President Donald Trump will meet British Prime Minister Theresa May Friday for his first visit with a foreign leader, an effort to strengthen relations between the two countries.
Trump’s visit is a departure from former President Barack Obama’s priorities, whose first foreign visitor was Japan’s prime minister in 2009. Relations between the U.S. and the United Kingdom frayed under Obama, with major breaks between the two countries on Syria and Brexit.
Obama implored the British public not to vote for Brexit, in a move many saw as meddling in Britain’s internal affairs. Obama emphasized at the time the U.S. would prioritize the EU over the UK in future U.S. trade negotiations, saying they would go to the “back of the queue.”
Obama similarly tried to get Britain to authorize the use of military force against the Assad regime in 2013, and was starkly rebuked by the parliament.
“I will be talking to Donald Trump about the issues that we share, about how we can build on the special relationship,” May told the British press Monday. The major focus of the meeting will be the NATO alliance, amid Trump’s calls to restructure cost sharing. Trump repeatedly criticized NATO allies for free riding off U.S. defense spending while not living up to their own spending obligations.
Trump similarly called for renewed strong relations between the U.S. and UK in a British interview days before he assumed the presidency, saying, “I’m a big fan of the UK.”
Trump’s intended Ambassador to the European Union Ted Malloch said NATO may have be to “reformed or reshaped” and that the Trump administration intends to promote “burden sharing” among members.
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