Theresa May, unlike Donald Trump, does not traditionally produce surprises in interviews. But on this morning’s Andrew Marr Show, the Prime Minister revealed the advice the US president gave to her over Brexit: “He told me I should sue the EU.” After a stunned Marr laughed in response, May repeated: “Sue the EU, not go into negotiations with them, sue them.”
The Prime Minister’s incredulous, derisive tone rather suggested that she would not be taking up this advice (“actually we’re going into negotiations with them”). After Boris Johnson’s declaration that Trump would be a better Brexit negotiator (“he’d go in bloody hard”), May was unsurprisingly keen to dispel this notion. (But some Leave voters will no doubt sympathise with the president’s ruthless approach.) The Prime Minister’s revelation also helpfully distracted from her multiple political woes.
At the Chequers press conference on Friday, Trump said: “I did give her a suggestion. I wouldn’t say advice. And I think she found it maybe too brutal, and that’s – because I could see that.” As he looked at May, he added: “But I don’t know if you remember what I said” (May has now confirmed that she does).
In her Marr interview, May went on to note that Trump later said that she should not “walk away” from the talks “or else you’ll be stuck”. Despite her insistence that “no deal” remains a theoretical option, it is clear that May does not regard it as a practical one.
But the PM also insisted that ending free movement, leaving the customs union and leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice was “non-negotiable”. Should the EU, as seems likely, demand further concessions, May will enter her greatest crisis yet. In those circumstances, no Brexit at all could become an option.