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On Eve Of U.K. Visit, Trump Weighs In On Prime Minister Pick, Brexit


President Trump arrives in London tomorrow morning, and his penchant for controversy already precedes him. In interviews with British newspapers, he's already waded into the U.K.'s race for prime minister and given advice on handling Brexit. For more, we now turn to NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Hi, Frank.


GONYEA: So what did the president say in those interviews?

LANGFITT: Well, as you would remember, I think as people in the States know, Prime Minister May is going to be stepping down. And so Trump basically waded into the race for the next prime minister. And he said he thought Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary who's also a big political rival of the current prime minister, would make an excellent future leader of the country. He also said that Nigel Farage - he's the leader of the Brexit Party, which demolished the conservatives just last week in the European parliamentary elections - that he should help negotiate Brexit even though Farage is not even a member of Parliament in this country.

GONYEA: OK. And how is all of this going over?

LANGFITT: Well, Don, poorly as usual. He's done this before, and British politicians tend to feel that he shouldn't be sticking his nose in U.K. politics. It's neither his place, nor his job. And I think that they don't appreciate it. And, of course, this is a big breach with protocol.

There was also something kind of interesting in one of these interviews. The Telegraph newspaper mentioned to him, one of the reporters, that Meghan Markle, the former actress who's now married to Prince Harry, had said back in 2016 that if Trump won the election, she would move to Canada. And the president responded by saying, I didn't know she was nasty. Now, moments later, he also said he thought that she would make a very good princess. But Trump later, when this came up and he was called on it in the media, he denied even saying that even though it happens to be on tape.

GONYEA: I mean, I - there's breaking protocol, and there's breaking protocol (laughter), I guess. It's all part of the Trump brand. But why, I want to ask you, is he so focused on Boris Johnson, the prime minister candidate, and Nigel Farage?

LANGFITT: Don, these are his kind of guys. They're brash. They're politically incorrect alpha males. But more importantly, all three of them support Brexit. Remember that Donald Trump is a Brexiteer of sorts. And the reason is that they don't like multilateral institutions like the European Union. These are groups of countries who have sort of strict rules. And people like Farage, Johnson and Trump feel this constrains their countries. And what they want to do is be able to chart a much more independent course. And this vision of basically Britain and the United Kingdom that they share is really at odds with aspects of the post-World War II architecture that the U.S. and Britain helped build.

GONYEA: Well, Frank, that's the setup. But what will the president be doing officially on this visit?

LANGFITT: Well, tomorrow, it's going to be a lot of pomp and circumstance. There'll be a wreath-laying at Westminster Abbey. There'll be a state dinner in the evening with the Queen at Buckingham Palace tomorrow, a meeting with Prime Minister May. Of course, she's a lame duck, so we're not expecting a lot there on the policy front. The big thing tomorrow is going to be street protests.

GONYEA: And what are we expecting there?

LANGFITT: Huge numbers. There are going to be buses coming in from around England. The streets are going to be jammed. Londoners, of course, very progressive - this is a cosmopolitan city. And they tend to really dislike this president. His anti-immigration policies, his things that he said about women - it just really rubs Londoners the wrong way.

We'll be seeing a lot of things that - a lot of signs, clever signs, which is what British protesters are known for. And we'll also see Tuesday morning the Trump baby blimp make a reappearance. This is the blimp of Trump in a diaper and crying and looking - he's in the form of a baby. Very popular, and I'm sure we'll see lots of people out there when that goes aloft in Parliament Square.

GONYEA: All this and the blimp. Thanks, Frank.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Don. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.