United States president Donald Trump praised the two most high-profile proponents of Britain's departure from the European Union on Thursday ahead of his planned visit to London at a time of political turmoil following the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May.
Trump told reporters he had great respect for British politicians Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage and considered them friends. He declined, however, to say who he supported among the various Conservative Party candidates to succeed May as prime minister.
Nigel Farage is a friend of mine. Boris is a friend of mine, Trump told reporters as he left the White House to deliver a speech in Colorado.
I like them... but I haven't thought about supporting them. Maybe it's not my business to support people, but I have a lot of respect for both of those men.
May, who announced her resignation a week ago after repeatedly failing to win approval for a deal under which Britain would leave the European Union - known as Brexit - is scheduled to leave office on June 7.
Johnson, a former foreign minister seen as the favorite to replace May, has said Britain should be prepared to leave the bloc without a deal in order to force the EU to offer it better terms.
Farage, a bombastic, anti-establishment campaigner whose Brexit Party swept to victory in Britain's European Parliament election earlier this week, has demanded a seat at negotiations over Britain's exit from the EU and has cast himself as a kingmaker in the race to succeed May.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump are scheduled to make a state visit on June 3 to Britain, where they will attend a banquet with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace and hold talks with May ahead of her departure from office.
A British official said Trump and May are expected to discuss the Chinese technology company Huawei Technologies and efforts to build a fifth-generation (5G) cellular network.
US officials have warned allies that Huawei's technology could allow back doors into telecoms systems, rendering them insecure. Britain's National Security Council discussed the issue last month and decided to block Huawei from core parts of the 5G network, but to give it restricted access.
The British official said May will listen to what the president says about this issue, adding that so far Huawei is only used commerce in the Britain and that would likely not change with 5G networks.
Britain's relationship with the United States has been one of the enduring alliances of the past century, but some British voters see Trump as crude, volatile and opposed to their values on issues ranging from global warming to the treatment of women.
Campaigners have said they would hold large demonstrations during Trump's visit. Thousands of people protested when Trump visited Britain in 2018 and shocked its political establishment by giving a withering assessment of May's Brexit strategy.