LONDON –– British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson Sunday flew to New York for meetings with President-elect Donald Trump’s advisers as his nation looks to build ties with the incoming administration before it withdraws from the European Union.
Trump said he’ll meet Prime Minister Theresa May in the spring after she sent her two most senior aides on a secret trip to the U.S. in mid-December for talks with members of his team. May is seeking to build bridges with Trump after she made critical comments about him before his election.
Johnson was due to meet Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and the president-elect’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Sunday evening before traveling to Washington for talks with congressional leaders. He flew in after May stressed the importance she places on building links with the new White House as Britain seeks to expand trade and security cooperation after it leaves the EU.
“The special relationship we have with the United States is an important relationship in terms of security and stability around the world,” May said Sunday on Sky News. “The conversations I’ve had, I think we’re going to look to build on that relationship for the benefit of both the United States and the U.K. and I think that’s something that’s optimistic and positive for the U.K. for the future.”
May, who has spoken to the incoming president twice by phone, is attempting to recover lost ground after she was outflanked by political rival Nigel Farage. The former Independence Party leader met with Trump within days of his victory in November, and also worked with the campaign before the election. She rejected Trump’s unusual suggestion that Farage, who is close to key members of the president-elect’s team, should be made the British ambassador to the U.S.
In December 2015 May, then Britain’s home secretary, criticized Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. as “divisive, unhelpful and wrong.” Johnson, who was mayor of London at the time, said Trump was “unfit” to the hold the office of president.
During the Sky News interview, May was asked about a recording of Trump in which he used sexually-explicit language about women. The 2005 videotape surfaced in October. “That’s unacceptable, but in fact Donald Trump himself has said that and has apologized for it,” May said.
“But the relationship that the U.K. has with the U.S. is about something much bigger than just the relationship between the two individuals as president and prime minister,” she said. “It’s a relationship where actually in the U.K. we feel we can say to the U.S. if we disagree with something that they are doing.”