Theresa May pressed Donald Trump for a trade deal between Britain and the United States after the American president arrived in the UK, hours after he had questioned her Brexit plan.
The Prime Minister used a lavish banquet at Blenheim Palace to tell him there was an “unprecedented” opportunity to do a deal that boosted jobs and growth in both countries.
But her address to Mr Trump at the Oxfordshire stately home – the birthplace of Winston Churchill – followed a Brussels press conference where the US leader highlighted Government divisions over Brexit.
The Trumps landed in Air Force One at Stansted Airport at lunchtime on Thursday to kick-start a four-day working visit to Britain as protests against his trip began.
Addressing the US president in front of an audience of business leaders and senior ministers, Mrs May said: “As we prepare to leave the European Union, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do more.
“It’s an opportunity to reach a free trade agreement that creates jobs and growth here in the UK and right across the United States.
“It’s also an opportunity to tear down the bureaucratic barriers that frustrate business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic.
“And it’s an opportunity to shape the future of the world through co-operation in advanced technology, such as artificial intelligence.”
Britain and the US are the largest investors in each other’s economies, with over a trillion dollars of investments between them, Mrs May, said, adding: “The strength and breadth of Britain’s contribution to the US economy cannot be understated.”
Critics of the Prime Minister’s proposals for future relations with the EU claim that her willingness to align with Brussels rules on agricultural produce will block a US deal, as Washington is certain to insist on the inclusion of GM crops and hormone-enhanced beef, which are banned in Europe.
Protests took place outside the grounds in Woodstock, with several hundred demonstrators waving banners and placards reading “Dump Trump, Not Welcome Here”, “Protect Children Not Trump” and “Keep Your Tiny Hands Off My Pussy!”
There were also demonstrations close to Winfield House, the US ambassador’s residence near Regents Park where the president and first lady Melania Trump will spend the night.
Some carried placards saying “Special Relationship? Just Say No” and “No To Trump, No To War”.
But they avoided the noise and spectacle of the protests on the ground by travelling by helicopter between the airport, London and Oxfordshire.
The Trumps had earlier arrived at Stansted after a stormy Nato summit in Belgium.
The president used a press conference in Brussels to describe the UK as a “hot spot right now with a lot of resignations” and dismissed the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan on the next stage of Brexit.
“I would say Brexit is Brexit,” he told reporters.
“The people voted to break it up so I would imagine that’s what they would do, but maybe they’re taking a different route, I don’t know if that is what they voted for.”
He added that it seemed as if the UK was “getting at least partially involved back with the European Union”.
“I’d like to see them be able to work it out so it could go quickly,” he said.
It comes just days after Mr Trump declined to say whether Mrs May should remain in post, said he had “always liked” Boris Johnson, who quit as foreign secretary over the Chequers agreement, and described the UK as being in “turmoil”.
Boris Johnson missed out on a seat at the table by resigning as foreign secretary on Monday in protest at Mrs May’s Brexit policy, though Mr Trump has said he might try to speak to him during his visit.
Leaders of the financial services, travel, creative, food, engineering, technology, infrastructure, pharmaceutical and defence sectors were among around 100 guests who dined on Scottish salmon, English Hereford beef fillet and strawberries with clotted cream ice-cream.
In a near replay of their famous hand-holding at the White House, the president briefly took Mrs May’s hand after arriving at Blenheim as they went up the stairs into the palace following a performance from a military band.
The president is expected to avoid areas where major demonstrations are planned in protest at his visit.
After spending the night at Winfield House Mr Trump will join the PM at a military base on Friday to observe a joint counter-terrorism exercise involving UK and US special forces.
They will hold talks at the Prime Minister’s country residence of Chequers on Friday where Russia, Brexit and the Middle East will top the agenda.
Mr Trump will then travel to Windsor Castle to meet the Queen before heading to Scotland for a private part of the four-day visit, ahead of travelling to Helsinki for a summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin.