ELLESBOROUGH, England — President Donald Trump is unabashedly repeating his criticism of European immigration policies, saying migrants are “changing the culture.”
During a news conference with British Prime Minster Theresa May on Friday, Trump backtracks on his criticism of his counterpart in an explosive interview released as he began his visit to the country. But he reiterates his belief that Europe’s decision to accept migrants from Middle Eastern and African countries is “a very negative thing for Europe.”
Standing next to May, Trump acknowledges his comments were “politically not necessarily correct” but says European countries need to “watch themselves.”
He says: “You are changing culture, you are changing a lot of things.”
May is rebutting Trump, saying the U.K. has a “proud history of welcoming people who are fleeing persecution to our country.”
Earlier, Trump denied he had criticized May and declared the U.S.-U.K. relationship “the highest level of special” — not long after lobbing thunderous broadsides against her.
Tea with the queen
The president later met with Queen Elizabeth II for tea at Windsor Castle.
Towering over the queen, Trump and the monarch shared a few interactions Friday as they reviewed troops at the royal castle in Windsor.
The queen, the president and first lady Melania Trump all shook hands. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was then played and the queen guided the president on a review of the honor guard in the castle courtyard.
Carrying a handbag between herself and Trump, the pair did not appear to engage in conversation during the formal ceremony.
The heads of state are meeting over tea before Trump departs England for a weekend in Scotland.
Protests and an interview
Trump’s pomp-filled visit to the United Kingdom has been overshadowed by widespread protests and an explosive interview in The Sun in which he blasted May, his host, blamed London’s mayor for terror attacks against the city and argued that Europe was “losing its culture” because of immigration.
“I didn’t criticize the prime minister. I have a lot of respect for the prime minister,” said Trump, who allowed that he did apologize for some of his comments. But he blamed his favorite scapegoat — the so-called “Fake Media” — for skipping over his praise of May in a piece that published Thursday just as the prime minster played host at an opulent welcome dinner at a country palace.
The president then urged reporters to listen to a full recording of the interview, which he said would give the full picture.
May, for her part, praised the strength of the U.S.-U.K. bond. But in a gentle rebuke, said: “It is all of our responsibility to ensure that trans-Atlantic unity endures.”
As for her relationship with Trump, she said: “We are friends.”
Trump was greeted by massive protests across Britain, including tens of thousands of demonstrators who filled the streets of London alongside a giant balloon that flew over Parliament on Friday depicting him as a cell-phone-toting angry baby in a diaper.
In a frenetic news conference at Chequers, May’s official country house, an unrestrained Trump blamed his predecessor for Russian aggression in Crimea, placed fair trade at the center of Britain’s efforts to leave the European Union, defended his beliefs that immigration has damaged Europe and repeatedly jousted with television correspondents’ whose coverage he found critical.
Interviewed before he left Brussels for the U.K, Trump accused May of ruining what her country stands to gain from its Brexit vote to leave the European Union. He said her former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, would make an “excellent” prime minister, speaking just days after Johnson resigned his position in protest over May’s Brexit plans.
Trump added that May’s “soft” blueprint for the U.K.’s future dealings with the EU would probably “kill” any future trade deals with the United States.
“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal,” Trump told the paper.
Trump, who has linked his own election to the June 2016 referendum in which a slim majority of British voters supported leaving the EU, complained, “The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on.”
He also told the tabloid that he’d shared advice with May during Britain’s negotiations with the EU and she ignored it.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in London for a series of demonstrations against the president’s visit. Marchers gathered near BBC headquarters in central London before walking through the center of the city to Parliament — where earlier the 20-foot baby blimp hovered overhead.
Many protesters used humor to convey their opposition. One sign read “Trump wears poorly tailored suits,” while another proclaimed: “Overcomb Brexit.” One man was selling rolls of “Trump toilet paper” emblazoned with a picture of the president. More protests are planned in Windsor and in Scotland, where the president plans to spend the weekend at one of his golf courses.
“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” he told The Sun, which is owned by his media ally, Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News in the United States.
Breach of protocol
The interview was the latest breach of diplomatic protocol by Trump, whose predecessors tended to avoid criticizing their foreign hosts. Trump has been traveling by helicopter to avoid the protests in central London. Police worked overtime, their days off canceled.
Trump acknowledged feeling unwelcome in the city, and blamed that in part on Mayor Sadiq Khan, who gave protesters permission to fly the baby Trump balloon. Trump also blamed recent terrorist attacks there on Khan, who is Muslim. The president claimed Europe is “losing its culture” because of immigration from the Middle East and Africa.
“Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a sham,” he said. “I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.”
Khan, whose grandparents hailed from Pakistan, responded by questioning why Trump repeatedly chose him to criticize.
“Paris, Nice, Brussels, Berlin. Cities in America all suffered terror attacks,” Khan told British broadcaster Sky News. “And it’s for President Trump to explain why he singled me as the mayor of London out and not the mayors of other cities and leaders of other cities.”