Donald Trump has made a last-minute Brexit intervention – claiming his administration is looking forward to “negotiating a large scale Trade Deal with the UK” – after reportedly being lobbied to do so by Nigel Farage.
The former Ukip leader is said to have asked the American president to support the UK leaving the EU without a deal during a meeting in Washington this month.
And just hours after parliament voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit – and hours before further votes on a potential extension of Article 50 – Mr Trump posted an early morning tweet which will be interpreted by many as meeting Mr Farage’s request.
He wrote: “My Administration looks forward to negotiating a large scale Trade Deal with the United Kingdom. The potential is unlimited!”
High-profile Brexiteers have long claimed a trade deal with the US would be one of the key benefits to breaking with the EU, but critics have cautioned any agreement would likely take years and result in lowered food and agriculture standards, as well as further privatisation of the NHS.
The US trade representative’s office had said it would launch talks with Britain after what was initially its planned exit from the EU on 29 March. Last month it laid out its objectives for a deal that included reduced tariff and non-tariff barriers for US industrial and agricultural goods.
Mr Trump has made the US economy and trade a cornerstone of his presidency in line with his “America First” campaign, and has sought to renegotiate pacts with China, Canada and Mexico as well as the EU.
Mr Farage said he made the request to the president at the Conservative Political Action Conference (Cpac) in the capital last week.
The pair were pictured at the meeting, smiling with their thumbs raised.
“I was talking to him about Vietnam, where he had said that a bad deal was on the table so sometimes you have to walk. That was the exact quote from Trump.” Mr Farage told The Daily Telegraph.
“I said in the case of Vietnam that no deal was better than a bad deal and I gave my opinion that the same principle applied to Brexit,” he said. “I think if you read the comments from his ambassador in London, I don’t think it takes much reading between the lines.
“This American administration firmly believes in the nation state, not supranational structures and this administration are hugely keen on the defence, security and indeed business relationships that exist between our two countries.
“And I think it’s fair to say they see Brexit as a great opportunity.”
Mr Trump became friends during his campaign when the former Ukip leader, dubbed “Mr Brexit”, was greeted at a rally in Mississippi before the 2016 election.
The two were also pictured just after the election, at Trump tower in New York, where Mr Farage appeared to be spearheading a new relationship between the UK and US.
Mr Trump has spoken highly of Mr Farage in the past, stating that he would do “a great job” as British ambassador to the US.