- Priya Gopaluniversity lecturer in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge.
President Trump met with Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday to discuss Brexit and a future trade deal, while protests rocked London. In a wide-ranging press conference, Trump laid out plans for a post-Brexit trade deal with the United Kingdom, saying that the U.S. should have access to all sectors of the British economy, including the National Health Service. Trump later walked back his comments after they sparked outrage. Trump’s state visit comes just days before May is scheduled to resign her post on Friday after repeated failed attempts to strike a Brexit deal. Thousands took to the streets of London to protest Trump’s visit—a fact that Trump denied on Tuesday, calling the demonstrations “fake news.” We speak with Cambridge professor Priya Gopal, who says Trump’s claim about the protests is “an outright lie.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show in the United Kingdom, where President Trump met with Prime Minister Theresa May on his second day of a state visit Tuesday to discuss Brexit and a future trade deal, while protests rocked London. In a wide-ranging press conference, President Trump laid out plans for a post-Brexit deal with the United Kingdom, saying the U.S. should have access to all sectors of the British economy, including the National Health Service.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Look, I think everything with a trade deal is on the table. When you—when you’re dealing in trade, everything is on the table. So, NHS or anything else, or a lot—a lot more than that.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Trump’s comments sparked outrage in the U.K., including from Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who tweeted, quote, “[M]y view is clear–Scotland’s NHS is not and must never be 'on the table' in a trade negotiation with President Trump, or anyone else for that matter.” Trump later walked back his comments in an interview with British media personality Piers Morgan.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don’t see it being on the table. Somebody asked me a question today, and I say everything’s up for negotiation, because everything is. But I don’t see that being—that’s something that I would not consider part of trade. That’s not trade.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Trump also praised Theresa May’s handling of Brexit. May is scheduled to resign her post on Friday, after repeated failed attempts to strike a Brexit deal. This is Theresa May addressing reporters Tuesday.
PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: I think the important thing is we deliver Brexit. And once we’re out of the European Union, we will be able to do what we’ve been talking about today, and develop not just that free trade agreement, but a broader economic partnership into the future.
AMY GOODMAN: Among those who may replace Prime Minister May after she leaves office Friday is far-right former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, whom Trump has repeatedly praised, telling The Sun newspaper before his visit that Johnson would be an “excellent” choice for the next prime minister. Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn responded to Trump’s comments, saying, quote, “President Trump’s attempt to decide who will be Britain’s next prime minister is an entirely unacceptable interference in our country’s democracy.” Trump said Tuesday he had turned down a request to meet with Corbyn during his state visit. Instead, Corbyn joined thousands of demonstrators in the streets to protest Trump’s state visit.
JEREMY CORBYN: So I say to our visitors that have arrived this week, think on, please, about a world that is one of peace and disarmament, is one of recognizing the values of all people, is a world that defeats racism, defeats misogyny, defeats the religious hatreds that are being fueled by the far right in politics in Britain, in Europe and the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Trump called the protests against him “fake news.”
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don’t see any protests. I did see a small protest today when I came—very small. So a lot of it is fake news.
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, the protests against the president greatly overwhelmed any well-wishers in London this week. Anti-Trump demonstrators have been flying a 20-foot-long giant baby Trump blimp to protest the president.
Trump joined Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth, England, today for commemoration ceremony on the eve of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Western Europe in 1944. Other dignitaries at the ceremony include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, among others.
For more, we’re going to Cambridge, England, where we’re joined by Priya Gopal, university lecturer in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Professor Gopal.
PRIYA GOPAL: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you start off by responding to President Trump saying the protests were very minor, they were in fact fake news, far outnumbered by the supporters who, apparently, he said, were gathered—apparently, thousands and thousands of them—to greet him?
PRIYA GOPAL: That’s an outright lie. It’s not something we’re very surprised, coming from President Trump. But as you said in the lead-up to this bit, 75,000 protesters were out in London alone, on the middle of the day, on a working day, Tuesday. It was a rainy day. And despite that, the BBC and all the other outlets here have accepted that there were several thousand protesters—and very, very few Trump supporters. So, what Trump has told his listeners in the United States is exactly the opposite of what was the case. And remember, there were also protests in other cities, on a much smaller scale, but London alone had 75,000 protesters. So, that is just simply an untruth.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Priya Gopal, I’d like to ask you about a comment. President Trump has said that Britain should refuse to pay the nearly $50 billion Brexit bill and just walk away, if they do not—if the country doesn’t get what it wants from the EU. But I’m wondering if you could talk—in the United States, there hasn’t been much attention paid to the national divisions within the United Kingdom over Brexit, with both England and Wales overwhelmingly supporting leaving Brexit, whereas Scotland and Northern Ireland are overwhelmingly opposed. What the danger to the actual existence of the United Kingdom might be as a result of this continuing division over what to do with Brexit?
PRIYA GOPAL: Well, one of the useful things about Trump’s visit is it has made these divisions very, very clear in this country once again. What we’ve seen is the horrific sight of the current government, senior ministers in the current government, groveling and scraping before Trump. And you have seen opposition leaders, including Nicola Sturgeon, making very clear that Trump’s views on post-Brexit Britain are unacceptable.
The discussion around the NHS is a very good example. We do know that if there is a trade deal with the United States post-Brexit, then, as Trump said, everything is up for negotiation, including the NHS. His backtracking is not to be taken seriously. What is to be taken seriously is that Brexit is precisely about breaking up and selling off parts of the United Kingdom, particularly its public services. Now, in Northern Ireland and in Scotland, and indeed in parts of England and Wales, there is going to be tremendous resistance to this. Across party lines, people value the National Health Service. And the idea that it can be broken up and sold off piecemeal to U.S. investors and privatizers, I think, genuinely does worry many people. And even Tory politicians who have gone out of their way to be welcoming and, I would say, frankly, sycophantic to Trump have had to pull back and say, “Well, regardless of what he says, the NHS is not up for sale.”
So, Brexit does pose a very great danger, both to the public services of the United Kingdom and to the existence of the United Kingdom. We know that there is talk now of an independence reference once again in Scotland. And Scotland is overwhelmingly “remain,” and there is no reason that they should be part of the English nationalist project that Brexit ultimately is. And Trump’s visit has absolutely made these divisions very, very stark once again.
AMY GOODMAN: President Trump has both expressed his support for Nigel Farage, as well as Boris Johnson. He also criticized Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who he called a “negative force.” He said, if Corbyn were to become prime minister, he may not share intelligence with him. Your response, Professor Gopal?
PRIYA GOPAL: I mean, this is clearly unacceptable. On the one hand, there is all this talk of a special relationship. And, in fact, we really need to be asking what exactly the special relationship means. But if the people who talk the talk of a special relationship are sincere—and Trump is one of the people who uses this phrase—then it seems extraordinary to say that you will not work with the elected prime minister of the United Kingdom because you don’t happen to agree with the choice that the British electorate made. So, that strikes me as extremely unprofessional and, in a sense, really out of line. You cannot refuse to work with an elected leader. Trump’s supporters, including the Tory—members of the Tory government, have been saying that it is wrong to protest Trump, because he’s an elected leader. So, by that same token, it is wrong for Trump to say that he won’t work with an elected leader.
I should make very clear here that people have not been protesting Trump’s visiting per se. People have been protesting the rolling out of a state visit to him and the rolling out of a red carpet, including a visit with the monarch. There is a difference between a working visit and a state visit. And what a lot of the protesters are saying, what a lot of people are saying, is that Trump does not represent the kind of relationship that British people want to have with the American people and that Trump is really, in many ways, the opposite of what a good relationship between the two countries ought to stand for.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to end—before Trump arrived in Britain, he insulted London’s first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, after Sadiq Khan called out Trump’s divisive, far-right policies, tweeting, “Kahn reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job–only half his height,” Trump tweeted. He also called Khan a “stone cold loser” after arriving in London. We’d like to end with the mayor of London himself, Sadiq Khan, speaking on Sky News Monday.
MAYOR SADIQ KHAN: I think it’s important for our allies to be here to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. We could have good relations with the U.S.A., but I don’t think we should be rolling out the red carpet. I don’t think this should be a state visit. And why do I say that? I think our closest ally is akin to a best friend. And the thing about a best friend is, of course, you stand shoulder to shoulder with them at times of adversity, but you’ve got to call them out when you think they’re wrong. And there are so many things about President Donald Trump’s policies that are the antithesis of our values in London, plus our values as a country.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Priya Gopal, we want to thank you very much for being with us, university lecturer in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge.
PRIYA GOPAL: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: When we come back, as Trump threatens a 5% tariff on all Mexican imports, to go up to 25% by October, Senate Republicans appear poised to block him. Stay with us.