Theresa May wrong to dismiss Trump-Farage friendship, say rebellious Tories

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump  (L) watches as Member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage speaks at a campaign rally in Jackson, Mississippi, U.S., August 24, 2016. © Carlo Allegri
British Prime Minister Theresa May has reportedly sparked Tory infighting over her refusal to deal with UKIP’s Nigel Farage as he offers himself as a deal broker between Downing Street and Donald Trump.

Farage, who traveled to New York after the US presidential election last week, is the only high-profile British politician to meet with Trump. Writing in the Telegraph, Farage says he was greeted like a “long-lost friend” by Trump, who he supported on the campaign trail in America.

The interim UKIP leader says his access to the next incumbent of the White House means May should use him to “put the national interest first.” He says he could “provide introductions” and “start the necessary process of mending fences.”

“The problem is that Number 10 keep on putting out press statements saying that I’m irrelevant,” Farage told the BBC.

“I would have thought that in the national interest I might be able to broker a coming together of these parties that don’t know each other at all.”

Downing Street has said the UKIP leader would have “no role” in the government’s dealings with the incoming US administration. May has said none of her ministers will be allowed to speak to Farage.

On Monday, May rejected Farage’s offer to act as an intermediary, saying there is no need for a “third person” in the relationship.

When Trump spoke to May last week he said he looks forward to having the same close relationship enjoyed by past premiers Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

“I don’t remember there being a third person in that relationship,” they added.

However, the Telegraph reports a number of members of Cabinet believe May’s allies have made a mistake by referring to Farage as an “irrelevance.” The UKIP head has also hinted that Tory ministers have been sounding him out about dealing with Trump.

“I am not going into whatever private phone calls I may, or may not, have had with individual ministers,” Farage told Sky News.

Lord Marland, a Tory peer and former trade envoy, told the BBC: “Anything we can do at any level to rebuild that relationship will be to Britain’s advantage, and if Mr Farage happens to be one of the people who encourages that relationship then so be it.

“Any manufacturer would use its best salesman to try and help get a market for them and if Number 10 decides that’s the person, then fine.”

Farage says despite May and Trump having a “nice” conversation since his victory, Trump’s close advisers have raised concerns about the “unrelentingly negative” comments made about him by senior Conservatives and members of May’s inner circle.

“He said he had a nice conversation, although some of his team had reservations about what members of the Cabinet have said during the election. Believe you me, his team are conscious of the comments,” Farage told the Telegraph.

May has previously described Trump’s rhetoric as “divisive.” It has also emerged that before entering Downing Street, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, the prime minister’s joint-chiefs of staff, mocked Trump online.

Hill referred to him as a “chump” and Timothy said that “as a Tory” he didn’t want “any reaching out” to Trump.

On Monday, May is expected to set out her response to the global changes signaled by Trump’s election victory.

According to the Press Association, she will use a major foreign policy speech in the City of London to outline the opportunities presented by Brexit and the US election for the UK become a global leader on free trade.

She is also expected to acknowledge that anti-globalization sentiments helped fuel the victories of both Trump and the Brexit campaign.

Meanwhile, Trump has begun putting together his administration ahead of the formal handover of office in January.