LONDON – After Prime Minister Theresa May rolled out the red carpet at Blenheim Palace on Thursday night for President Donald Trump's first official visit to Britain, a London tabloid published an explosive interview in which Trump blasted May's compromise, pro-business plan to leave the European Union and warned that her approach could imperil any future trade deal between the United States and Britain.
The remarks cast an immediate pall over a visit that included a lavish dinner with business leaders Thursday night and plans to meet Queen Elizabeth II for afternoon tea on Friday. It was the latest international incident to erupt during Trump's brief sojourn abroad, which kicked off with incendiary comments that upended a NATO summit in Brussels and further strained relationships with longtime U.S. allies.
In addition to attacking May on Brexit, Trump also praised her archrival, Boris Johnson, as a potential future prime minister while attacking London's mayor as soft on crime and terrorism.
The blunt language and harsh dismissal in Trump's interview stunned 10 Downing Street.
May's office did not issue a reply to Trump's remarks but referred reporters to an earlier statement: "We have come to an agreement at the proposal we're putting to the European Union which absolutely delivers on the Brexit people voted for. They voted for us to take back control of our money, our law and our borders and that's exactly what we will do."
Newspaper editors scrambled to update their front pages. "The ego has landed," said the Daily Mirror, adding that Trump "embarrasses Prime Minister with attack on her plan for soft Brexit." On its front page, the Daily Mail said that Trump had offered "typically blunt home truths for Britain."
In the interview, Trump disparaged May's Brexit plan: "I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn't listen to me."
He added: "The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one people voted on."
If May has Britain align its rules and regulations for goods and agricultural products with Europe, following "a common rulebook" with Brussels, as May puts it, then, Trump said, that could derail a trade deal with Washington.
"If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal," Trump told the Sun, which published its splash at 11 p.m. in Britain.
Trump is scheduled to meet with May for talks on Friday, and White House officials were scrambling for what to say. "There's no way Trump will apologize," a second official said. "But we also don't want to blow everything up."
Trump also said to the Sun that he was not spending much time in London on this trip because he did not feel welcome, due to mass demonstrations.
"I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London," he said
Trump lashed out at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, too, saying that he's done a "bad job" on tackling terrorism and crime.
But he spoke glowingly of Johnson, who quit the cabinet earlier this week in protest over May's plans for a soft Brexit.
Asked if Johnson could find himself in 10 Downing Street one day, Trump said, "Well I am not pitting one against the other. I am just saying I think he would be a great prime minister. I think he's got what it takes."
Organizers of Britain's nationwide protests are committed to staging some of the largest demonstrations since 2003, when hundreds of thousands hit the streets to oppose war in Iraq.