Belfast Telegraph

Donald Trump: US-UK trade deal will be done quickly and properly

Donald Trump has pledged to secure a rapid trade agreement with Britain as he predicted leaving the European Union would be a "great thing" for the UK.

In an interview for The Times, the US president-elect said people voted for Brexit because they "want their own identity".

He also used the interview to signal his desire for a new arms reduction agreement with Russia saying the numbers of nuclear weapons should be "reduced very substantially".

In contrast to Barack Obama, who said Britain would be at the "back of the queue" when it came to a trade deal with the US, Mr Trump made clear it would be a priority for his administration.

"We're gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides," he said.

He made clear that - unlike his predecessor who urged British voters to back Remain - he welcomed last June's referendum vote.

"People, countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity," he said. "Brexit is going to end up being a great thing."

Despite having prompted fears of a new arms race last year when he said the US needed to "greatly strengthen and expand" its nuclear capability, Mr Trump indicated he would like to strike a new nuclear deal with Russia.

"For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that's part of it," he said.

The president-elect - who will be inaugurated on Friday - also spoke of his belief that German chancellor Angela Merkel had made an error when she opened Germany's doors to migrants.

"I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals," he said.

In his first UK ­interview as president-elect, Mr Trump said he would be inviting Theresa May for an early meeting in Washington.

"I love the UK," he said. "She's requesting a meeting and we'll have a meeting right after I get into the White House and it'll be, I think we're gonna get something done very quickly."

He disclosed that the Prime Minister had written to him shortly after Christmas with a copy of Winston Churchill's address to the ­Americans after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.

In her letter, she said she hoped the feeling of "unity and fraternal association" between the two countries was "as true today as it has ever been".

In what was described as a wide-ranging interview, Mr Trump said orders would be signed next Monday to strengthen America's borders.

They could include travel restrictions on Europeans coming to the US as well as "extreme vetting" of those entering from parts of the world known for Islamist terrorism.

Mr Trump was highly critical of US foreign policy, describing the invasion of Iraq as "possibly the worst ­decision ever made in the history of our country", ­likening it to "throwing rocks into a ­beehive".

He said Afghanistan was "going badly" and the offensive to retake Mosul - Islamic State's last stronghold in Iraq - had turned out to be a disaster.

While Mr Trump said he would like to make "some good deals" with Russia, he said Moscow's intervention in Syria had been "a very bad thing" which had created a "terrible ­humanitarian situation".

He said the refugee crisis and the flood of migrants into Europe had helped drive the Leave vote in Britain's EU referendum.

"I do believe this, if they (EU countries) hadn't been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the ­problems that it . . . entails, I think that you wouldn't have a Brexit," he said.

"It probably could have worked out but this was the final straw, this was the final straw that broke the camel's back."

Mr Trump also spoke of how he was looking ­forward to visiting Britain, saying his Scottish mother was "so proud of the Queen".

"Any time the Queen was on television, an event, my mother would be watching," he said.

He joked his Scottish ­ancestry meant he liked to "watch my ­pennies", adding: "I mean I deal in big ­pennies, that's the problem."

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