Saturday 17 March 2018

Trump cites Doonbeg wall row as example of why UK right to quit EU

U.S. President Donald Trump escorts British Prime Minister Theresa May down the White House colonnade after their meeting at the White House Picture: Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump escorts British Prime Minister Theresa May down the White House colonnade after their meeting at the White House Picture: Reuters

David Lawler and Steven Swinford

Donald Trump cited his struggles to build a seaside wall at Doonbeg as an example of his frustrations with the EU as he met with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

The new US president hailed Brexit as a "blessing to the world" as he and Ms May vowed last night to deepen ties on trade, security and defence.

He said leaving the EU would be a "tremendous asset" for Britain as it would be free from EU laws.

In his first meeting with a foreign leader since becoming president, Mr Trump and Ms May both said a new trade deal was in the interests of both nations.

Ms May also appeared to secure a number of concessions from the president - and said that Mr Trump had told her he was "100pc behind" Nato despite his earlier criticism of the organisation.

She also said that the strength of the special relationship meant that she could have "frank discussions" with Mr Trump when she disagreed with him.

"We pledge our lasting support to this most special relationship," Mr Trump said, with a nod in Ms May's direction.

Mr Trump has previously spoken of his frustration at trying to get approval for a sea wall to protect his luxury Co Clare resort, and he referenced it again as he met the British prime minister.

TIGL Ireland Enterprises, which operates Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg, has lodged a planning application with Clare County Council seeking to build defences in two sections, totalling almost 1km.

Permission had previously been sought for a 2.8km wall at the Doonbeg resort, but it was withdrawn last December.

Yesterday, Mr Trump again suggested that the EU held up his plans for his Clare resort, without mentioning it by name.

"I had a very bad experience... I have something in another country and getting the approvals from Europe was very, very tough," he said.

However, he acknowledged that "getting the approvals from the country was fast, easy and efficient".

Mr Trump said that Brexit was a "wonderful thing" for the UK and would enable it to forge an independent identity.

Read More: 'I'm a people person - I think you are too, Theresa'

He claimed that he forecast Britain would vote to leave the EU on the day before the referendum vote during a visit to Scotland.

"You are going to have your own identity and the people you want in your country and you are going to be able to make free trade deals," he said.

Mr Trump was damning about the European Union, referring to it as the "consortium".

He said the US and UK had "one of the great bonds", highlighting his mother's Scottish roots as one reason that relationship was so important to him.

"A free and independent Britain is a blessing to the world, and our relationship has never been stronger," he said, adding that he looked forward to working with Ms May to strengthen ties.

Ms May congratulated Mr Trump on his "stunning" election victory and said that the special relationship was founded on the "bonds of history, family, kinship and common interest".

Ms May also revealed that Mr Trump had accepted an invitation from Queen Elizabeth to come to the UK later this year. The visit is expected to take place in the summer.

Ms May confirmed that she and Mr Trump have been holding discussions on a post-Brexit trade deal.

She said: "The president and I are ambitious to build on this relationship in order to grow our respective economies, provide the high-skilled, high-paid jobs for working people across America and across the UK.

"We are discussing how we can establish a trade negotiation agreement, take forward immediate high-level talks and identify the practical steps we can take now to enable companies in both countries to trade and do business with one another more easily."

But the press conference highlighted the stark differences between Britain and the US on Russia. Mr Trump refused to be drawn on suggestions that his administration will lift sanctions on Russia, saying that it is "very early to be talking about that".

Ms May said she supported continued sanctions on Russia and had advocated that within the EU.

Mr Trump went on to say that while he hopes he has a "fantastic relationship" with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, he may come to find that he doesn't like him.

"I don't know the gentleman, I hope we have a fantastic relationship," he said.

"That's possible and it's also possible that we won't. We will see what happens."

Ahead of the trip, Ms May made clear that the UK will never sanction torture after Mr Trump wants a return of water-boarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques".

However, Mr Trump sought to defuse a potential row by highlighting the fact that his new secretary of defence, General James Mattis, is opposed to torture. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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