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article imageA rocky year for US-UK 'special relationship'

By AFP     Nov 30, 2017 in Politics

When British Prime Minister Theresa May became the first world leader to visit Donald Trump's White House in January, it appeared the historic friendship between the two nations was in good health.

But a series of spats have driven the two leaders apart, and Trump's withering response to May's criticism after he retweeted a British far-right group's videos marked a new low.

Here is a chronology of their deteriorating relationship:

- 'No vacancy' -

November 2016: The US President-elect catches May offguard when he tweets that former UKIP leader and Brexit champion Nigel Farage "would do a great job" as Britain's ambassador to the United States.

May's Downing Street office is forced to say there is "no vacancy".

January 2017: May meets with Trump at the White House, where he predicts that "great days lie ahead for our two peoples and our two countries," raising hopes of a swift post-Brexit trade deal.

The defining image of the trip is of Trump holding May's hand as they walk outside the White House, which caused derision in Britain. The British leader invites her counterpart for a state visit.

But the feelgood factor lasts a matter of hours, as the US president unexpectedly announces a travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries, affecting dual British citizens and wrong-footing British officials.

"The dual nationals angle will of course be really difficult for us," read one Foreign Office email reported by the BBC.

"Not great after the PM visit," said another.

May and Trump also met at the UN General Assembly in September
May and Trump also met at the UN General Assembly in September
Brendan Smialowski, AFP

May says she "did not agree" with the ban, and MPs demand that she rescinds the state visit invitation.

- 'We're not schoolchildren' -

June 2017: Following previous rows, Trump again targets London mayor Sadiq Khan following a terror attack in the British capital.

Picking on a message from Khan telling Londoners there was "no reason to be alarmed" by an increased police presence, Trump tweets: "At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is 'no reason to be alarmed!'"

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been outspoken in his responses to Trump
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been outspoken in his responses to Trump

Khan responds saying: "We're not schoolchildren. He's the president of the United States, so I'm unclear what his beef is with me."

September 2017: Trump weighs in on another attempted attack, tweeting: "Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!"

May responds it was "unhelpful" to speculate on an ongoing investigation.

- 'Bitterly disappointed' -

September 2017: Weeks later, relations take a severe blow when the US imposes stiff tariffs on Canadian aerospace firm Bombardier, which employs thousands of people in Northern Ireland, following a complaint from Boeing.

May says she is "bitterly disappointed" by the move, with her government warning that it "could jeopardise" future Ministry of Defence contracts for its aircraft.

Jayda Fransen  the deputy head of a British far-right group  posted anti-Muslim videos that were ret...
Jayda Fransen, the deputy head of a British far-right group, posted anti-Muslim videos that were retweeted by US President Donald Trump

November 2017: Trump retweets three videos originally posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy head of far-right group Britain First, purportedly showing Muslims engaging in acts of violence, although one of the videos was later debunked.

May says Trump was "wrong" to retweet the messages, but the US leader hits back, tweeting to May: "don't focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom."

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