Trump: May's Brexit deal not what people voted for
Prime minister praises US as UK's 'dearest of friends'
Donald Trump has suggested Theresa May is not delivering the Brexit that British people voted for as he warned her against staying too closely tied to the EU.
On the first day of the US President's four-day visit to the UK, he delivered a typically outspoken assessment of Mrs May's Chequers agreement, describing it as a "different route" from the one demanded by the EU Referendum.
"I've been reading a lot about Brexit over the last couple of days," the President said. "It seems to be turning a little bit differently, where they're getting at least partially involved back with the European Union."
Asked whether he believed Mrs May's plan amounted to a hard Brexit, Mr Trump replied: "I would say that Brexit is Brexit - the people voted to break it up so I would imagine that's what they'll do.
"But maybe they're taking a little bit of a different route. So I don't know if that's what they voted for."
He also said immigration was "why Brexit happened" and described Britain as "a hotspot... with a lot of resignations".
It came as Mrs May's long-awaited Brexit white paper was savaged by Tory Eurosceptics as soon as it was published, with Jacob Rees-Mogg accusing the prime minister of cowardice and describing it as the worst act of "vassalage" to Europe for more than 800 years.
Mrs May could also face a confidence vote before Parliament breaks up for the summer, it emerged, after Conservative whips let it be known that the number of letters submitted by Tory MPs calling for a vote was coming close to the 48 needed to trigger one.
Responding to Mr Trump's comments, Mrs May said: "We have come to an agreement which absolutely delivers what people voted for".
Last night Mrs May hosted President Trump and his wife Melania for a black tie dinner at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, where the prime minister renewed her plea for a comprehensive trade deal with the US.
In the ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill, one of the President's heroes, Mrs May reminded him that the wartime leader said having the US at his side was "the greatest joy" as she talked up the importance of the special relationship.
She said Brexit was an opportunity "to tear down the bureaucratic barriers that frustrate business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic".
The prime minister used the lavish banquet to tell Mr Trump this created an "unprecedented" opportunity for the UK and US to do a deal that boosted jobs and growth in both countries.
Mrs May said: "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 UK and right across the United States."
But Mr Trump's comments about Brexit in an impromptu press conference at the end of the Nato summit in Brussels left little doubt that Mrs May faces some uncomfortable moments when she holds formal talks with Mr Trump at Chequers today.
Asked if he favoured a hard Brexit, he said: "I would say that Brexit is Brexit.
"It's not like - I guess we'll use the term 'hard Brexit'. I assume that's what you mean. I just want the people to be happy. They're great people."
Mr Trump also gave his own view on why British people voted to leave the EU, saying: "I think they like me a lot in the UK. I think they agree with me on immigration. I think that's why Brexit happened."
Having said earlier in the week it was up to the British people to decide if Mrs May stayed on as prime minister, he said: "Now, I don't know what's going on with the negotiation. Who knows. But - and I guess that's become a very interesting point of contention.
"I said I'm going to a few hotspots. We have Nato, then we have the UK, and then we have Putin... but I'm going to a pretty hot spot right now, right, with a lot of resignations."
The launch of Mrs May's Brexit white paper, a 98-page document fleshing out the details of the Chequers plan that prompted the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson, descended into chaos.
Tory MPs lined up to criticise the white paper, with few speaking out in support of it. (© Daily Telegraph, London)