LONDON: The UK is “doing great” following its vote to leave the EU, US President-elect Donald Trump has said. In his first UK interview – with former Justice Secretary Michael Gove for the Times – Mr Trump said he thought the UK was “so smart in getting out”. Mr Trump promised a quick trade deal between the US and the UK after he takes office on Friday. He also criticised “obsolete” Nato and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies. Outgoing US President Barack Obama said in April last year that the UK would be “at the back of the queue” if it quit the EU. And Mr Gove – a prominent Leave campaigner during last year’s referendum – asked Mr Trump whether the UK was now “at the front of the queue” for a trade deal with the US following the Brexit vote. “I think you’re doing great,” Mr Trump said. “I think it’s going great.” “Trump said Brexit is going to happen, and it happened. Everybody thought I was crazy,” the president-elect continued. “Obama said, ‘They’ll go to the back of the line,’ and then he had to retract his statement.” Mr Trump added: “Countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity, but I do think if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees than you wouldn’t have a Brexit.” On a potential US-UK trade deal, he said: “We’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides.”
Arriving at a summit in Brussels, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “I think it’s very good news that the United States of America wants to deal a good free trade deal with us and wants to do it very fast, and it’s great to hear that from President-elect Donald Trump. “Clearly it will have to be a deal that is very much in the interests of both sides, but I have no doubt that it will be.” In his interview, Mr Trump talked about the recent dip in the value of the pound. “The fact that your pound sterling has gone down?” he said. “Great, because business is unbelievable in a lot of parts in the UK, as you know. I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing.” The president-elect’s views came as Chancellor Philip Hammond said the UK may be forced to change its “economic model” if “closed off” from the European single market. The president-elect said he thought Mrs Merkel was the “by far the most important European leader”. “If you look at the European Union, it’s Germany – it’s basically a vehicle for Germany,” he said. Mr Trump said Mrs Merkel had made a “big mistake” by admitting more than one million migrants to the country. “I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know, taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody even knows where they come from,” he added.
Mr Trump also stressed that he would “start off trusting both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mrs Merkel” on taking office, but would “see how long that lasts”. Talking about international security, Mr Trump argued that he had said “a long time ago that Nato had problems”. “One, that it was obsolete because it was designed many many years ago, and number two, that the countries weren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay.” Last November, Downing Street said Prime Minister Theresa May and Mr Trump had discussed the need for more countries to commit to spending 2% of national income on defence, when speaking on the telephone after the US election. Mr Trump’s comments on the UK and the EU come ahead of the launch of a cross-party campaign called Brexit Together. It aims to bring together political voices from both sides of the referendum debate to develop a “shared vision” on immigration, the economy and market access, security and sovereignty.