019, CNN reported.

In his speech at the Republicans’ retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday, Trump joked that with Congress so far refusing to confirm his candidate for commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, he would have to discuss trade with May himself.

“I don’t have my commerce secretary; they want to talk trade; so I have got to handle it myself,” he said.

May will be keen to ensure that Trump remains fully committed to the NATO military alliance which is a vital organisation to keep Russia in check in eastern Europe. Both leaders are expected to urge other NATO countries increase their defence spending to two per cent of gross national product.

They will also be discussing the West’s concern about Russia. The meeting comes a day after May addressed Republicans in Philadelphia. The Prime Minister said relations between Britain and the US have “defined the world,” delivering a speech greeted by frequent loud applause.

“I speak to you not just as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but as a fellow Conservative who believes in the same principles that underpin the agenda of your Party,” May said on Thursday.

May, the first foreign leader ever to address the annual Republican gathering, also told Trump not to trust Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“When it comes to Russia, as so often it is wise to turn to the example of President Reagan who – during negotiations with his opposite number Mikhail Gorbachev – used to abide by the adage ‘trust but verify’,” she said. “With President Putin, my advice is to ‘engage but beware'”, she said.

“We should not jeopardise the freedoms that President Reagan and Mrs Thatcher brought to Eastern Europe by accepting President Putin’s claim that it is now in his sphere of influence,” she said.

As a gift to Trump, May is bringing a quaich – a two-handled Scottish drinking cup for whisky used to symbolise trust between the giver and recipient. She will give Melania Trump a hamper containing a range of British produce, including Chequers apple juice,
Damson jam and marmalade, Bakewell tarts, and Cranberry and white chocolate shorties.

Regarding sexist remarks made by the US President on several past occasions, May said that “some of the comments that Donald Trump has made in relation to women are unacceptable, some of those he himself has apologised for.”

“I think the biggest statement that will be made about the role of women is the fact that I will be there as a female Prime Minister,” May said.