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PM to visit Trump in spring

Theresa May will visit Donald Trump in spring this year following preparatory December meetings between key staff from Downing Street and the United States president-elect's team, a Number 10 source said.

The Prime Minister's joint chiefs of staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill travelled to the US last month to build links with Mr Trump's team.

The mission was part of Mrs May's efforts to build a relationship with the controversial tycoon ahead of his inauguration on January 20.

The source said: "This was part of a process leading towards the PM's first visit with President-elect Trump.

"During the second phone call with president-elect Trump, the Prime Minister suggested it would be a good idea for key staff from both teams to meet. President-elect Trump agreed this would be useful.

"We are pleased to have been able to make that happen and the Prime Minister looks forward to visiting the new president in the spring."

Mrs May's relationship with the White House is seen as key as she tries to reshape the UK's role in the world while leaving the European Union.

But the visit of Mr Timothy and Ms Hill may have proved awkward given their public criticism of Mr Trump on social media before entering Number 10.

Ms Hill posted last December: "Donald Trump is a chump", while Mr Timothy wrote in March: "American politics was depressing enough before Trump took off."

Efforts to build transatlantic links have come under the spotlight because of the Republican president-elect's close ties to Nigel Farage and the Government's refusal to allow the former Ukip leader to act as a go-between.

In November, Mr Farage embarrassed Mrs May after being pictured laughing and smiling in a gold-plated lift with Mr Trump at his New York skyscraper.

Later, Mr Trump shocked Westminster with a late-night tweet declaring that Mr Farage would do a "great job" as Britain's ambassador to the US and that "many people" wanted to see him as the UK's senior diplomat in Washington.

But Downing Street at the time brushed off suggestions that Mr Farage could act as an intermediary for the UK and Mr Trump, insisting there was "no vacancy".

Last week, Mrs May "surprised" current president Barack Obama's administration by distancing herself from its stance on the Israeli government and settlement-building in occupied Palestinian territories.

In comments which appeared more in tune with the outlook being taken by Mr Trump, the Prime Minister said it was wrong to focus on single issues like settlement building, rather than the wider peace process.

Mrs May has also criticised Mr Trump in the past, describing his call for a ban on Muslims entering the US as "divisive, stupid and wrong" at a time when he was seeking nomination as the Republican candidate for president.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has also previously ridiculed the tycoon, joking that "the only reason I wouldn't go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump".

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