Theresa May Says Trump Told Her to Sue the European Union over Brexit

“That’s very, very interesting, Donald.” Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Prime Minister Theresa May said that during Trump’s tumultuous visit to the U.K., he told her that instead of negotiating to leave the European Union, she should sue the bloc instead.

May recounted the conversation with a smile, playing up the absurdity of the president’s suggestion.

“He told me I should sue the E.U.,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr. “Not go into negotiations — sue them. Actually, no. We’re going into negotiations with them.”

May also said that Trump advised her not to walk away from negotiations altogether, a piece of counsel she does agree with.

May is trying to thread the needle of securing a withdrawal from the European Union — as mandated by Britain’s referendum two years ago — while facing down a restive faction of euroskeptical conservatives in her government. Two weeks ago, she revealed her vision for a “soft Brexit,” a withdrawal from the E.U. that would keep Britain closely economically intertwined with the bloc — to the dismay of hardline Brexiteers in her cabinet, two of whom resigned. On Sunday morning, another government official called it quits, bringing the total to eight since she announced her plan. But May has remained firm, maintaining that her plan is the only practical path forward in what, it has become clear, is a no-win situation.

As for Trump’s advice to treat Brexit like a Manhattan real-estate dispute, BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman wrote that “frankly, it is difficult to see any grounds for the UK suing the E.U.,” and that “the UK and the EU have not reached a Brexit agreement yet, so there can be no action for breach of that agreement.” (Not everyone agrees with this assessment.)

Trump publicly embarrassed May during his visit when he told the tabloid newspaper the Sun that she had bungled the Brexit process. He then — very uncharacteristically — apologized to her for undermining her while he was a guest in her country.

May Says Trump Told Her to Sue E.U. over Brexit