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May braces for spat with Donald Trump over defence at NATO summit

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May braces for spat with Donald Trump over defence at NATO summit amid demands for Britain to spend more on military

  • Theresa May is attending a potentially stormy NATO summit in Brussels today
  • Donald Trump preparing to berate allies for failing to spend enough on defence
  • PM has committed more troops for Afghanistan and highlighted UK budgets 

By James Tapsfield, Political Editor For Mailonline

Published: 03:22 EDT, 11 July 2018 | Updated: 04:24 EDT, 11 July 2018

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Theresa May is braced for a fresh spat with Donald Trump today amid demands for Britain to spend more on defence.

The Prime Minister is heading to Brussels for a crucial NATO summit where the US president will berate fellow leaders for neglecting their military.

Mrs May has attempted to draw the sting of the barrage by pledging an extra 440 troops to the mission in Afghanistan. 

She also stressed that the UK is one of just five other members of the alliance who hit the 2 per cent of GDP target for defence spending.

Theresa May (pictured in London last night) has attempted to draw the sting of criticism from Donald Trump by pledging an extra 440 troops to the mission in Afghanistan

Donald Trump pressed his case for higher spending on defence today as he spoke to reporters in Brussels alongside NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg
Donald Trump pressed his case for higher spending on defence today as he spoke to reporters in Brussels alongside NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg

Donald Trump pressed his case for higher spending on defence today as he spoke to reporters in Brussels alongside NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg

The UK is one of just six NATO member states that met the 2 per cent target for spending on defence last year
The UK is one of just six NATO member states that met the 2 per cent target for spending on defence last year

The UK is one of just six NATO member states that met the 2 per cent target for spending on defence last year

But US defence secretary Jim Mattis has already warned that Britain risks its status a major power unless it ups budgets. His UK counterpart Gavin Williamson has been pushing relentlessly for more money - but has so far been blanked by the Treasury.

Speaking alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltengerg in Brussels today, Mr Trump said: 'Over the last year about 40billion US dollars more has been given by other countries to help Nato, but that's not nearly enough.

US ambassador says Trump COULD meet Boris during UK trip 

US ambassador Woody Johnson has left the door open for a possible meeting between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump during the US president's visit to London. 

The ambassador said that while a meeting was not currently on Mr Trump's itinerary 'the President makes his own schedule', the day after the American leader said he may make time to meet his 'friend' the former foreign secretary. 

A meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Johnson, who quit on Monday over Theresa May's Chequers Brexit deal, is likely to prove embarrassing for the Prime Minister as she attempts to assert control over the warring Conservative Party. 

Woody Johnson was asked on BBC Radio 4's Today whether he would facilitate a meeting if asked. He replied: 'Yes. We will make everything possible - if the President wants to do something we will make it possible. 

'Boris Johnson has been a friend of the President, was a friend during the election of the President so I think he has a warm and close relationship with him.' 

Asked if this risked upsetting Mrs May, he added: 'I think you have to give all these protagonists, whether it's the Prime Minister or the President, a little leeway here. 

'If the President wants to do it and feels it is appropriate to do it, he will make that decision.' 

'The United States is paying far too much and other countries are not paying enough, especially some, so we are going to have a meeting on that.

'And the Secretary General has worked very hard on that, he understands the problem, and hopefully we can get a resolve.

'This has been going on for decades, for decades, and it is disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States.

'And we are going to make it fair.' 

Mr Trump set the tone for the two-day summit overnight with a brutal tweet reminding European leaders that the US spent 'many times more' on defence than any other member.

'Not fair to the US taxpayer,' he wrote, 'Nato countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!'

His intervention is likely to increase anxiety among European and Canadian leaders about Mr Trump's commitment to the alliance. 

Last month the G7 summit in Quebec ended in acrimony as Mr Trump resisted a joint communique endorsing free trade. He eventually agreed a text - but then dramatically ditched it and lambasted Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.

There are also nerves that Mr Trump wants to strike a 'peace deal' with Vladimir Putin at a one-on-one meeting next week that could involve downgrading the US military presence in Europe.

Speaking ahead of the NATO summit, Mrs May said: 'The alliance can rely on the UK to lead by example, not just in meeting the 2 per cent pledge but by contributing our cutting edge capabilities to operations around the world.'

'In committing additional troops to the Train Advise Assist operation in Afghanistan we have underlined once again that when Nato calls the UK is among the first to answer.'

The extra troops, from the Welsh Guards, will bolster the UK-led Kabul Security Force which provides protection for Nato civilian staff engaged in capacity-building programmes in Afghanistan, as well as mentoring Afghan forces in the capital.

Mr Trump launched a barrage at European leaders ahead of the summit over their failure to commit enough money to defence
Mr Trump launched a barrage at European leaders ahead of the summit over their failure to commit enough money to defence

Mr Trump launched a barrage at European leaders ahead of the summit over their failure to commit enough money to defence

EU council president Donald Tusk responded to Mr Trump's jibe on Twitter last night
EU council president Donald Tusk responded to Mr Trump's jibe on Twitter last night

EU council president Donald Tusk responded to Mr Trump's jibe on Twitter last night

President Trump and Russia's President Vladimir pictured in Danang, Vietnam in November, 2017.  Trump risked sparking a diplomatic incident by saying the UK is 'in turmoil' and his showdown with Vladimir Putin will be easier than meeting Theresa May
President Trump and Russia's President Vladimir pictured in Danang, Vietnam in November, 2017.  Trump risked sparking a diplomatic incident by saying the UK is 'in turmoil' and his showdown with Vladimir Putin will be easier than meeting Theresa May

President Trump and Russia's President Vladimir pictured in Danang, Vietnam in November, 2017.  Trump risked sparking a diplomatic incident by saying the UK is 'in turmoil' and his showdown with Vladimir Putin will be easier than meeting Theresa May

They will begin deploying in August with a second contingent to follow in February taking the total UK military presence in the country to 1,100.

Asked if plans by some lagging nations to increase spending to 2 per cent by 2024 would 'satisfy' Mr Trump, the US ambassador to London Woody Johnson said: 'I doubt it, quite frankly. It's come down pretty dramatically since the Cold War when everyone was spending in excess of 3 per cent, and the world is not getting to be safer by the day. 

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'It's probably more challenging so I think the president recognises those challenges and recognises the concept of being prepared. 

'I don't think he feels that easing into it over the long term is the right way to go, but the president will make his own statements on that.' 

In a momentous week for Anglo-US relations, Mr Trump will follow his attendance at the Nato summit with his first visit as president to Britain before going on to hold talks with Mr Putin in the Finnish capital Helsinki.

His willingness to meet the Russian president comes despite Mrs May seeking to isolate Moscow over the Salisbury nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia - which has since claimed the life of 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess.

The president risked a diplomatic spat before even leaving Washington, saying Britain was in 'turmoil' and that it was 'up to the people' whether they wanted to keep Mrs May as Prime Minister.

He also suggested he could find time to talk to his 'friend' Boris Johnson, who has just rocked the Government with his bombshell resignation over Mrs May's Brexit plans, and that he would find it easier dealing with Mr Putin than America's European allies.

'So I have Nato, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil. And I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of all', as he and his wife Melania prepared to board the Marine One presidential helicopter on the White House lawn.

Mrs May, for her part, insisted that she was looking forward to meeting the president, both in Brussels and when she hosts him in the UK.

'There's much for us to discuss.

'As you know, the special relationship we have to the United States is our longest and deepest defence and security relationship, so we will be talking about those issues but also talking about trade issues,' she told a press conference to mark the end of the Western Balkans summit in London.

'There are particular issues between the EU and the United States because of the trade tariff issue at the moment, when he imposed those tariffs on steel and aluminium and the EU responded.

'We will be talking positively about how we can continue to work together in our special relationship for the good of people living in the UK and the United States and, actually, for the wider good.'

Donald Trump arrived for the NATO summit in Belgium last night with First Lady Melania
Donald Trump arrived for the NATO summit in Belgium last night with First Lady Melania

Donald Trump arrived for the NATO summit in Belgium last night with First Lady Melania

Mr Trump said Boris Johnson (pictured  leaving his London home yesterday) was a 'friend' and suggested he could meet up with him in the UK
Mr Trump said Boris Johnson (pictured  leaving his London home yesterday) was a 'friend' and suggested he could meet up with him in the UK

Mr Trump said Boris Johnson (pictured  leaving his London home yesterday) was a 'friend' and suggested he could meet up with him in the UK

Revealed - full details of Trump's UK trip: US president won't make ANY public appearances in London 

Donald Trump will not make any public appearances in London when he comes to the UK this week - amid a massive security operation.

The US president and First Lady Melania will touch down in Britain on Thursday for his first visit since entering the White House.

Huge protests have been threatened that could see 50,000 take to the streets of the capital, while a big orange 'Baby Trump' blimp has been given permission to fly. 

The bill for the American leader's three-day trip is expected to be around £30million as 10,000 police officers are deployed to keep the US commander-in-chief from trouble. 

Downing Street has revealed some details about the visit by Donald Trump and the First Lady to the UK this week
Downing Street has revealed some details about the visit by Donald Trump and the First Lady to the UK this week

Downing Street has revealed some details about the visit by Donald Trump and the First Lady to the UK this week

Sunbathers were given the shock of their lives on Monday afternoon as two v-22 Ospreys flew over Regent's Park as part of drills, sending grass and debris flying through the air
Sunbathers were given the shock of their lives on Monday afternoon as two v-22 Ospreys flew over Regent's Park as part of drills, sending grass and debris flying through the air

Sunbathers were given the shock of their lives on Monday afternoon as two v-22 Ospreys flew over Regent's Park as part of drills, sending grass and debris flying through the air

Trump's £1.2 million Cadillac 'The Beast' has been flown over in one of the world's largest military planes - the Super Galaxy C5.   

Meanwhile US Navy carrier, the gigantic USS Harry S Truman, will dock in the south coast as back up. 

The details of the long-awaited visit issued by Downing Street last week confirm that Mr Trump will spend only minimal time in London.

Instead he will be feted by Mrs May at a dinner for business leaders being held on Thursday night at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the ancestral home of his hero Winston Churchill.

The next day he will have tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle and talks with the Prime Minister at her country retreat, Chequers.

Work has begun to set up a £30million 'ring of steel' around Regent's Park, where the US President will stay, in anticipation of widespread protests against the trip
Work has begun to set up a £30million 'ring of steel' around Regent's Park, where the US President will stay, in anticipation of widespread protests against the trip

Work has begun to set up a £30million 'ring of steel' around Regent's Park, where the US President will stay, in anticipation of widespread protests against the trip

Mrs Trump, meanwhile, will be given her own sightseeing tour, hosted by Theresa May's husband Philip.

It has also emerged that Mr Trump will spend the majority of his three-day trip in Scotland, where his mother was born and where he owns two golf courses. 

Downing Street denied the itinerary was deliberately designed to shield Mr Trump from the public.

A spokesman pointed out that several other leading figures had been hosted at Chequers in the past, including US presidents Richard Nixon and George W Bush, and, last year, French President Emmanuel Macron.  

 

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