'Trump the Grump': Moody US president challenged Theresa May over Brexit during phone call

Ben Riley-Smith
Donald Trump and Theresa May in a meeting in September - REUTERS

Donald Trump challenged Theresa May over her Brexit plan and its impact on a possible UK-US free trade deal during a fractious recent call as he travelled on Air Force One. 

Well-placed UK sources told The Daily Telegraph that the US president was in a “bad mood” and acting like “Trump the Grump” during their conversation last Friday.

Mrs May called to congratulate Mr Trump on the Republicans' better-than-expected results at the US midterm elections but received an irritated response from the president, who reportedly berated her on a string of topics.

There is concern among some British figures who work closely on the US-UK relationship that Mr Trump is echoing the "Farage-Bannon line” on Mrs May’s Brexit proposals. 

That refers to fierce criticism from Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, and Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, about the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan. 

One UK government source said: “Everyone knows he was throwing a complete wobbly for two solid days in France. Quite what caused it … we don’t know. 

“Had there been a call on that day with anybody it would have been tetchy. From what I understand, it was Trump the Grump that day, but we all have bad days.” 

The source added on Mr Trump's Brexi views: “There is a Farage-Bannon line which is in his head and we know that’s his mentality. But that’s fine, we live with that.” 

Mr Trump made clear during his visit to Britain in July that he thought Mrs May should have taken a tougher line on Brexit talks. It later emerged he proposed she hire lawyers to sue Brussels. 

He also said that Mrs May’s Chequers deal would “kill” the chance of a trade deal – criticism delivered in an interview with The Sun which he then walked back in a press conference. 

Four well-placed sources in Washington DC and London gave this newspaper an insight into the testy phone call between Mrs May and Mr Trump, first reported by The Washington Post

It was initiated by the Prime Minister, apparently to curry favour with the US president by congratulating him on the US midterm election results. 

The Republicans managed to increase their majority in the US Senate, thought they lost control of the House of Representatives. 

However during the call the pair made clear their differences on the Iran nuclear deal, which Mr Trump withdraw America from but Britain and the other signatories are fighting to keep alive. 

Mrs May briefed the president on the Brexit negotiations as well as discussing the chances of a US-UK free trade deal, with formal talks due to begin once the UK is formally outside of the EU. 

The Washington Post reported that Mr Trump 'lost his cool' with Mrs May, adding: "He berated the British prime minister on Iran, trade and Brexit, among other topics."

One UK official played down how heated the call had been, making clear there were differences of opinion but that the clashes had not been as “extreme” as the Washington Post’s report suggested.