LONDON (AFP) – The British government sought yesterday to play down an extraordinary row with US President Donald Trump after he castigated Prime Minister Theresa May for rebuking him over anti-Muslim tweets, even as individual politicians expressed outrage.
Plunging headlong into a high-profile spat with one of America’s closest partners, Mr Trump suggested Ms May focus on defending Britain rather than criticising him after he retweeted anti-Muslim videos from a British far-right group. “@Theresa_May, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!” Mr Trump tweeted late on Wednesday.
Ms May’s spokesman had earlier condemned as “wrong” his decision to retweet the deputy leader of Britain First, and numerous MPs called for the government to cancel plans for Mr Trump’s state visit.
Called to make an emergency statement in the House of Commons yesterday, Interior Minister Amber Rudd said Britain First was “an extremist organisation” which used “hateful narratives” to stoke community tensions.
But while Mr Trump had erred in promoting the group, she urged MPs to “look at the wider picture”, saying the UK’s close intelligence cooperation with the US had “undoubtedly saved British lives”.
Ms May’s spokesman also emphasised that the US was “our closest, most trusted ally. We continue to work together on a huge range of very important issues”.
However, he rejected criticism of Ms May’s record, saying she was “fully focused on dealing with extremism”.
Ms May was the first foreign leader to visit Mr Trump following his inauguration in January, and offered him a state visit to Britain.
Ms May’s spokesman said: “The offer of a state visit has been extended, it has been accepted and we will set out more details in due course.”