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After Perceived Snubs, UK’s May Calls Trump To Strengthen Ties

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump agreed on Tuesday that they should work to build relationships through the U.S. transition and meet at the earliest opportunity.

Britain has long cherished its “special relationship” with the United States as a central pillar of its foreign policy, but speculation has been widespread in London about how ties would evolve under Trump after a series of perceived snubs from him.

“The Prime Minister called the U.S. President-elect this afternoon as part of establishing a regular dialogue between both of them,” May’s Downing Street office said in a statement.

“They discussed how the President-elect’s transition plans were progressing and agreed that their teams should continue to build close relationships through this period, including with a meeting of their National Security Advisers in the United States before Christmas,” it said.

Trump caused astonishment in London last week when he suggested that Nigel Farage of the opposition UKIP party, a firebrand of the Brexit cause and vitriolic critic of the ruling Conservatives, should be Britain’s ambassador to Washington.

The government responded that there was no vacancy, but the suggestion, an unprecedented breach of diplomatic protocol, was embarrassing for Downing Street.

Following his election, Trump spoke to nine other world leaders before he spoke to May, which also raised eyebrows in London.

In Tuesday’s call, the two leaders also discussed NATO, agreeing on its importance and on the need for more members of the alliance to meet the target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense.

Britain already meets that commitment, but Trump has repeatedly complained about others falling short, raising concerns in other NATO countries about his intentions toward the organization.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison)

IMAGE: Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May waits to greet Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel at Downing Street in London, Britain November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Anxious World Leaders Seek Clarity On Trump Policies

By Angus MacSwan

LONDON (Reuters) – World leaders offered to work with Donald Trump when he takes over as U.S. president, but expressed anxiety over how he will handle problems from the Middle East to an assertive Russia and whether he will carry out a number of campaign threats.

Several authoritarian and right-wing leaders hailed the billionaire businessman and former TV show host, who won the leadership of the world’s most powerful country against the odds in Tuesday’s election.

China, a target of Trump’s ire during his campaign, appealed for cooperation. Mexico also struck a conciliatory tone, despite Trump’s insults to Mexican migrants and pledges to build a wall to separate the two countries. South Korea urged him not to change policy on North Korea’s nuclear tests.

Trump, who has no previous political or military experience, said after defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton that he would seek common ground, not conflict, with the United States’ allies.

In the election campaign, he voiced admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, questioned central tenets of the NATO military alliance and suggested Japan and South Korea should develop nuclear weapons to shoulder their own defense burden.

Putin was among the first to send Trump congratulations.

Ties between Washington and Moscow have become strained over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and allegations of Russian cyber attacks featured in the election campaign.

“It is not an easy path, but we are ready to do our part and do everything to return Russian and American relations to a stable path of development,” said Putin, for whom an easing of U.S. economic sanctions would be a prize.

Among other issues causing concern among allies are Trump’s vows to undo a global agreement on climate change, ditch trade deals he says have been bad for U.S. workers, and renegotiate the nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers which has led to an easing of sanctions on Iran.

Iran urged Trump to stay committed to the Iran deal. President Hassan Rouhani said the nuclear accord with six world powers could not be dismissed by one government.

UNCERTAINTY

German Chancellor Angela Merkel — denounced by Trump as “insane” for allowing more than 1 million migrants into the country last year — added a stern note in her message of congratulations which hinted at a certain unease.

“Germany and America are bound together by values – democracy, freedom, respecting the rule of law, people’s dignity regardless of their origin, the color of their skin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views,” Merkel said.

“On the basis of these values, I am offering to work closely with the future President of the United States Donald Trump.”

In Britain, where Trump’s victory had echoes of June’s referendum in which voters showed dissatisfaction with the political establishment by voting to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May said the “enduring and special relationship” between the two countries would remain intact.

But Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who has often expressed distaste for Trump, said many people in the United States and across the world would feel “a real sense of anxiety.”

Nigel Farage, a leader of the Brexit campaign who spoke at a Trump rally during the election campaign, tweeted: “I hand over the mantle to @RealDonaldTrump! Many congratulations. You have fought a brave campaign.”

Some European officials however took the unusual step of openly denouncing the outcome, calling it a worrying signal for liberal democracy and tolerance in the world.

“We’re realizing now that we have no idea what this American president will do,” Norbert Roettgen, the head of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said.

President Francois Hollande said France wanted to begin talks with Trump immediately to clarify his stance on international affairs.

“This American election opens a period of uncertainty,” Hollande said.

French officials had endorsed Clinton and warned that Trump’s “confused” foreign policy objectives were alarming for the rest of the world.

“The U.S. is a vital partner for France and what’s at stake is peace, the fight against terrorism, the situation in the Middle East, economic relations and the preservation of the planet,” Hollande said.

But like-minded right-wing European parties that are hoping to make inroads of their own in 2017 — a year in which Germany, France and the Netherlands hold elections, and Italy and Britain could also do so — hailed Trump’s victory.

France’s far-right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, said she hoped the same kind of upset would happen in France.

“The Americans gave themselves a president of their choosing and not the one that the establishment wanted them to rubber-stamp,” she said.

PARTNERS AND ALLIES

Mexican President Pena Nieto, who was criticized for receiving Trump in Mexico during the campaign, said he was ready to work with the president-elect.

“Mexico and the United States are friends, partners and allies and we should keep collaborating for the competitiveness and development of North America,” Pena Nieto said.

Trump has said he could tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying that it has killed U.S. jobs, and he called Mexican immigrants rapists during his campaign.

Sounding conciliatory, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing and Washington shared responsibility for promoting global development and prosperity.

“I place great importance on the China-U.S. relationship, and look forward to working with you to uphold the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” Xi told Trump, who had pledged to take on China and to tax Chinese imports to stop currency devaluation.

South Korea expressed the hope that Trump would maintain current U.S. policy of pressuring North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests. Seoul was concerned Trump may make unpredictable proposals to North Korea, a ruling party official said, quoting top national security officials.

A Japanese government official, speaking before Trump clinched the election, urged him to send a message as soon as possible to reassure the world of the United States’ commitment to its allies.

“We are certainly concerned about the comments (Trump) has made to date about the alliance and the U.S. role in the Pacific, particularly Japan,” the Japanese official said.

In the Middle East, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, who had a poor relationship with President Barack Obama, said he hoped to reach “new heights” in bilateral ties under Trump.

Obama and Netanyahu sparred over the issue of Israeli settlements, while Trump has said they should expand.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also congratulated Trump, but analysts said his rule may be profoundly negative for Palestinian aspirations.

And despite Trump’s negative rhetoric about Muslims during his campaign, including threats to ban them from the United States, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he hoped the business magnate’s election would breathe new life into U.S.-Egyptian ties.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus in Europe, Asia and the Americas, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

IMAGE: An Afghan man watches the broadcasting of the 2016 U.S. presidential election results on TV in Kabul, Afghanistan November 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Outgoing Anti-EU Firebrand Farage Demands His Party Push For ‘Hard’ Brexit

Bournemouth, England (Reuters) – Nigel Farage, the firebrand of Britain’s Brexit campaign, used his final speech as leader of the UK Independence Party on Friday to demand that his successor pushes for a “hard” EU exit that meets the demands of his party’s voters.

UKIP played a crucial role in the June 23 European Union referendum, tapping into anger at Brussels and rising anti-establishment sentiment to fuel a surprise 52-48 percent exit vote which rocked global financial markets.

But the party has suffered a series of bitter rows over its future direction since then and, with its main star Farage stepping down, faces a struggle to retain its influence over voters. His successor is due to be named later in the day.

Making his valedictory address at the UKIP annual conference in the southern English resort of Bournemouth, Farage said his party had “changed the center of gravity” of British politics.

But he warned that his successor must not let the government water down the terms of Britain’s EU exit.

“We can be very proud of the fact that we won the war but we now must win the peace,” he told a crowd of cheering activists.

“The only mechanism to put pressure on the government to keep the debate live and to make sure that those 17.4 million people (who voted ‘Leave’) get what they voted for is for UKIP to be healthy and for UKIP to be strong.”

Commentators say UKIP has become so synonymous with Farage, who first led the party from 2006 until and 2009 then took over the reins again the following year, that his departure leaves a huge gap which will be hard to fill.

His speech drew rapturous applause from supporters crowded into the conference hall to see the party’s star performer.

It set out three criteria by which the success of the government’s Brexit negotiations should be judged: whether Britain is outside the single market and free from European regulation, whether it has control of fishing rights in its territorial waters, and whether it has got rid of EU passports.

After the referendum result, Farage said he would step down as leader, and has since lent his experience of leading a popular political uprising to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign.

“I intend this autumn to travel around some other European capitals to try and help independents and democracy movements in those countries too,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Tina Bellon in London; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Photo: Nigel Farage, the outgoing leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), speaks at the party’s annual conference in Bournemouth, Britain, September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Trump Flops On Immigration (Again), After Inviting Brexiter Nigel Farage On Stage

JACKSON, Miss. (Reuters) – Nigel Farage, a key figure in the successful campaign to get Britain out of the European Union, lent his support to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday, saying Trump represented the same type of anti-establishment movement that he masterminded in his own country.

Farage appeared with Trump before a cheering crowd of thousands at a rally in Jackson, Mississippi. Farage partly based his Brexit drive on opposition to mass immigration to Britain that he said was leading to rapid change in his country.

His appearance came as Trump sought to moderate his own hardline stance against illegal immigration. In remarks broadcast on Wednesday, Trump backed further away from his vow to deport millions of illegal immigrants, saying he would be willing to work with those who have abided by U.S. laws while living in the country.

Trump summoned Farage on stage in the middle of his appearance, shook his hand and surrendered the microphone to him.

Farage said he would not actually endorse Trump because he did not want to repeat what he called President Barack Obama’s meddling in British affairs when Obama urged Britons to vote to stay in the EU.

“I cannot possibly tell you how you should vote in this election. But you know I get it, I get it. I’m hearing you. But I will say this, if I was an American citizen I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me,” Farage said.

“In fact, I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if she paid me,” he added.

Trump has sought to align himself with the Brexit movement, noting he had said before the June 23 referendum that Britons should vote to leave. He visited one of his golf courses in Scotland the day after the vote and boasted that he had predicted the outcome and called it a sign his own campaign would be successful.

Trump has since tumbled in national opinion polls and is fighting to remain competitive with Democratic rival Clinton with little more than two months to go until the Nov. 8 election.

“November 8 is our chance to redeclare American independence,” Trump said, borrowing a phrase Farage used during the Brexit campaign.

‘FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY’

Farage drew parallels between the Brexit movement and the support Trump has received from many Americans who feel left behind by Washington.

“They feel people aren’t standing up for them and they have in many cases given up on the whole electoral process and I think you have a fantastic opportunity here with this campaign,” he said.

Trump’s comments on immigration came in the second part of an interview conducted on Tuesday with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity. They signaled a further softening in his immigration position as he tries to bolster support among moderate voters and minority groups.

Trump, who defeated 16 rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in part based on his opposition to illegal immigrants, said he would not permit American citizenship for the undocumented population and would expel lawbreakers.

To qualify to remain in the United States, Trump said, illegal immigrants would have to pay back taxes.

“No citizenship. Let me go a step further – they’ll pay back taxes, they have to pay taxes, there’s no amnesty, as such, there’s no amnesty, but we work with them,” Trump said.

“But when I go through and I meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject, and I’ve had very strong people come up to me … and they’ve said: ‘Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who’s been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it’s so tough, Mr. Trump,'” Trump said. “It’s a very hard thing.”

Trump said he would outline his position soon.

“Well, I’m going to announce something over the next two weeks, but it’s going to be a very firm policy,” Trump told WPEC, a CBS affiliate in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Trump’s new position seemed to resemble in some respects the failed 2007 reform push by former Republican President George W. Bush. That effort offered a way to bring millions “out of the shadows” without amnesty and would have required illegal immigrants to pay a fine and take other steps to gain legal status.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with Member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage at a campaign rally in Jackson, Mississippi, U.S., August 24, 2016.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri