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US-UK trade could triple if the two nations strike a deal following Brexit: Trump

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From left: PM May's husband Philip, Mrs May, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at Downing Street in London.

London

DONALD TRUMP said trade between the United States and the United Kingdom could as much as triple if the two countries strike a deal after Britain leaves the European Union (EU).

The US president said on Tuesday in London during a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May that "there is tremendous potential in that trade deal. I say probably two or even three times of what we're doing right now."

Mrs May also endorsed a US trade deal. "Mr President, you and I agreed the first time we met that we should aim for an ambitious free trade agreement when the UK leaves the EU," she said. "And from our positive discussions today I know that we both remain committed to this."

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The discussion largely glossed over the many complications that would arise in trade talks, though the two leaders hinted at one of the most serious points of future conflict.

Mr Trump, echoing other US officials, said that negotiations would involve the whole of the UK economy - including the cherished National Health Service (NHS), which sets prices and pays for hospitals, drugs and other medical care in the country. "When you're dealing in trade, everything is on the table," he said. "So NHS or anything else, or a lot more than that, everything will be on the table."

Mrs May responded: "The point about making trade deals is, of course, that both sides negotiate and come to an agreement about what should or should not be in that trade deal for the future."

Mr Trump, who is on an official visit to Britain, was also confident the two sides could work out any differences over China's Huawei, dismissing any suggestion that the disagreement could threaten intelligence-sharing between the two close allies.

The Trump administration has told allies not to use Huawei's 5G technology and equipment because it fears that would allow China to spy on sensitive communications and data. Asked if he would impose any limits on intelligence-sharing if Britain did not restrict the use of Huawei technology, Mr Trump said: "No, because we are going to have absolutely an agreement on Huawei and everything else."We have an incredible intelligence relationship and will be able to work out any differences.

Mrs May is due to resign as Conservative Party leader on Friday, but will remain as prime minister while a contest is held to replace her. She said Britain and the US should work together to keep markets free, fair and open.

The state visit, promised by Mrs May back in January 2017 when she became the first foreign leader to meet Mr Trump after he took office, is cast as a chance to celebrate Britain's "special relationship" with the US, boost trade links and reaffirm security cooperation.

But the collapse of Mrs May's premiership over Brexit and Mr Trump's penchant for ignoring the conventions of modern diplomacy have made the trip one of the most unconventional state visits in recent British history.

Ahead of the visit, Mr Trump praised Mr Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary and leading Brexit campaigner, and advised a sharp exit from the EU on Oct 31 with or without a deal.

Mr Trump had a 20-minute phone call with Mr Johnson but he declined a face-to-face meeting with the US president due to a prior commitment, ITV's political editor said.

Mr Trump also called for arch-Brexiteer Farage, a scourge of Mrs May's ruling Conservative Party, to conduct talks with the EU.

Brexit is the most significant geopolitical move for the UK since World War II and if it happens, London will be more reliant on the US as ties loosen with the other 27 members of the EU.

Notwithstanding Britain's enduring alliance with the US, some British voters see Mr Trump as crude, volatile and opposed to their values on issues ranging from global warming to his treatment of women.

Thousands of people protested in central London on Tuesday against Mr Trump's pomp-laden state visit to Britain, but numbers were far down from the tens of thousands who gathered to oppose his visit last year.

Protesters waved witty and sometimes rude placards at a what organisers called a "Carnival of Resistance" in Trafalgar Square while Mrs May was in talks with the US president a short distance away in Downing Street.

Among Britons, Mr Trump is one of the best-known but least-liked foreign leaders. Just 21 per cent of people surveyed by YouGov had a "positive opinion" of him. Among women, that figure shrank to 14 per cent.

The tone at the protest was set by a large statue of Mr Trump sitting on a golden lavatory with his trousers around his ankles, while the placards read: "Trump stay out! We are quite capable of cocking up our own politics", "You can't come over racism" and "Lock him in the tower".

"Trump is an ignorant, 70-year-old man who has lived a life of privilege," said Anna Fenton, 23, a marketing manager from London carrying a sign reading: "Ugh, where do I even start?" BLOOMBERG, REUTERS