British Prime Minister Theresa May offered some support for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the fallout from the Group of Seven leaders meeting in Quebec, but she stopped short of condemning critical comments made by U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade adviser.
In a statement to the British House of Commons on Monday, Ms. May paid tribute to Mr. Trudeau for “his leadership and skillful chairing” of the G7 and added that the United Kingdom “fully intends to honour the commitments we have made” in the final communiqué. She added that “this was a difficult summit with, at times, some very candid discussions.”
However, Ms. May did not respond when Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn asked her to condemn “the comments of President Trump’s trade adviser saying that, and I quote, there’s a special place in hell for Justin Trudeau?” During a television interview on Sunday, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said that “there was a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door and that is what Justin Trudeau did.”
Ms. May ducked Mr. Corbyn’s question and when later asked by Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, “Trudeau or Trump?” she smiled and replied, “I’m not sure what activity he’s asking me to undertake with either of them.”
In her statement, Ms. May pointed out the importance of maintaining a dialogue with the United States and Mr. Trump. Britain and the United States continue to enjoy a special relationship, she said, which means that “when we disagree with the United States, and with the President, we’re able to tell them.”
And while she joined with Mr. Trudeau and other European leaders in opposing the U.S. decision to slap import tariffs on steel and aluminum, she urged continued dialogue.
“We need to avoid a continued tit-for-tat escalation,” she said. “That is why it was right that we had such an open and direct discussion at this summit. … As long-standing allies, we do not make progress by ignoring each other’s concerns, but rather by addressing them together.”
The British government has been eager to sign a trade deal with the United States after Britain leaves the European Union next year. Mr. Trump is also slated to visit London next month for a meeting with Ms. May and the Queen.
However, on Monday, several MPs expressed concerns about Britain reaching any deal with the United States given Mr. Trump’s recent trade actions against Canada, the EU and other countries. Ms. May said the United States has already asked about negotiating a trade agreement post-Brexit and she expressed confidence that the British government will be able to negotiate a fair arrangement. She also said that during the summit the leaders discussed Mr. Trump’s proposal for complete free trade among G7 member states, but said the issue was “fair trade. That means not just tariff-free, but also dismantling barriers to trade and it also means ensuring that there are no anti-competitive unfair subsidies,” she told MPs.
Ms. May also rejected Mr. Trump’s suggestion that Russia should be brought back into the G7. “There was a good reason the G8 became the G7 and that was because of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea,” she told MPs. “Any conversations about whether or not Russia will come back around the table cannot take place until Russia has changed its attitude.”