To Sun reporters, Trump sang the praises of May's bete noire, Boris Johnson and even said he'd make a fine prime minister for the UK. He then went on to attack the current prime minister's handling of Brexit negotiations with the EU, even saying they would wreck any prospect of a big trade deal between Britain and America.
The following day, when he stepped up to the podium alongside Theresa May, Trump was singing a much different tune. He backed away from just about everything he'd told the Sun, even accusing the rightwing tabloid of pitching "fake news."
How could he spin two such different tales in the span of less than a day and in another country as the guest of its government? Deutsche Welle thinks it knows the answer.
The real man behind Brexit — forget Conservatives like Boris Johnson and David Davis — is still the former, and perhaps future, UKIP leader Nigel Farage. That's the man who campaigned with Trump in the US at a time when politicians like Boris Johnson were still describing The Donald as "clearly out of his mind." (Johnson would later change his tune, calling the negative British coverage of president-elect Trump a "whinge-arama" just hours after his confident US election predictions flew out of the window.)
Prior to Trump's arrival, Farage had told anyone who would listen that the Conservative Party had issued a clear red line to Trump when negotiating the visit: Under no account was he to meet with Farage. The government has not disputed this claim, and no meeting is scheduled.
But Farage and Trump didn't need a face-to-face meeting; a coordinated media offensive would serve their purposes far better.
Three lions on Theresa's tail
Three hard Brexit lions went into the media fray, 24 hours after England's semifinal defeat, hunting as a pack.
The pride's alpha, Trump, took the fight to Britain's best-selling "red top" tabloid paper, The Sun.
Trump tore shreds out of Theresa May's Brexit plans, hitting all of Farage's key talking points: The deal "wasn't what the people voted on," it negated the chances of a bespoke US trade deal (not that one had ever been formally offered, at least not publicly), and it overlooked citizens' concerns about "cultural changes" initiated in Europe by EU immigration policies. Like Farage, Trump managed to steer inches clear of white supremacist territory while frantically dog-whistling to any and all attuned to that wavelength. The owner of The Sun, Fox News' Rupert Murdoch, got precisely the ammunition he wanted for his pro-Brexit paper. Even its writers expressed surprise at how far the president went.
... Meanwhile, two senior British hunter-gatherers within Trump's global populist harem — Farage and former newspaper editor and The Apprentice winner Piers Morgan — spent the evening talking to BBC viewers, who might be reading a more substantive and sober newspaper on Friday morning.Casual observers, including most of us, would never have been aware of Trump's real subterfuge but the British government, especially prime minister Theresa May, knew all too well that Trump had exploited her invitation to stab her in the back.
Morgan was on the Question Time panel, lamenting the protests against Trump's visit. He also spoke at length on Brexit, assuring the audience "I voted remain as well," before elaborating on how Theresa May's plan was unsatisfactory, and how Britain needed a Brexiteer prime minister who "believed in what they're trying to achieve." Perhaps it was a coincidence that Trump told The Sun how sad he was to see Brexiteer Boris Johnson go, and how he would make a great prime minister. Perhaps.
As for Farage, he appeared as the guest of honor on This Week, for the extended My Take Of The Week segment. He told viewers what a success Trump had made of his first 18 months in office, how noteworthy it was that Italy's new government seemed to be getting on with the White House, and that Britain was missing its chance to get in on the new world order at the ground floor.