LONDON — With the showy, royal puffery of the queen’s banquet at Buckingham Palace and tea with Prince Charles over, President Trump turned to business Tuesday, and the possibility of a trade deal once Britain finally leaves the European Union.
Trump co-hosted a morning roundtable of American and British corporate executives, alongside British Prime Minister Theresa May, meant to kick-start discussions for a deal the president is eager to cut.
Trump has talked up a trade pact with a post-Brexit Britain from the start of his presidency, often putting May in a tricky spot, since Britain cannot fully negotiate a deal while still a part of omnibus European Union trade arrangements.
“Great love all around. Also, big Trade Deal is possible once U.K. gets rid of the shackles. Already starting to talk!” Trump tweeted Monday, in the midst of a day of royal treatment that included a lavish state banquet at Buckingham Palace.
In brief remarks at the beginning of the business meeting on Tuesday, Trump said, “I think we will have a very, very substantial trade deal.”
Leaning toward May, Trump said, “I don’t exactly know what your timing is but stick around. Let’s do this deal.”
The Trump-May meetings come at an awkward moment. May has been ousted from her post — not by the voters or by the opposition, but by her own Conservative Party, for her failure to deliver Brexit on time.
May announced her resignation last month. She officially resigns on Friday and will be replaced as party leader and prime minister by the end of July.
One of Trump’s allies, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, is a top contender. Another Trump friend, Nigel Farage, just won big in the European Parliament elections, trouncing May’s Conservatives.
Some Britons might have looked askance at Trump’s use of the word “shackles” to describe Britain’s decades-long, willing membership in a trade and political union it was instrumental in shaping.
Regardless, in a June 2016 referendum, British voters went 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the union.
The U.S. ambassador, Woody Johnson, said on Sunday that a future trade deal with the America would include “the entire economy,” and that medical care should be “on the table.”
May’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, retorted that Britain’s beloved (and oft bemoaned) National Health Service was “not for sale.”
Before bilateral trade negotiators can begin the long slog of crafting a deal, Britain must first exit the European Union — which it has famously failed to do, as the British government, parliament and public remain near hopelessly divided over leaving the continental bloc.
Until Britain leaves the European Union — if indeed it ever does — it remains a part of the E.U. and trades with the United States under E.U. rules and regulations.
While policy is mostly taking a back seat to pomp on this trip, the trade deal is Trump’s top priority. His delegation, heavy on family members and staff, also includes Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other officials focused on a trade package.
The business meeting at St. James’s Palace was attended by the Duke of York, Chancellor Philip Hammond and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. Also present: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mnuchin and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump.
As Trump sat with the business community, anti-Trump protesters began to mass for a demonstration against the American president.
It is notable that opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will address the crowds. Corbyn and his party are pushing for a general election that could propel him to the prime minister’s office.
If that happened — and the current polling says it is possible but not assured — the Trump administration would be dealing with a British leader who is openly hostile.
The anti-Trump rally will mark a return of the Baby Trump blimp, which depicts the president as a whiny diapered baby clutching a cellphone.
Also featured in Trafalgar Square: a 16-foot-tall, talking, animated “robot” of a plastic-cast Trump character, sitting on a golden toilet, his red tie dangling into the bowl, tweeting.
Some demonstrators have dubbed the day’s protest a “Carnival of Resistance.”
Trump will attend a luncheon with May at Downing Street. British officials have suggested that the Iran nuclear deal, global climate change and Chinese telecoms giant Huawei will be on the agenda.
Trump will also be given a tour of the underground bunker where Winston Churchill led the country as prime minister during World War II. The scene has been featured in recent Churchill movies and is a popular tourist site.
Afterward, the two leaders will attend a news conference.