Donald Trump backs ‘friend’ Boris Johnson after the Foreign Secretary quits over Brexit… but declares Britain to be in 'turmoil' ahead of UK visit

Just 48 hours before his arrival in Britain, the US president declared the UK to be “in turmoil”.

And in comments that infuriated No10, he sympathised with “my friend” Boris Johnson just a day after the Cabinet renegade sparked Westminster turmoil by quitting as Foreign Secretary.

Trump also suggested that his showdown talks with Russia boss Vladimir Putin next week will be easier than his meeting at Chequers on Friday with the PM.

In another chaotic day in Westminster:

  • Two rising star Tory MPs, Ben Bradley and Maria Caulfield, delivered a fresh bombshell to Downing Street by quitting their posts as Conservative Party vice-chairs.
  •  The Tory Brexiteers’ European Research Group warned they would have “a resignation a day until recess” unless the PM agrees to reopen her new soft Brexit plan agreed at Chequers – including more from the Cabinet,
  •  The Sun can reveal that Boris will heap pressure on the PM my making a landmark resignation speech to the Commons next Monday.
  • Hardline Tory eurosceptics are planning to hijack two key Brexit votes in the Commons next week, adopting the guerrilla tactics of rebel Remainers.

Mr Trump’s verbal battering came as he boarded a flight to Belgium for the NATO summit today.
It sent tensions between the White House and No10 soaring ahead of the president’s four day visit to Britain from tomorrow  night.

Predicting he will have “an interesting time in the UK”, Mr Trump said: “I have NATO, I have the UK which is in, somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin.

“Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think?

“But the UK certainly have a lot of things going on.”

He also refused to back Mrs May staying on as PM, insisting it was a decision for British voters.

And in pointed remarks to back BoJo, the president added: “Boris Johnson is a friend of mine, he’s been very very nice to me, very supportive.

“Maybe we’ll speak to him when I get over there. I like Boris Johnson, I’ve always liked him.”

Boris stormed out of the Cabinet on Monday, saying his Brexit dream was “dying” and warning that the PM’s Chequers blueprint would leave the UK a “colony” of the EU.

The Sun can reveal that BoJo will take up his right as a departing Cabinet minister to deliver a potentially devastating resignation speech to the House of Commons on Monday.

Boris has told friends he feels “stung” by his former Cabinet colleagues’ criticisms of him that he has no alternative plan for Brexit.

He will use the high profile opportunity to paint an alternative “uplifting” vision to the PM’s of a fully independent Britain striding the world stage.

Tetchy Mrs May refused to engage directly with Trump’s criticisms.

Quizzed on them, the PM – dubbed a bossy school teacher by Mr Trump – would only say: “I’m looking forward to positive discussions with President Trump.

“We will be talking positively about how we can continue to work together in our special relationship for the good of people living in the UK and the United States and, actually, for the wider good.”

Responding to the two new resignations, Mrs May held firm and again refused to look again at her new plan to share EU rules on goods and collect EU tariffs on the UK’s border.

The PM insisted that the Chequers blueprint “absolutely keeps faith with the vote of the British people”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered Mrs May the thinnest of lifelines on her Chequers plan last night.

Sharing a platform with her at a summit on the Western Balkans that the PM hosted in London, Mrs Merkel said of the new soft Brexit blueprint: “We have actually made progress. It’s a good thing we have proposals on the table”.

But the powerful German boss insisted the EU will respond in full as a group, once its chief negotiator Michel Barnier has studied the full plan when it is published as a white paper tomorrow.

In an extraordinary moment, Mrs May twice blocked British journalists questions to Mrs Merkel about Brexit at the press conference last night – with the response only finally coming to a German reporter’s similar question.

In better new for Mrs May, there was a major hint that the Brexit stand off between Dublin and London was beginning to thaw.

Last night Irish boss Leo Vardakar called on Brussels to be more flexible to cut a deal with Britain.

After being briefed by Mrs May about her soft Brexit plan in a phone call on Saturday, the Taoiseach said: “if the UK is able to relax from some of its red lines, then the European Union should be flexible too.”

He added: “I think perhaps we are now entering into that space.”

Opening up another flank in their war of attrition against No10, it also emerged that Tory Brexiteers are planning to hijack two key Brexit votes in the Commons next week.

Amendments to the Trade and Customs Bills are being “seriously discussed” by the ERG’s senior MPs.

Its leader Jacob Rees-Mogg wants to use them to curb a fresh attempt by ministers to give themselves new sweeping “Henry VIII” powers.

Other members want to go further and table an amendment to block the PM’s new customs plan to collect EU border tariffs.

Both could win significant Labour support, and force the PM to back down rather than face a disastrous Commons defeat.

But one Tory minister loyal to the PM accused the hard Brexiteers of resorting to guerrilla tactics in the Commons because they failed to topple Mrs May.

As the party civil war deepened last night, the minister said: “The ERG have had to show their hand after Chequers, and it turns out they don’t have one.

“They don’t have the numbers as it’s become clear that most colleagues are behind the PM.

“It’s only a matter of time before they become wreckers and start blocking legislation in the Commons as a last resort.”

Livid Brexiteer MP Andrew Bridgen was the first to go public with his letter to the Tories’ 1922 Committee to demand a confidence vote in Mrs May’s leadership yesterday.

The continuing turmoil dampened loyal Cabinet ministers’ bid to bolster Mrs May after Boris and her Brexit Secretary David Davis’s twin resignations.

The PM’s new top table met for the first time yesterday, with two new faces replacing the Tory big beasts and a shake-up of some of the top jobs.

In what was seen as a dig at Boris, Mrs May even tweeted a snap of her new look Cabinet, saying: “Productive Cabinet meeting this morning – looking ahead to a busy week”.

Justice Secretary David Gauke also challenged DD and Boris’s walkout by saying: “What I would say to those of my colleagues is if they don’t like this, what would they do?

“It’s a negotiation and that requires compromises from both sides if we are to reach an agreement.”

Loyal MPs claimed that one irony of Monday’s resignation chaos is that Mrs May now has the most united Cabinet since David Cameron’s in 2015, before the EU referendum campaign.
Former Tory leader and prominent Leave backer Lord Howard also gave Mrs May his backing.

Michael Howard said it would be “extremely foolish and unwise” to mount a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister.
He added: “I don’t believe the Brexit dream is dying”.

But he also warned: “There would be deep unhappiness if any further concessions are made”.

In sign of fresh tension between Theresa May and the new Brexit Secretary, last night it was claimed No10 banned Dominic Raab from hiring a key aide.

Mr Raab had hoped to keep on David Davis's Chief of Staff Stewart Jackson, but was vetoed by Downing Street – to the fury of Brexiteers.

In an article in today's Sun the leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees Mogg brands the Chequers deal "a dud," adding: "It will not deliver Brexit."

He praises David Davis and Boris Johnson for showing "real leadership and courage" in quitting the Cabinet.

And he says they enjoy "warm support" among Tory backbenches and the wider public for "standing up for what the Conservatives promised voters in their manifesto."

Mr Rees-Mogg said the PM must now choose between ripping up her Chequers plan or pushing it through with Labour support.

In an ominous warning for the PM, the top Eurosceptic writes: "A government that depends upon the opposition to get its business through is like the gingerbread man on the back of the fox crossing the river.

"At the end of the journey it gets eaten."

In a further sign of dissent among backbenches, Tory MP Henry Smith publicly rejected the PM's invitation to watch the England game at No10 tomorrow.

He wrote on Twitter: "Received this invite to watch tomorrow’s England-Croatia World Cup semi-final in 10 Downing Street.
“Seeing as the Prime Minister isn’t bringing Brexit home I’m concerned attending would be a bad omen for football coming home…I’ll pass."

In a snappy reply to Mr Smith which exposed Tory tensions in public, chief whip Julian Smith replied: "if you would like to transfer your invite to a constituent let me know. Let me have their name first thing-they will be welcome."

In an alarming warning, peers said it was unlikely a treaty will be agreed by next March that would see continued cooperation between EU and UK law enforcement databases and partnerships such as Europol.

The Lords committee report concluded there was little chance the EU would offer a bespoke treaty and called on the Government "to show realism about what it can achieve in the time remaining".

It recommended: "If a comprehensive treaty cannot be agreed, a series of ad hoc security arrangements could help to ensure the level of cooperation we need."

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