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'Different kind of guy' - #Trump sees kindred spirit in #BorisJohnson

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They have signature strawberry blonde hair styles. They like to throw rhetorical bombs with little regard for the political consequences. And they both have a celebrity style that generates headlines, writes Steve Holland.

In Boris Johnson, US President Donald Trump may be getting the brash British prime minister he wanted after Trump made up his mind that Theresa May was a hapless leader for failing to deliver a credible Brexit deal.

Trump appeared poised to quickly extend an invitation to Johnson to visit the White House after winning the Conservative Party leadership. They spoke on the phone last week.

“I like Boris Johnson. I always have,” Trump told reporters on Friday. “He’s a different kind of a guy, but they say I’m a different kind of guy too. I think we’ll have a very good relationship.”

On Tuesday, the Republican president said the British were calling Johnson “Britain Trump.”

“People are saying that’s a good thing, that they like me over there. That’s what they wanted. That’s what they need,” Trump, 73, told a political youth group.

Suddenly, the two provocateurs will be the caretakers of the “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom that has stood the test of time and underpinned one of the strongest military and diplomatic alliances in the West.

With Johnson at the helm, Trump is looking to “strengthen the special relationship between our two countries,” a senior administration official said.

Trump made repeated attempts to give May advice on Britain’s departure from the European Union, a bloc he frequently derides.

He said May had done “a very bad job” and “I think Boris will straighten it out.”

Johnson, 55, has promised to complete Brexit on 31 October with or without a deal, even though lawmakers say they will bring down any government that tries to leave without one.

Despite their different backgrounds - Johnson is from a connected British family and went to elite schools and Trump was raised in the New York borough of Queens and dealt in real estate - they have similar approaches to the world.

“Both are populistic, nationalistic, and both are very disruptive forces and relish in their disruption,” said Heather Conley, a European expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“I think they definitely know how to knock the blocks down. What both suffer from is not knowing how to build things after the blocks are knocked down.”

Privately, Trump had long since grown weary of dealing with May, a former senior administration official said.

“She would call him and give him mini-lectures,” said the former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “‘Donald, can you be more careful with your language?’ He found it tedious I think it’s safe to say.”

Trump will likely judge Johnson’s early tenure on whether he can deliver a Brexit deal.

Fireworks could erupt in other areas as well.

Britain has preferred to support the European Union’s approach to reining in Iran’s nuclear program. Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 deal last year and has ratcheted up sanctions to try to devastate Tehran’s economy, a possible factor in Iran’s seizure of a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz in recent days.

Trump has always wanted Britain to limit dealings with Chinese telecommunications company Huawei and former foreign minister Johnson has to decide whether to include it in the UK’s 5G telecoms network.

Beyond those issues, Trump and Johnson will have to hammer out a US-Britain free trade agreement seen as crucial to help Britain’s post-Brexit economy.

Johnson, who was born in New York, first made his mark in Trump’s world when the then-London mayor visited Trump Tower in January 2017, days before Trump took over as president, and met Trump advisers Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn.

He has avoided drawing the president’s fire on Twitter despite making critical remarks about Trump in the past - calling him “unfit” to be the president and “clearly out of his mind” for proposing a ban on Muslims entering the United States when he was a presidential candidate in December 2015.

More recently, Johnson showed his reluctance to antagonize Trump when he failed to defend British Ambassador Kim Darroch after diplomatic memos in which Darroch described Trump’s administration as “inept” were leaked to a newspaper. Johnson acknowledged his lack of support was a factor in the envoy’s resignation from the post in Washington.

Dave Bossie, a top adviser to Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign, said Johnson’s entry offers the chance to turn the page from the “strained friendship” of recent years.

“I’m hopeful that the new prime minister will want to foster the greatest alliance and friendship that exist between two countries, the United States and Great Britain,” he said.

Brexit

Brexit decision entirely separate from US election outcome says PM Johnson

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Britain’s decision on whether to agree a Brexit deal with the European Union is entirely separate to the outcome of the US election next month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday (26 October), writes William James.

“The two things are entirely separate,” Johnson said, when asked about an Observer newspaper report that he was waiting to see the US result before making a Brexit decision, and whether he was concerned about the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency.

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Brexit

'Time is very short' Britain says as EU's Barnier heads to London

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Britain said on Monday (26 October) that time was very short to bridge the significant remaining gaps on key issues in talks with the European Union, as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier heads to London to continue negotiations, write and

The United Kingdom left the European Union in January but the two sides are trying to clinch a deal that would govern nearly a trillion dollars in annual trade before a transition period of informal membership ends on 31 December.

After a brief hiatus when London walked away from the negotiating table, both sides are now meeting daily to try to find common ground.

At stake is the smooth flow of cross-border trade as well as the harder-to-quantify damage that a chaotic exit would do to areas such as security information sharing and research and development cooperation.

“There is much work to be done if we’re going to bridge what are the significant gaps that remain between our positions in the most difficult areas and time is very short,” Johnson’s spokesman said.

Barnier and his EU team will be in London until Wednesday, after which talks will switch to Brussels and continue through the weekend, an EU spokesperson said.

EU diplomats were not expected to be briefed on progress in the latest batch of talks until later in the week.

Johnson told reporters he was very glad to be talking with the EU again, but offered no new clues on the likelihood of a deal: “We’ll see where we go.”

Since talks restarted last week, British ministers have said real progress has been made and that there is a good chance of a deal. On Sunday, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said a deal to avoid tariffs and quotas was likely.

After some progress on competition guarantees including state aid rules, the hardest issue remains fishing - Johnson has insisted on taking back control over Britain’s waters while the EU wants access.

Although Britain insists it can prosper without a deal, British companies are facing a wall of bureaucracy that threatens chaos at the border if they want to sell into the world’s biggest trading bloc when life after Brexit begins on 1 January.

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Brexit

A good chance we can get a deal with EU, says UK minister Lewis

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Britain and the European Union have a good chance of striking a deal on future relations, the British government’s Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis (pictured) said on Sunday (25 October), writes William James.

The United Kingdom left the EU in January but the two sides are trying to clinch a deal that would govern nearly a trillion dollars in annual trade before a transition period of informal membership ends on Dec. 31.

Talks resumed last week after Britain walked away in frustration at what it saw as the EU’s unwillingness to compromise on key issues. On Friday (23 October), Britain said there had been good progress since the restart.

Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper said the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier was planning to extend his stay in London until Wednesday (28 October).

Asked about that report, and the overall prospects of a deal, Lewis told the BBC: “I’m always an optimist...and I hope and I think there’s a good chance we can get a deal, but the EU need to understand it is for them to move as well.”

Lewis restated the government position that it would rather leave without a deal - a scenario it calls leaving on Australian terms - than accept a deal which is not in Britain’s interests.

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