US President Donald Trump with UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: PTI
British Prime Minister Theresa May has pitched for an "unprecedented" free trade deal with the US after Brexit with a promise to tear down "bureaucratic barriers" to trade as she hosted a lavish welcome dinner for President Donald Trump at the Blenheim Palace.
Soon after she published her controversial Brexit White Paper which has divided MPs within her own Conservative Party, May sought to win over the US President after the Britain exits from the European Union in 2019.
"Now, as we prepare to leave the European Union, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do more. It's an opportunity to reach a free trade agreement that creates jobs and growth here in the UK and right across the United States," she said at the gala dinner in Oxfordshire she hosted at the 18th century ancestral home of Britain's war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill -- believed to be a hero of Trump.
"It's also an opportunity to tear down the bureaucratic barriers that frustrate business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic," she said.
The US President and First Lady Melania Trump's arrival was marked by a military ceremony, with bandsmen of the Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards playing the Liberty Fanfare, Amazing Grace and the National Emblem march.
The Trumps were also met by protesters, who had earlier gathered outside Winfield House in central London, the home of the US Ambassador where the American guests are staying overnight, as well as outside Blenheim Palace.
May highlighted that more than one million Americans work for UK-owned firms, adding: "And it's an opportunity to shape the future of the world through cooperation in advanced technology, such as artificial intelligence." The President, who briefly held May's hand as they walked up the stairs to the palace in a repeat of her visit to White House last year, attended the dinner hosted by the British Prime Minister for over 100 guests, including business leaders from across different sectors.
John Rees of the Stop the War group said in reference to Trump: "He's a wrecking ball for race relations, he's a wrecking ball for prosperity, he's a wrecking ball for women's rights, he's a wrecking ball for any peace and justice in this world and we have to stop him." Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn described Trump as "dangerous and inhumane", saying his policies were putting millions of lives at risk.
Criticising May for the warm welcome given to the American leader, he said: "Theresa May has invited President Trump to our country at a time when his dangerous and inhumane policies are putting the lives and wellbeing of millions of people at risk." Trump is set to join May later on Friday at a display of joint US-UK military might at an undisclosed location before both leaders head to Chequers, the British Prime Minister's country retreat in Buckinghamshire, for in-depth bilateral discussions.
The Trumps will then head to Windsor Castle for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II over tea before they leave for Scotland for the private leg of their tour. Mass protests and processions are planned all through Friday at various locations in London, expected to attract nearly 100,000 people.