LONDON: Top Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage on Monday said Donald Trump was no “ogre” and urged the British government to begin “mending fences” after meeting the US president-elect in New York.
“However tough, even vicious the campaign may have been, he had nice things to say about the way (Barack) Obama and Hillary (Clinton) had treated him,” Farage wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
“I suspect that president Trump is not going to be the ogre that some fear,” said Farage, who on Saturday became the first British politician to meet Trump after his shock victory. “What I saw was a thoughtful and reflective Donald Trump,” said Farage, who also spoke at a Trump rally in Mississippi during the campaign.
Farage, whose UK Independence Party (UKIP) came third by number of votes in the last election but has only one MP in parliament, was a key leader of the “Leave” campaign ahead of Britain’s referendum to exit the EU. His links with Trump have divided the government.
Some officials see him as a go-between, but a source from Prime Minister Theresa May’s Downing Street office has dismissed him as an “irrelevance”. May’s spokesperson told reporters on Monday that the prime minister had spoken to Trump on Thursday following his victory and did not require help.
“The president-elect talked about enjoying the same close relationship that (Ronald) Reagan and (Margaret) Thatcher did — I don’t remember there being a third person in that relationship,” she said. “We have established routes of engagement with the president-elect and his team,” she added, calling the May-Trump conversation a “good, warm phone call”.
During his meeting with Trump, Farage said they had talked about “the prospect of the United Kingdom being at the front of the queue”. US President Barack Obama on a visit to London this year had said Britain would be at the “back of the queue” in trade talks if it voted to leave the EU.
Farage said the only negativity he sensed in his meeting with Trump was due to many British officials who “had been so unrelentingly negative about The Donald”. “Clearly, there are fences to be mended,” he said.
Then interior minister May criticised Trump’s comments about banning Muslims from the United States as “divisive, unhelpful and wrong”. There was also strong criticism of Trump’s comments about “no-go” areas with Muslim extremists in Britain.
Then London mayor Boris Johnson, now foreign minister, said at the time: “The only reason I wouldn’t visit some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump”. Farage put himself forward as an intermediary with the new Trump administration. “I would be very happy to provide introductions and to start the necessary process of mending fences… I hope in our national interest some sense prevails on this,” he said.