Donald Trump has endorsed Boris Johnson to be the next British prime minister and leader of the Conservative party, showering praise on the frontrunner as the best candidate ahead of his state visit to the UK on Monday.
The US president said in an interview that he had examined the Tory leadership contest “very hard” and had “always liked” Mr Johnson, who is the favourite of the party’s grassroots to succeed Theresa May when she resigns on June 7.
“I don’t know that he is going to be chosen, but I think he is a very good guy, a very talented person . . . I think Boris would do a very good job. I think he would be excellent,” he told The Sun newspaper.
There has been much speculation in Westminster that Mr Trump will meet the former foreign secretary during his visit to London, although a source close to Mr Johnson said there had been no correspondence so far with the president’s team.
There are several empty hours in the president’s schedule late on Monday and Tuesday afternoon, where an impromptu meeting could occur. Mr Trump may also meet another British political ally of his, Brexit party leader Nigel Farage.
The US president praised Mr Johnson for being “very positive about me and our country”, despite some disparaging remarks exchanged between the pair several years ago. Other candidates had asked for his endorsement in the contest, Mr Trump claimed, singling out former secretary Jeremy Hunt as someone he liked.
Mr Trump was also asked about Mr Johnson’s history of extra material affairs and whether he would affect his chances of becoming the next prime minister. “Well, it always matters, but I think that it’s certainly not what it was 20 years ago, and not certainly what it was 50 years ago. I think today it matters much less,” he said.
His endorsement of Mr Johnson will create further tension with Mrs May during the visit. On Tuesday, he is expected to clash with the prime minister over Brexit and the role of Huawei in building the UK’s next generation 5G network. The pair will hold a press conference after their talks.
Mr Trump, who has taken an aggressive stance towards China, is expected to threaten to cut off intelligence sharing with the UK if it continues to allow the Chinese firm’s involvement. Mr Johnson has yet to make his position known on Huawei.