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Britain's May to Put Differences Aside in Trump Meeting

  • Luis Ramirez

On Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May becomes the first world leader to visit new U.S. President Donald Trump, a symbolic reaffirmation of what the two countries view as an unshakable alliance.

The U.S. leader has promised an "even closer" relationship between the historic allies and has been eager to show his willingness to renew and reinforce ties in the wake of Brexit.

May shares the willingness to strengthen an already robust relationship, especially as the British leader works to forge new trade relationships following Britain's departure from the European Union.

Observers predict what could be an awkward moment when May and Trump meet.

Mary Evans, professor of gender studies at the London School of Economics, recently said she thought that for someone of May's background, "the way she comports herself, the way that she's lived her life, to confront Donald Trump is going to be moving into meeting somebody from a very different world — not quite a different planet, but certainly a different world."

The biggest rallies against Trump's inauguration outside the United States have been led by feminists in Britain, still angry about campaign revelations of controversial remarks about women.

May has called Trump's past remarks about women "unacceptable."

But it is the future of trade in the post-Brexit era, terrorism and the conflict with Syria that top May's agenda with Trump.

"I will be talking to Donald Trump about the issues that we share about how we can build on this special relationship. It's the special relationship that also enables us to say when we do find things unacceptable," May said in an appearance this week on the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show.

FILE - President Donald Trump and Melania Trump depart the 2017 Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 20, 2017. Vice President Mike Pence is at right.
FILE - President Donald Trump and Melania Trump depart the 2017 Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 20, 2017. Vice President Mike Pence is at right.

The British leader said she "won't be afraid" to challenge Trump. "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 United Kingdom, talking to him [Trump], directly to him, about the interests we share," she said.

But for both Trump and May, the common interests and the special relationship between the two nations are much more significant than any potential personality and gender issues that the media in both countries have raised.

May recently presented her 12-point plan for Britain's departure from the European Union, an exit Trump supports.

Scoring the first sit-down with the new U.S. leader bolsters May's position at home at a time when her government is still fighting challenges to Brexit.

On Tuesday, the British Supreme Court dealt her a setback by ruling that her government needed Parliament's approval to trigger the Brexit process.

Government sources here say what she wants now is a free-trade deal that cuts tariffs and facilitates exchanges of skilled workers between the United States and Britain.

After Germany, the U.S. is Britain's top trading partner, and officials on both sides of the Atlantic have expressed hopes that enhanced trade with the United States could help fill trade gaps that may result from Brexit.

U.S. leaders are preparing to give May a grand welcome of the type reserved for few foreign leaders. British officials say May has received an invitation to address congressional Republicans at their annual retreat, becoming the first serving foreign head of government to do so.

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