From across the Atlantic Ocean, President Donald Trump on Tuesday tried to pour cold water on an inner-Republican battle at home over tariffs that are set to take effect next week on goods moving into the United States from Mexico.
In a joint appearance with Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump told reporters in London he doubts any GOP members will move to block his proposed tariffs on goods moving into the U.S. from Mexico even though some have signaled a desire to do so.
“I don’t think they will do that,” Trump said. “I think if they do do [that], it’s foolish.”
Trump wants America’s southern neighbor to tamp down the flow of migrants moving through its territory toward the U.S. border, and he thinks threatening tariffs are the way to convince Mexico to do so.
But the Washington Post reported Monday that Republican members have started discussing a vote that could see them block the tariffs and Trump’s funding shift for his proposed southern border wall via the national emergency he declared earlier this year. Such a vote might bring veto-proof majorities in both chambers, which would mark Republicans’ biggest departure yet from Trump — if it happens.
But he said he expects the tariffs could go in place, and U.S. and Mexican officials will hold immigration-related talks as those tariffs take effect and possibly escalate from 5 percent each month his administration is unhappy with Mexico on its immigration efforts.
“Mexico should step up,” Trump said.
He also told a U.S. reporter, who asked for his thoughts on the United Kingdom’s so far unsuccessful attempts to exit the European Union, that he does not like to comment on matters he is not directly involved in. Then he proceeded to do just that.
“I would think that it would happen, and it probably should happen,” Trump said on British soil of that country leaving the EU. “I think the prime minister has brought it to a place that it probably will happen.”
Both leaders tried to describe relations — as May leaves office later this week — as rock solid amid Trump’s “America first” foreign policy and the U.K.’s coming government transition and political turmoil.
“It’s the greatest alliance the world has ever known,” Trump said.
Trump said there is “tremendous potential” for a possible trade pact between the longtime allies, saying without explaining that a new pact might expand economic cooperation between them by as much as three times. The United Kingdom was America’s seventh-largest trading partner last year, according to the Census Bureau.
The U.S. leader said he believes the two countries soon will ink a “tremendous” trade deal, saying “everything is on the table” in those ongoing talks.
May said the two had “positive” discussions behind closed doors on Tuesday, covering a range of security and economic issues. “We will continue to work together to preserve the alliance,” she said of U.S.-U.K. relations.
May used part of her opening statement to praise NATO, saying the U.S. leader has been successful in pushing the military alliance’s members to contribute more to its budget. Trump has been harshly critical of NATO since he became a presidential candidate in 2015, and since he took office.
“They have no choice, they must meet their obligations,” Trump said of alliance members during his opening remarks.
Notably, May did what only a handful of allies do in public referring to the American president as “Donald.” He smiled several times at the outgoing British leader, who announced late last month she is stepping down after being unable to push her EU exit plan through Parliament.
Trump hailed May as a “fantastic woman.”