LONDON: Theresa May rebuked Donald Trump and insisted Britain could strike trade agreements outside the EU as she kicked off a nationwide tour on Tuesday (Nov 27) to whip up support for the contested Brexit divorce deal.
The British prime minister headed to Wales and Northern Ireland, hours after the US president said it seemed like a "great deal" for the European Union that could block Britain from forging its own trade agreements with the United States.
May has two weeks to convince the public and, crucially, a divided parliament, before the Dec 11 vote in the House of Commons that risks ending in a humiliating defeat and sinking the deal.
Trump suggested May had made a mistake by signing an agreement that might impede a future trade deal between London and Washington.
"Sounds like a great deal for the EU," he said at the White House, adding: "We have to take a look at seriously whether or not the UK is allowed to trade".
"As the deal stands, they may not be able to trade with the US and I don't think they want that at all," said the president, who is close to leading Brexiteers in the UK.
MAY STRIKES BACK
Starting her tour in Builth Wells in central Wales, May insisted Trump had not rained on her parade.
"We will have an independent trade policy and we will be able to negotiate trade deals with countries around the rest of the world," May said.
"As regards the United States, we have already been talking to them about the sort of agreement that we could have in the future.
"It will no longer be a decision taken by Brussels."
Her spokesman said there were no plans for one-to-one talks between May and Trump at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires this weekend.
May on Sunday closed 17 months of complex talks with Brussels by sealing Brexit arrangements with the 27 other EU heads of state and government.
But this tortuous chapter on ending Britain's 45-year involvement in the European project was just the beginning of another struggle.
May runs a minority Conservative government and opposition parties, as well as many of her own MPs, are against the deal.
Some Brexiteers think it keeps Britain shackled to Brussels while pro-EU lawmakers think the terms are worse than staying in the bloc and want a second referendum.
Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn called the deal "an act of national self-harm".
May also met resistance in Belfast, where she met the leader of the small Northern Irish party that props up her government.
Democratic Unionist Party chief Arlene Foster said the deal created trade barriers between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain, and urged May to find a "third way".
May's agreement, "in its current form, is unacceptable and she will not persuade the DUP to support it," Foster said.
But May has demonstrated remarkable resilience against all the odds.
Although she ducked televised debates during the 2017 snap general election, she challenged Corbyn to a TV contest, nominally planned for December 9.
"I am ready to debate it with Jeremy Corbyn because I have got a plan. He hasn't got a plan," May was quoted as saying by The Sun newspaper.
A Labour spokesman said: "Jeremy would relish a head to head debate with Theresa May about her botched Brexit deal and the future of our country."
Meanwhile in Luxembourg, lawyers for a group of Scottish politicians argued before the top European court that the British parliament should have the unilateral power to halt the countdown to Brexit, set for Mar 29.
A Scottish court has referred the case, which hinges on whether London could simply revoke Britain's "Article 50" EU withdrawal process, to the European Court of Justice.
The British government argues that the case is a political tactic by pro-EU opponents.
A court source told AFP that the decision could well be made before the end of the year, but the judges must first decide if the ECJ even accepts jurisdiction in the case.