May promises to tackle Trump on ‘unacceptable’ comments

Corbyn warns PM against rushing into trade deal when she meets US president this week

Next Friday Theresa May is expected to be the first European leader to meet with President Donald Trump. She told the Andrew Marr Show, 'Whenever there is something I find unacceptable, I won't be afraid to say that to Donald Trump.' Video: BBC

Theresa May has promised that she will not flinch from challenging Donald Trump about "unacceptable" statements when she becomes the first foreign leader to meet him as president this week. But the prime minister declined to say if she would criticise some of Mr Trump's remarks about women, which she condemned during the US presidential campaign.

“I have already said that some of the comments that Donald Trump has made in relation to women are unacceptable. Some of those he himself has apologised for,” she told the BBC.

“When I sit down, I think the biggest statement that will be made about the role of women is the fact that I will be there as a female prime minister, prime minister of the UK, directly taking to him about the interests that we share.”

The prime minister defended Mr Trump's inaugural address, saying that all national leaders put their own country and people first. She also insisted that the president remained committed to Nato, despite his description of the organisation as obsolete.


"I've spoken to him about Nato. Nato is very important, Nato has been the bulwark of our security here in Europe and we work together in Nato. We've both made the point before about contributions being made by countries, the United Kingdom is spending 2 per cent of its GDP on defence, I believe that's important," she said.

“What is important is that we recognise the value of Nato, which he does, the value of Nato as an organisation that is helping us to defend Europe and defend the interests of all of those allies who are in Nato.”


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned Ms May against rushing into a trade deal with Mr Trump, which he said would probably involve concessions to US businesses that could allow them to run parts of the National Health Service. He said the prime minister should instead confront the president about his misogyny and his anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“There were no signs of any special relationship in Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. It was quite the opposite. It was America first, America only, America inward-looking.

“I would hope when she meets Donald Trump she will in no uncertain terms tell him his misogyny during the election campaign, the way in which he described Muslim people and others of different faiths, the way in which he proposes to build a wall between his country and Mexico, is simply not acceptable,” Mr Corbyn told Sky News.

Trident malfunction

The prime minister came under pressure on Sunday to explain why she did not reveal that one of Britain’s Trident nuclear missiles malfunctioned shortly before a vote in parliament on the nuclear deterrent last year.

The Sunday Times reported that an unarmed Trident II D5 missile veered in the wrong direction towards the US when it was launched from a British submarine off the coast of Florida in June last year.

Ms May on Sunday repeatedly refused to say whether she had known about the accident before she addressed parliament about Trident a few weeks later, when MPs voted to renew the weapons system.

“There are tests that take place all the time, regularly, for our nuclear deterrents. What we were talking about in that debate that took place was about the future,” she said.

The Scottish National Party, which wants to scrap Trident, said the reported malfunction raised serious questions, and the party’s defence spokesman Brendan O’Hara said the government must come clean if there had been a cover-up.

“Trident is obscenely expensive and morally repugnant. If we now have to add that there is a real possibility it is unreliable and unsafe – then there must be massive question marks about its viability.

“If it turns out the UK government covered up these safety concerns just before Westminster voted to renew – that would be a sickening betrayal,” he said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times