Europe Warns of Retaliation Over U.S. Auto Tariffs

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström cautions Washington against unilateral measures that threaten global free-trade

Levies on imports of autos and car-parts would be a “disastrous” and illegal move to gain leverage in trade negotiations, said Cecilia Malmström.
Levies on imports of autos and car-parts would be a “disastrous” and illegal move to gain leverage in trade negotiations, said Cecilia Malmström. PHOTO: WIKTOR DABKOWSKI/ZUMA PRESS

BRUSSELS—The European Union said Thursday it would retaliate if President Donald Trump imposes tariffs on car exports to the U.S., cautioning Washington against unilateral measures that threaten global free-trade.

The threat comes less than a week before a planned White House visit by the EU’s top executive, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Both sides have touted the visit as a chance to discuss the escalating trade battle and other issues.

Prospects for fruitful negotiations could now be clouded following Mr. Trump’s angry reaction to a separate EU ruling Wednesday, fining Google parent Alphabet Inc. $5 billion for abusing the market dominance of its Android mobile operating system.

“I told you so!” Mr. Trump tweeted. “The European Union just slapped a Five Billion Dollar fine on one of our great companies, Google. They truly have taken advantage of the U.S., but not for long!”

Mr. Trump has said that tariffs on car imports would respond to EU trade practices. On Wednesday he threatened “tremendous retribution” against the EU, specifically with auto duties. Last month he said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who levied the fine on Google Wednesday, “really hates the U.S.,” according to people who heard the comment. Ms. Vestager, whom Mr. Trump called the EU’s “tax lady,” rejected Mr. Trump’s accusation.

“I very much like the U.S.,” she said Wednesday.

The EU exports roughly $60 billion annually in autos and car-parts to the U.S. Imposing tariffs on that would be a “disastrous” and illegal move to gain leverage in trade negotiations, said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who will accompany Mr. Juncker to the White House on Wednesday.

Administration officials have proposed a bilateral trade deal cutting tariffs on only cars but the EU cannot agree to that under World Trade Organization rules, Ms. Malmstrom said. Mr. Trump has repeatedly complained about the 28-member bloc’s 10% car tariffs, which is quadruple the U.S. rate but lower than the 25% U.S. tariff on light trucks.

Ms. Malmstrom said the EU is ready to discuss a broader trade agreement but was also girding to go tit-for-tat with the president.

“If the U.S. would impose these car tariffs, that would be very unfortunate,” Ms. Malmstrom told a conference. “We are preparing, together with our member states, a list of rebalancing measures.”

It remains unclear what products the EU would target, in part because officials in Brussels don’t know yet precisely what measures the U.S. would take.

European leaders had hoped Mr. Juncker might succeed with Mr. Trump where other European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, had failed.

Mr. Trump’s “America First” policies are diametrically opposed to the internationalist stance of Mr. Juncker, a former prime minister of Luxembourg whom the president has called a “brutal killer” in trade.

Related Video

How Will Allies Respond to Trump’s Tariffs?

Will President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum for the EU and others cause U.S. allies to retaliate? The Wall Street Journal’s Gerald F. Seib explains. Photo: Getty

The EU will convey its concerns to Mr. Trump over potential car duties, stressing European manufacturer’s investments in the U.S., the importance of international supply chains and risks to millions of jobs for both parties in an escalating trade war.

“A car can be bought in Seattle, assembled in Detroit, having been designed by a German, built with a Mexican chassis and Canadian engine parts—this is how trade is win-win,” Ms. Malmstrom said.

Similar arguments—including at the Group of Seven summit in Canada last month—have not swayed Mr. Trump.

The weakening trans-Atlantic alliance has fueled EU efforts to strike free-trade agreements with other partners and engage China in an effort to revamp global trade rules. Meanwhile, the bloc has responded to Mr. Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs with levies on €2.8 billion worth of American exports, a WTO challenge and trade-protection measures to safeguard European manufacturers.

Still, EU officials have repeatedly said that none of its relationships measure up to its partnership with the U.S. The two built the WTO in the 1990s and until Mr. Trump took office jointly championed global free trade.

“We’re not prepared to walk away from the order we have built together,” said Ms. Malmstrom. “We know from the past that these meetings can be a bit unpredictable, but we come there with the best intentions as friends and allies.”

Corrections & Amplifications 
Cecilia Malmström was at a trade event organized by the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the think tank. (July 19, 2018)

Write to Emre Peker at


Berlin prosecutors confiscate Lebanese clan’s properties

Berlin authorities have seized dozens of apartments and houses they claim are owned by one of the city’s Arab crime networks. A new law allows police to confiscate property bought with ill-gotten gains.

German police with a suspect (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Zinken)

Berlin’s state prosecutors have claimed they have made a major sweep against one of the large organized crime families in the German capital: a“clan” of Arab-Lebanese origin,known simply by their initial R., to comply with German privacy law. Authorities confiscated some 77 properties, worth an estimated €9.3 million ($10.8 million).

At a press conference on Thursday, Berlin chief state prosecutor Jörg Raupach said that 16 people were being investigated on suspicion of money-laundering, all of whom were part of the R. family network. None of them had been arrested yet.

The investigators would not mention any details about the 16 suspects, including their nationality or family relation to one another. “But what is important for us is who profits from which crimes, and who helps bring money from crime back into legal circulation,” Raupach told DW. “This is a signal to organized crime that we are trying to freeze their sources of income, or even to stop them altogether, to show that in Germany it’s possibly no longer lucrative enough.”

Three men behind microphones at news conference (picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)Jörg Raupach (center) said a legal amendment has made it much easier to seize the proceeds of criminal activity

The sweep came after financial crime investigators had searched 13 apartments and commercial properties last Friday. Berlin’s state police are reported to have identified dozens of properties belonging to the family, including some blocks of flats, single houses and apartments, and even allotments.

The state has changed the entries in the city’s land register and taken over control of the bank accounts connected with them, and the authorities said Thursday the tenants living in the properties can continue living in them, and would not necessarily be aware of the change in ownership at all.

Watch video04:56

German Investigators Target Arab Crime Syndicates

Spectacular robbery

The seizure of property was the latest development in a four-year investigation originally triggered by a 2014 bank robbery in Berlin’s Mariendorf district, during which an explosion nearly destroyed an entire branch of a Sparkasse bank, and €9.16 million was stolen.

One member of the R. family, Toufic R., was convicted of the robbery, but the money was never recovered. However, investigators noticed subsequently that one of Toufic’s R.’s brothers was buying property around the city, even though he was apparently living on state benefits.

This appeared to be a breakthrough for the investigators. “The difficult thing with these family structures is that you need leads. You need bank accounts where you see payments or withdrawals. It’s like a giant puzzle,” said Raupach. “There’s a crime, money is missing, where has it gone? Working out where that money went is a tough task, but sometimes, as in this case, it leads to a partial success.”

Big gold coin (picture-alliance/dpa/H. K. Techt)Members of the clan allegedly stole a Canadian gold coin from a Berlin museum in 2017

Members of the R. family have also been connected to other spectacular robberies in Berlin in recent years. Last year, four members of the network, aged between 18 and 20, were arrested on suspicion of stealing a 100-kilo, €3.7-million Canadian gold coin from the city’s Bode Museum in March 2017, though no charges have yet been filed, and the men were subsequently released. The coin was never recovered.

Raupach said on Thursday that there was currently no evidence of a connection between the coin robbery and the money-laundering investigation.

It’s hard to follow the money

The property seizure was made much easier by a legal amendment introduced last year specifically to combat organized and financial crime. “The amendment means we have more possibilities,” state prosecutor Thorsten Cloidt told DW.

“It used to be that you needed a much stronger connection between the original crime and the confiscated property. That means we can get other properties that are not primarily connected to the crime itself.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Sparkasse bank will get it’s €9.16 million back soon. “We’re a long way away from answering that question,” said Cloidt.

“But this amendment is a very positive development. It’s not only important for organized crime, it also plays a role in financial crimes. Loot is moved further and further away from the actual perpetrator, and then you have a problem when you need to establish a connection between the value of the property and the crime.”


US General Ben Hodges: ‘Russia only respects strength’

In the space of a week, the US president has attacked NATO and cozied up to Vladimir Putin. Retired US Army General Ben Hodges told DW that Trump alienating US allies “worries every military professional” he knows.

Polen Warschau Militärparade US General Ben Hodges (picture-alliance/(AP Photo/A. Keplicz)

After military experience in Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Frederick “Ben” Hodges served his last military assignment as commander of the United States Army in Europe, before his retirement in December 2017. Now living in Frankfurt, Germany, he is Pershing Chair of Strategic Studies at the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).

DW: What did you make of President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with his US counterpart Donald Trump in Helsinki? Do you share what seems to be the common view: That it was a diplomatic disaster that undermines multilateral alliances like NATO?

Hodges: I’m reluctant to say anything is a disaster so immediately after it happened. It’s just going to take a little bit of time for things to filter out. Certainly all the reports I’ve seen would indicate that nobody was happy with it except the Russians. I think, on the plus side, at least there have been no announcements of something like: You can do what you want with Ukraine or Georgia. There’s no indication that this was like in the 18th century, when great powers traded away space to each other. I think there’s a little bit of a sigh of relief that way.

I think it’s going to be a huge problem for Trump in the US, because so many Republicans have also come out with very strong criticism, that he didn’t put a stake in the heart of this whole business about Russian meddling in the US election. He wouldn’t condemn it, he didn’t hold Putin accountable, I mean, it’s inexplicable.

Watch video01:32

Donald Trump draws fierce criticism after Putin summit

DW: Trump began his European trip by criticizing NATO allies and ended it by failing to criticize Putin. What should we read into that?

First and foremost, our great alliance NATO — it’s not perfect, lots of work that always needs doing — but it’s still the most successful alliance in the history of the world. The alliance has made it through tough times before, but it was always because the nations shared common interests and values, and there was never a question that the US would always provide leadership. For the first time in my life, the American president put that in question, which really concerns me. What is new is that the president is so openly disrespectful and dismissive of our most important allies — that worries every military professional I know.

Helsinki Trump Putin (picture alliance/dpa)Many people interpreted the Helsinki meeting as a disaster for Trump

Read more: Trump ignites firestorm with attacks on Germany

Secondly, I don’t think the president appreciates alliances and international organizations. I think that’s unfortunate, because for the US, the alliance is an essential part of our overall national security strategy. The 30,000 troops that are in Germany are not there to defend Germany, that’s part of our overall contribution to collective security. And frankly Germany is the essential ally for the US, because of the access it gives us to do so much. It’s our forward presence, if you will, our intelligence cooperation. I’ve always believed that Germany is the ally the US should be working hardest to have that relationship with. The fact that the president singled out the chancellor: I think that was a terrible mistake.

Read moreOpinion: Trump-Putin summit was a troubling media circus

DW: But many analysts and conservative German politicians shared Trump’s criticism that Germany should be spending more on defense.

Yes, having said all that, while most of the nations were beginning to do more in terms of burden-sharing, I think the president drew a lot of attention to it and probably added some momentum to it, which is needed. So I think he should get some credit for that. Honestly, half of America doesn’t understand either why European countries don’t do more. But I didn’t like the way it’s done – I think it’s harmful in the long run.

DW: A lot of the points that Trump made — on NATO spending, and on Nord Stream 2 — are shared by defense analysts. So it just Trump’s style that bothers people?

I don’t want to say it’s just style — that minimizes the damage that Trump does to these relationships. Style is a part of it, but it’s much worse than that, it’s a disregard for our allies and what it means to be an ally. Germany does so much to help the alliance, and to help the United States, which doesn’t fit into this 2 percent (the percentage of GDP that NATO wants its members to spend on defense – DW). I really don’t like that 2 percent as the only measure. I understand why we have it, but I think it’s time for a much more sophisticated approach to burden-sharing, and what it really means. What the alliance needs Germany to do just doesn’t fit neatly under that 2 percent.

Watch video06:15

Trump’s European trip ‘an unblemished win for Putin’

DW: Some people in Germany are a little distrustful of NATO and the Cold War rhetoric of antagonism towards Russia. They aren’t Trump supporters, but they certainly don’t want conflict with Russia either. Do you think there’s any truth to the idea that we make the threat of Russia bigger than it is?

No, absolutely not. For 400 hundred years, Russia has always used every element of its power, whether it’s economic, diplomatic, or military power, to achieve what it wanted. We need to be realistic about it: Russia only respects strength. Russia’s the one that invaded Ukraine, Russia’s the one that invaded Georgia, Russia’s the one that’s threatening Baltic countries, and talks about Romania, Denmark, and Sweden being nuclear targets — this is a real threat.

Now, there’s not a long line of Russian tanks sitting across the border with engines running waiting to launch a ground invasion. I don’t expect that, although they’ve retained that capability in combination with cyber- and misinformation, and the threat of nuclear weapons. Number two: All of us, including the US, disarmed significantly in the last few years because we thought Russia was going to be our partner. The last American tank went home from Germany five years ago. The Bundeswehr almost completely disarmed, and now because of what Russia has done, everybody is hustling to rebuild sufficient capability to deter.

Read moreGerman politicians rally round Merkel after Trump’s NATO tirade

DW: So in that context, how worrying was this summit, and the apparent hold that Putin has over Trump?

Well, the fact that they met is not bad. In fact, the tenser the situation is the more you would want people to meet to make sure there are no misunderstandings. The problem is so many people don’t have confidence in what President Trump is doing or saying. Meeting for the sake of meeting is not helpful if you’re not clear about expectations and if you’re not putting pressure on Russia. Again, the Russians only respect strength, and I think right now the alliance does not look strong, and the president does not look strong.


Trump Affirms Support for May, U.K. Trade Deal Following Tensions Over Brexit

Leaders meet after president delivered a stinging rebuke in British newspaper interview

Trump Softens Critical Comments About U.K. Prime Minister

Donald Trump and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said they are committed to a post-Brexit trade deal, despite the U.S. president’s earlier criticism of her handling of the U.K.’s Brexit process. Mr. Trump’s visit was met with protests in London. Photo: Getty Images

ELLESBOROUGH, England—President Donald Trump affirmed his commitment to striking a trade deal with the U.K., seeking to walk back earlier comments in which he criticized Prime Minister Theresa May’s approach to Brexit and said her plan would “kill” the chances of such a deal.

His softening of his criticism saved Mrs. May some embarrassment at a perilous time for the British leader, as she struggles to hold together a government riven by her plan to closely follow European Union regulations.

But the president, whose visit drew thousands of protesters in London and other places in the country, didn’t back off other comments, made in an interview with a British tabloid, that implicitly criticized Mrs. May. Brexit hard-liners continued to insist his comments would add pressure on Mrs. May to harden her stance in negotiations with the EU. ​

At a joint news conference Friday, Mrs. May said she and Mr. Trump had agreed to pursue an “ambitious” trade deal between the two nations that “works for both countries right across the economies.”

Mr. Trump also said he was open to pursuing a deal once the U.K. leaves the European Union. He signaled an openness to Mrs. May’s approach to Brexit. “I don’t know what you’re going to do, but whatever you do is OK with me,” he said. “That’s your decision.” He said the relationship between the two countries has “never been stronger.”

The exchange was sharply at odds with his interview with the Sun, published late Thursday, in which he said also praised former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who quit the government this week over Brexit. After the interview was published, Mr. Trump said, he told Mrs. May: “I wanted to apologize.” He said she responded: “Don’t worry, it’s only the press.”

The apology was a rare concession for the president, who in the face of criticism is more apt to double down than to walk back his comments, and who often instructs aides to never apologize for their actions.

It also helped to mend the strained relationship between the two leaders. Mrs. May is seeking to strengthen ties with the U.S. as the U.K. turns away from the EU. Mr. Trump is one of the few world leaders who supported Brexit.

Earlier in the day, the two leaders viewed a joint military demonstration by U.S. and U.K. forces and met at Chequers, the U.K. prime minister’s official country house, for a working lunch. Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump later traveled to Windsor Castle to meet Queen Elizabeth II, where the queen and the president inspected the Guard of Honour and had tea. In the evening, the couple left for Scotland to stay at one of Mr. Trump’s golf courses for the weekend, before his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

The U.S. leader, who was repeatedly questioned by reporters about why he was critical of the prime minister while on U.K. soil, spent much of the news conference heaping praise on Mrs. May, describing her as a “tough” negotiator and calling their relationship “the highest level of special.” While seeking to project unity, the leaders offered divergent views on the value of immigration in Europe. “It’s been very bad for Europe,” Mr. Trump said.

The president arrived in London on Thursday after a contentious North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Brussels, and the extravagant gala dinner hosted by Mrs. May at Blenheim Palace was expected to be a more mellow event. But the evening was upended by the Sun’s interview, published shortly after Mr. Trump departed the dinner.

Mr. Trump on Friday said the Sun didn’t include the positive things he said about the embattled British leader and called the reporting “fake news,” but he reiterated that Mrs. May should take his advice on how to best negotiate with the EU. The Sun posted extensive audio excerpts on its web site but not the full interview.

Downing Street didn’t comment on the interview, but officials and diplomats said they were surprised and angered by the move. The Sun and The Wall Street Journal are both owned by News Corp.

Trump Visits the U.K.: Photos

The president sought to project unity with Prime Minister Theresa May after criticizing her approach to Brexit, and following a tense NATO summit

 President Trump, second right, and NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, left, talk during a Wednesday NATO breakfast. On the first day, Mr. Trump pressed allies to double their military spending target to 4% of GDP, while questioning NATO’s value and bashing Germany for supporting a gas deal with Russia.
 President Donald Trump meets Queen Elizabeth II as he and first lady Melania Trump arrive for a welcome ceremony at Windsor Castle on Friday.
 The queen, President Trump and the first lady face an honor guard at Windsor Castle.
 The queen and President Trump inspect the Coldstream Guards during the president’s visit to Windsor Castle.
 President Trump and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May hold a joint news conference at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence in southern England. on Friday.
 President Trump with Prime Minister May prior to the news conference at Chequers.
 First lady Melania Trump and Philip May, the husband of Prime Minister May, stand with schoolchildren during a visit to British military veterans at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in central London on Friday.
 Protesters with a balloon depicting President Trump as an orange baby at Parliament Square in London on Friday.
 Melania Trump, center, tries her hand at lawn bowling during a visit to the Royal Hospital Chelsea on Friday.
 President Trump and the first lady, at left, with Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband, Philip, ahead of a dinner with business leaders at Blenheim Palace on Thursday.
 British Prime Minister Theresa May, at right, accompanied President Donald Trump, as their spouses, Philip May and Melania Trump, followed them into Blenheim Palace, near Oxford.
 President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump step off Air Force One as they arrive at London's Stansted Airport on Thursday, after leaving the at-times tense NATO summit in Brussels.
 A member of security detail snaps a photo as Air Force One taxis on the tarmac at London Stansted Airport on Thursday. After leaving the NATO summit, President Trump is expected to avoid London as much as possible during his U.K. visit because of protesters.
 President Trump was joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and National Security Adviser John Bolton, right, as he addressed an impromptu news conference after the second day of the NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday.
 British Prime Minister Theresa May, center, and President Trump stand together as they gather for a group photo during the two-day NATO summit in Brussels Wednesday.
 Emmanuel Macron, right, President Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, among other heads of state, at the NATO summit. Mr. Macron said the allies reconfirmed what they had already pledged in recent years, to increase their defense spending to 2% by 2024.
 German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and President Trump met for bilateral talks at the NATO Summit on Wednesday. The following day, Mrs. Merkel told reporters after an emergency NATO session that it had been a ‘very intense summit’ with ‘very serious discussions.’
 Heads of state and government watch a fly-by of NATO aircraft at the opening ceremony at the 2018 NATO Summit at NATO headquarters on Wednesday in Brussels. From left to right, first row: Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, U.S. President Donald Trump, and British Prime Minister Theresa May.
 President Trump and other NATO leaders at the summit in Brussels.
President Donald Trump meets Queen Elizabeth II as he and first lady Melania Trump arrive for a welcome ceremony at Windsor Castle on Friday.
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The president’s comment that Mrs. May’s Brexit plan would “probably end a major trade relationship with the United States” came after Woody Johnson, the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., last week described the president as eager to strike a trade deal between the two nations. “He’s really ready to step up on that the minute we get the go-ahead to do it,” Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Trump largely traveled by helicopter on his visit, avoiding central London where protesters on Friday inflated a balloon depicting Mr. Trump as an orange baby outside the Houses of Parliament. Tens of thousands of protesters marched against the president in London in the afternoon, and others held demonstrations outside Chequers and Windsor Castle and in other parts of the U.K.

In the Sun interview, Mr. Trump said he had been made to feel “unwelcome” by the protests. “I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” he said.

One protester in London, Alex Belcher, a 19-year-old student from Essex, said that he understood the U.K. needed to do a trade deal with the U.S., but that there is a limit to the welcome the U.K. should show him. “Rolling out the red carpet like this for someone who has done so many bad things—it’s laughable,” Mr. Belcher said.

Nigel Farage, one of the leaders of the Brexit movement and an ally of Mr. Trump, said Mr. Trump’s comments to the Sun are likely to add pressure on Mrs. May to change course.

“Middle England has been very angry over the past week about what they see as May’s betrayal,” said Nigel Farage, one of the leaders of the Brexit movement.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at and Jenny Gross at

Appeared in the July 14, 2018, print edition as ‘Trump Affirms Support for May.’


Trump blasts Prime Minister Theresa May in interview published during his first official visit to Britain

British Prime Minister Theresa May greets President Trump before a dinner at Blenheim Palace on Thursday. (Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

 After Prime Minister Theresa May rolled out the red carpet at Blenheim Palace on Thursday night for President 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 Trump had offered “typically blunt home truths for Britain.”

May defends Brexit policy after Trump casts doubt

Responding to President Trump’s remarks on Brexit on the morning of July 12, British Prime Minister Theresa May defended her proposal. 

In the interview, done earlier this week, 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 ­rule book” 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 was scheduled to meet with May for talks on Friday.

Activists inflate a giant balloon depicting President Trump as an orange baby ahead of protests in London. (Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images)

“The President likes and respects Prime Minister May very much. As he said in his interview with the Sun she ‘is a very good person’ and he ‘never said anything bad about her,’ ” U.S. press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person.”

The U.S. contingent expected the story to post Friday morning and was startled to leave the dinner Thursday and see it online. Sanders told the British government about the interview but thought it would be somewhat more positive, an official said.

White House officials were scrambling for what to say to May on Friday. “There’s no way Trump will apologize,” a senior U.S. official said. “But we also don’t want to blow everything up.”

A second White House official said Trump had two days of positive interactions with May. But the official also conceded that Trump had talked about her vulnerabilities and criticized her political acumen privately for many months.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

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 planned for Friday.

“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” he told the paper. “I used to love London as a city. I haven’t been there in a long time. But when they make you feel unwelcome, why would I stay there?”

Trump lashed out at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, too, saying that he’s done a “bad job” on tackling terrorism and crime.

“Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place. Look at what is going on in London. I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism,” Trump said. “I think he has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in.”

But he spoke glowingly of Johnson, who quit the cabinet this week in protest over May’s plans for a soft Brexit.

“I have a lot of respect for Boris. He obviously likes me and says very good things about me,” Trump told the tabloid. “I was very saddened to see he was leaving government, and I hope he goes back in at some point. I think he is a great representative for your country.”

Asked whether 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.”

Trump did not have public events in Britain on Thursday. Planners have taken great care to keep him from protests.

After his trips overseas to Asia and the Middle East, Trump went on for days about the grandiose treatment — and the Brits were clearly trying to do well by him.

At the dinner, in her remarks, May made her pitch to Trump. She began by noting that “Sir Winston Churchill once said that ‘to have the United States at our side was, to me, the greatest joy.’ ”

Then she moved to the deals she hoped to strike. “Now, as we prepare to leave the European Union, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do more. It’s an opportunity to reach a free trade agreement that creates jobs and growth here in the U.K. and right across the United States,” she said.

The prime minister said that Brexit offered the chance “to tear down the bureaucratic barriers that frustrate business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic,” according to an account provided by 10 Downing Street.

An hour later, the interview with the Sun appeared and seemed to dash May’s hopes.

Brian Klaas, a fellow in global politics at the London School of Economics, said May is walking a tightrope. She needs Trump to promise fantastic trade deals and help May deliver the “global Britain” she has promised. But she can’t appear fawning.

“Her political base and the broader British public do not like Donald Trump,” Klaas said. “She also wants to show that in a post-Brexit world, Britain can still be a major player, and Trump is central to that narrative.”

Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, a London think tank, said that for May, the Trump visit “was something to be survived.”

Recalling the disaster that struck British leader Tony Blair, in his embrace of George W. Bush and his alliance with Washington in the Iraq War, Niblett said May would be extremely wary of being seen as “Trump’s poodle.”

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.

Organizers said that from the moment Trump landed on British soil to the moment he leaves, he will be met by a “carnival of resistance.” A giant “Trump Baby” balloon will fly over Parliament Square. Protesters plan to shout at Trump at places he will be visiting — Winfield House, Blenheim Palace, Chequers, Windsor Castle and his Trump Turnberry golf resort in Scotland. Others will assemble in  towns and cities up and down the country.

“I’m marching because of the disdain that Trump has shown for Britain and because of his disgraceful treatment of minorities in the United States,” said David Lammy, a leading member in the opposition Labour Party.

“Whenever London experiences a tragedy, it’s also the case that Trump licks his lips and tweets,” he said.

Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

Donald Trump lands in a UK ‘in turmoil’; baby blimp awaits

Following tense NATO talks in Brussels, Donald Trump has arrived in Brexit-roiled Britain for his first visit as the US president. Thousands are planning to receive him with an oversize balloon with undersize hands.

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive at Stansted Airport

On Thursday, Air Force One landed at London Stansted Airport, and US President Donald Trump descended its stairs to begin his four-day visit to Britain. The day’s plans included a gala dinner with UK and US officials at Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

“They like me a lot in the UK,” Trump told a news conference in Brussels, where he had spent the early part of the week shaking up NATO’s annual summit, shortly before lifting off for London on Thursday. “I think they agree with me on immigration. I think that’s why Brexit happened.”

DW’s Birgit Maas was on the scene at the US Embassy in London, Trump’s first stop in town.

Birgit Maass@birgit_maass

US citizens meeting with ⁦@realDonaldTrump⁩ ending at US ambassador’s residence. “We are proud of our president and how he is defending the western world.”Meanwhile outside, protesters are gearing up.Follow our coverage @dwnews⁩ ⁦@dw_europe⁩ ⁦@BarbaraWesel

On his first visit to the UK since taking office, Trump will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday and then have tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle before flying off to Scotland to, as he so often does back home in the United States, spend the weekend at one of his private golf courses.

A six-meter high cartoon baby blimp of US President Donald Trump stands inflated during a practice session in Bingfield Park, north London.Perhaps the biggest star in Britain right now is the 6-meter blimp of President Trump

‘His repugnant attitude’

Trump is expected to be transferred by helicopter from location to location to avoid protests.

The centerpiece of the rallies has been an oversize balloon depicting the president as an angry baby with small hands, a mobile phone and a diaper.

Theresa May and Donald Trump at the NATO summitTheresa May and Donald Trump at the NATO summit

“The president of the United States of America will regretfully have the red carpet rolled out for him by this Conservative government,” Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s leader in the Westminster parliament, had told lawmakers on Wednesday.

“But, from the public, the welcome will be far from warm,” he added, saying there would be protests across the country against Trump’s “abysmal record on human rights, his repugnant attitude towards women and his disgusting treatment of minorities.”

Amnesty International unfurled a banner with an image of Trump and the words “Human Rights Nightmare” on Vauxhall Bridge in central London:

Stefan Simanowitz


Welcome to England, Donald.

Amnesty UK unfurl a giant “: Human rights nightmare” banner opposite the US Embassy in London.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, the Liverpool Labour MP Dan Carden called for Parliament to ensure that protesters were given sufficient space to express their views, saying police in London had denied demonstrators a proper stage from which to address the rallies.

“People are protesting the visit of President Trump, demonstrating their opposition to his bigotry and racism — comparing migrants to poisonous snakes, Mexicans to murderers and rapists — and state-sanctioned child abuse, and that is their right to do so,” Carden said, addressing Nick Hurd, Britain’s minister of state for policing and fire services. “But the protest tomorrow in central London, where the Metropolitan Police have taken the decision not to allow a platform for speakers, that is an absolute disgrace, and the minister must intervene immediately to put this right. And a failure to do so would leave a permanent stain on our democratic rights and freedom of speech.”

Dan Carden MP


Disgraceful that tomorrow’s central London protest in response to President Trump’s visit to the UK has been denied a platform for speakers. This decision must be reversed. @metpoliceuk

A YouGov poll released on Wednesday found that 77 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Trump and just 50 percent thought his visit should have gone ahead.

Watch video00:35

UK protesters inflate Trump blimp

Ruffling feathers

The dislike for Trump in the UK became most apparent during the 2016 presidential campaign, when, as a candidate, he proposed temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States. That prompted nearly half a million people to sign a petition calling for him to be banned from the UK. The proposal was debated in Parliament, where Trump was heavily criticized. There was no vote and no ban was imposed.

As president, Trump angered May and many others in the UK by retweeting unverified anti-Islamic videos from Britain First, a group whose leaders have been convicted of hate crimes.

Read moreBritain First: Trump’s ‘simply racist’ new Twitter pals

In January, the US president canceled a planned visit to London to open the new US Embassy, calling it a bad deal in a poor location.

Just before departing for Europe earlier this week, Trump ruffled feathers again by saying the UK was in “turmoil,” referring to the resignation of two prominent Cabinet ministers who were protesting May’s Brexit policy.

The US Embassy has warned American citizens to keep a low profile during the visit in case protests turn violent.

A high metal fence has been erected around the US ambassador’s central London residence, where Trump will spend Thursday night.

Watch video03:13

Trump and Brexit – a clash of generations

Working visit

Trump’s trip is part of a working visit and not a state one. The state visit invitation was given to him personally by May just days after his inauguration before being postponed indefinitely.

A working visit means that Trump will not be hosted by the queen and will not stay at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. However, he will take tea with the queen.

One key UK ally Trump will not meet is Nigel Farage; the former UKIP leader alleges that this was one of the British government’s red lines for Trump’s trip.

Trump’s plans to stay in Scotland for the weekend at one of his two golf courses formed part of the social media campaign in opposition to his visit:

Trump Baby@TrumpBabyUK

Tremendous chance for First Minister @NicolaSturgeon to show great courage and let fly over my incredible golf hideout! Nicola is a very Special Lady, she can show my many friends in Scotland they have elected someone they can be very proud of! 

Sign the Petition

Chief Constable Police Scotland: Allow clearance for BabyTrump to be flown near Turnberry on Trumps Visit

‘Future-proof trade partnership’

May is hoping that Trump’s trip will create closer ties and help forge a future free trade deal for once Britain leaves the EU.

“Our trade and investment relationship is unrivaled — we are the largest investors in each other’s economies and every day a million British people go to work for US companies in the UK and a million Americans go to work for UK companies in the US,” May said.

“This week we have an opportunity to deepen this unique trading relationship and begin discussions about how we will forge a strengthened, ambitious and future-proof trade partnership.”

The leaders are also expected to discuss Russia, Brexit and the Middle East.

mkg,jm/rc (AP, Reuters)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.


German politicians rally round Angela Merkel after Donald Trump’s NATO tirade

Trump’s reckless attacks on Germany have become routine, but they have strengthened rather than weakened the chancellor at home. So, does Trump merely have a personal problem with Merkel, or does he have other motives?

Donald Trump and Chancellor Merkel (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld)

Donald Trump seems to have a Germany obsession, the country’s biggest newspaper, Bild, said on Thursday. Whether it’s the country’s refugee policy, (Merkel is “ruining Germany” he tweeted in 2015), the luxury cars (he told Playboy as long ago as 1990 that he would like to tax them more heavily), or its NATO contributions, the US president has consistently picked on Germany when he needs a foreign power to lash out at.

The latest rock was thrown on Wednesday night, when Trump took to Twitter to repeat his blustering opening tirade before NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels. For the US president, Germany’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline deal with Russia was at odds with its defense budget, which he thinks is too low.

Donald J. Trump


….On top of it all, Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia. Not acceptable! All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!

Defending Merkel

Once Merkel had delivered her own reaction, in the form of a history lesson and her personal history in East Germany, other German government politicians lined up to reject Trump’s criticisms. First Foreign Minister Heiko Maas vehemently rejected Trump’s description of Germany as a “captive of Russia.” Germany was one of the “guarantors of the free world,” he told reporters in Brussels. “We’re not captives, either of Russia or the US.”

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen pointed out to US radio station NPR that Trump’s assertion that Germany gets 70 percent of its energy from Russia was “simply not true.” The actual figure, the German government said, is around 9 percent.

Merkel’s coalition partners also circled the wagons. “The accusations of the American president against Germany because of the building of Nord Stream 2 are not objective and immoderate,” said Rolf Mützenich, senior MP at the Social Democratic Party (SPD), in a statement. “They simply follow his trade policy instincts.”

Mützenich went on to explain patiently why building a new gas pipeline from Russia to Europe made economic sense for Germany, and contrasted Trump’s “intimidation attempts” to the more diplomatic approach from Ukraine, whose government has its own concerns about Nord Stream 2.

Ursula von der Leyen (Reuters/R. Krause)Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen pointed out the facts to Donald Trump

Read more: Opinion: A NATO summit in Trump’s parallel universe

Strengthening Merkel

It’s no secret that Trump and Merkel have a poor personal relationship, but German political analysts don’t think she is Trump’s real target. “He sees Germany as the entry point to try to crack the European Union,” said Josef Janning, head of the Berlin bureau of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). “Because if you want to crack a pack, you attack the alpha animal.”

But even if Trump succeeds in weakening the EU, Janning thinks it is having the opposite effect on Merkel herself – especially in the rift between herself and those on the right of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and the domestic forces who would like to see the end of the Merkel era. “Within her own government she is closing the ranks, very clearly,” he told DW. “When she is under obviously unfair attack from the outside, that will bring at least the mainstream together behind her.”

Watch video00:36

Merkel: ‘We know we need to do more, and we’ve been doing more for some time’

Janning argued that Trump’s stark overstatements, either on trade, or defense spending, or on Russia, might play well with voters supporting the fringes of the German political spectrum, but not with Merkel’s own CDU voters – even the more conservative ones.

Undermining the world order

But for other analysts, all this is beside the point. Claudia Major, senior researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), thinks the Germany criticism is just a sideshow. “It’s not about Merkel or Russia or energy or pipelines, or any of that,” she told DW.

“That’s just an excuse for Trump. For him it’s about completely undermining the multilateral trans-Atlantic order as we know it. And I think that the scale of the problem we have hasn’t yet been realized in Germany. If he valued NATO, and if he felt that its survival was important, he wouldn’t act this way.”

Read moreCan the trans-Atlantic relationship survive Donald Trump?

Major pointed out that Trump had taken up a different position to most of his European partners on nearly every major international issue, from the Iran nuclear deal to the Paris climate agreement, to moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. “Trump rejects the entire multilateral, rule-based architecture, like NATO, WTO, EU, which is based on solidarity,” she said. “What he wants is not alliances but deals.”

She also had little optimism about the apparent agreement on Thursday that NATO partners would raise their defense expenditure. “Do you think he’s going to be happy with two percent?” she asked. “The core function of NATO – as a defensive alliance – has already been enormously undermined by all this bickering. Even if he says now that 2 percent is great – the damage has been done.”

“I think he has Germany especially in his sights because Germany stands for everything he thinks is stupid,” Major added. “But at the end of the day, Germany is just the hook – it’s about much more.”

Watch video08:26

Why did Trump attack German-Russian energy links at NATO?


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